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Full History Of Pearls

First mentions Of Pearls

According to ancient Chinese beliefs, it was claimed that pearls fell from the sky when dragons fought among the clouds during a thunderstorm, and raindrops formed. In China, dragons and pearls are closely related.

The birth of pearls is shrouded in legends. These are the tears of a sea nymph, as the ancient Greeks believed. Or a frozen reflection of lightning in the eyes of a mollusk, as the ancient Slavs thought. Or moonlight petrified in water, as the Chinese believed.

And even today, when a person has revealed many secrets of the origin of pearls, a living stone keeps its mystery. Pearls are the most mysterious and amazing among jewelry stones. It is he who is the personification of femininity and tenderness. Only it is used in jewelry without any additional processing.

Delicate play of color and mysterious inner radiance have long attracted attention to it. It is these properties, and even a spherical or regular pear-shaped shape, that created world fame for pearls. The whiteness and iridescent iridescent sheen made it a symbol of purity.

Although pearls cannot be described, they can certainly be coveted. Since ancient times, considered one of the most valuable and sought-after treasures, pearls have been an essential attribute of monarchs, found a pleasant place on the chest of queens and fashionable ladies, and also acquired a prominent place in crowns, rings, beads, earrings, belts, buckles and treasure chests of millions of people.

The oldest surviving record of pearls is considered to be the following sentence in the history of King Shu: “In 2206 (BC), King Yu received pearls as a tribute from the Huai River …”. In China, forty-two centuries ago, pearls were a kind of attribute of the Table of Ranks: dignitaries at the emperor’s court were designated either as a ball of jade, or turquoise, or coral, and the highest-ranking wore a pearl on his headdress.

Pearls are mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud and the Koran.

Ancient history Of Pearls

Indian, Persian and Arab rulers fought to the death for the right to control the pearl fields, one of the largest of which was located in Manaar Bay. Under the control of Persian and Arab rulers until the sixteenth century, this area was a source of national wealth and power. Then the Portuguese ruled the region for about a century, but only until the violent return of the Persians, who again took the place of the world’s best pearl divers. In Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates, one of the burials dating back to the middle of the third millennium, seven pearl flowers were found on a long stem. The symbolism of details was intended to protect a person from various troubles.

In the crown of the Shahinshahs of Iran of the Pahlavi house, there are 3380 diamonds, 369 pearls and five emeralds from sixty to one hundred carats each.

Central America was very famous for pearls. On the site of modern Mexico City, the Spanish conquerors once found thousands of giant idols covered with pearls. Even the walls and ceilings of majestic temples, sculptures and other works of culture were decorated with pearls. The conquerors often found secret rooms in the temples, completely filled with a silver gem.

Nowhere has there been and is no such stable fashion for precious stones as in India. Here is what the English traveler T. Rowe wrote about the pearl jewelry worn by the Indian emperor Jahangar in 1616 on the occasion of his move to another city: “On his head he had a rich turban made of lush heron feathers; on one side was hung a ruby without a rim the size of a walnut, on the other side an equally large diamond, in the middle an emerald in the shape of a heart, but larger than the first two. The belt was intertwined with a chain of fine pearls, rubies and drilled diamonds; around his neck hung a chain of three of the most precious double pearls, such large ones I have never seen … “. And in one of the chambers of Empress Vijayanagara there was a span-wide bed with pearl uprights.

Among the peoples of the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians were the first to become interested in pearls. Homer writes about this in the eighth century BC in his famous epic poems. “As if a pair of pearls woven from mulberry berries” is received as a gift by Penelope in Homer’s Odyssey. But in reality, pearls managed to conquer Europe under Alexander the Great, who connected the East with the West and opened the gates for the penetration of many goods, crafts and cultures.

Pearls in Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome

On the advice of the Greek philosopher Aristotle, Alexander the Great, before attacking India, first of all captured the island of Socotra, which was famous for its beautiful black pearls. Black pearls delighted the commander, and, combining them with dazzling white and slightly pinkish, he sent both to Greece. After that, a craze for similar collections began.

When the Romans conquered this area, they developed an insatiable love for pearls. In Latin, a pearl sounds like “margarita”, and initially the Romans called something they loved with this word. The best pearls in Rome were called “unio”, which means “something unique”.

Pearl essence once allowed the Egyptian queen Cleopatra to eat together with Mark Antony the most expensive dinner in the world. The cunning Cleopatra ordered the usual royal dinner, having previously made a bet with Mark Antony for a dinner worth several million. The feast was drawing to a close, and Mark Antony was preparing to celebrate victory until Cleopatra was given a glass of vinegar, into which she dipped her earring with a beautiful large pearl, sipped a sip and looked triumphantly at the defeated Antony. The Italian artist Tintoretto dedicated his famous painting to this occasion.

Such a virtue as restraint is hardly associated with the life of ancient Rome, and the passion for pearls also took the form of wildness. The dandy rulers used pearls to adorn the most unexpected parts of the body, fancy draperies of clothes, magnificent costumes and brilliant accessories. No wonder Caesar, Nero and Caligula were ardent admirers of all this.

It is known from history that Julius Caesar gave the mother of Marcus Brutus a pearl worth over one million two hundred thousand francs. And the emperor Aurelius decorated a diadem with pearls, which, becoming a crown, became more complicated with a whole series of pendants that descended over the ears and were studded with pearls and precious stones. Even in those distant times, newlyweds were tied with a pearl necklace, which served as a symbol of marital fidelity.

The wife of Emperor Caligula wore a pearl necklace worth over eight million. George Kanz reports that Caligula put pearl beads on his beloved horse after he elevated him to the rank of consul.

Roman emperors preferred to decorate with pearls not only clothes, but shoes, furniture and other items.

The Romans were so in love with pearls that, as historians write, they exchanged gold for pearls, so that the balance of trade in Rome was seriously disturbed.

But when Rome was sacked by the Goths and Vandals, the pearls of its treasuries scattered. Having lost their value for a long time, however, pearls managed to reassert themselves in Catholic art and architecture. Considered a symbol of love for God, he took a place in church vestments, altars and other attributes of the cult.

Pearls in the Middle Ages

Throughout most of the dark Middle Ages, the spread of pearls was hindered. The situation changed only when the crusaders began to return from the Holy Land in the XII-XIII centuries. At that moment, chivalry began to flourish and spread in many countries of Europe. And at the same time, the fashion to wear pearls was revived.

The powerful of this world were offered drinks in mother-of-pearl vessels, or pearls were dipped into wine, like the king in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. “The king will drink his health. Now he will throw a pearl into a glass more valuable than the one that four Danish kings wore in their crowns.

The Renaissance brought about a renewed interest in pearls and a desire to acquire them as personal adornment. This was due to the fact that the Renaissance itself was a period of prosperity and abundance of high creative skill.

Christopher Columbus not only discovered America. During his third trip, he brought bags of pearls to the Old World, which he bartered along the coast of Venezuela. Later, Panama and the Gulf of California also became sources of this natural gem, and the French, Italians, Austrians, and the British rushed to buy pearls – a lot of pearls.

Pearls in Europe

Maria Medici at the christening of the future king, the son of Louis XIII, put on a dress adorned with three thousand diamonds and thirty thousand pearls.

In the 16th century, pearls from the dowry of the French Queen Catherine de Medici were considered the best in Europe. After her marriage, she presented them to the Scottish Queen Mary Stuart, and later they became the property of the English Queen Catherine I.

But they were probably surpassed by the English Queen Elizabeth I, who had such a passion for pearls that she almost always wore more than seven strands of beads, some of which reached her knees. Queen Elizabeth was also the honorary owner of a dress adorned with three thousand pearls. In 1579, from the island of Margarita in the Caribbean Sea (as the island was named after daisies – pearls that were found in abundance around it), the Spanish king Philip II was brought an amazing white pearl “Peregrine”, the size of a pigeon’s egg, perfect pear-shaped and incomparable mother-of-pearl shine. The king paid a hundred thousand francs for it. Subsequently, the Spanish conquistador Nanes donated the “Peregrine” to the English Queen Mary Tudor. However, after the death of the queen, the pearl returned to Spain again, but in 1813 it was taken out of it by King Joseph Bonaparte. Then the King of Holland, Louis Bonaparte, owned the jewel for some time, and a little later, the English Lord Hamilton bought it and presented it to his beautiful wife. Now “Peregrine” is again stored in Spain. Its sphericity is so perfect that it rolled off any plane at the slightest inclination, for which it received the name “Peregrine”, which means traveler.

The royal French house owns the pearl “Regent”, “excellent game and water”, the size of a pigeon’s egg, and over four hundred pearls of the highest class, weighing 320 grains each. All these jewels belonged to the French Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III.

The Tower Castle, the ancient residence of the English kings, houses the British imperial crown of thirty-four gems, two hundred and seventy-seven pearls and at least three hundred diamonds.

Pearls in the 19th and 20th centuries

Pearls were mostly owned by members of European royal houses. But the change in the social composition of rich people also affected the composition of pearl owners. The inhabitants of the early American colonies had fewer pearls than Europeans. But soon this situation changed. By the middle of the 19th century, diamonds were considered a sign of wealth, but the most noble ladies had at least one strand of high-quality pearls. By the 1890s, when it was fashionable to look pompous, pearls skyrocketed in popularity. At first, the owners of pearls were not well-known jewelry houses, but individual wealthy people, like a certain William Vanderbilt, who brought the famous pearl strands and gave them to their wives and daughters. At the turn of the 19th-20th centuries, wealthy European women competed for the right to own the most pearls and adorn themselves with them.

It is wonderful that pearls, while remaining a classic jewelry, will never go out of style. “Pearls are always right,” said Coco Chanel, and made pearls the most democratic jewelry that suits any woman and goes with any clothes.

She was the first to approve the combination of white pearls with a black sweater, a dark elegant jacket, a little black dress. Chanel considered pearls to be the favorite of her collections and wore many pearl necklaces at the same time. Her calling card is a long string of pearls hanging down to her stomach. Now, with the light hand of Coco Chanel, pearls have become a necessary addition to both a business suit and an evening dress.