Home > Pearls: A Gem for All Time

Pearls: A Gem for All Time

Pearls: Lore and Legend

Since the earliest time of man's recorded history, pearls have been a highly revered prize. Numerous references in many cultures have told stories of this luminous gem. Tales from ancient Chinese culture recounts how villagers believed that pearls were actually tears from celestial dragons during their happy moments in the sky. Other tales say that pearls fell from the clouds when the dragons fought. In Roman mythology, folklore tells us that Venus, the goddess of love, was so beautiful that as water droplets would fall from her body they would immediately turn into pearls.

Pearls can also be found in numerous biblical references. One of the most famous is from Revelation 21:21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every single gate was of one pearl… Still another widely known verse is in Matthew 13:45-46 which says: Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. These 2 verses show how treasured this gorgeous gem was and still is.

Pearls: Famous Jewels

Pearls are not only prized gems, but throughout history, the jewelry that’s been created by them has also become famous. Some of these baubles were actually so important that they received names and the tales related to these jewels still survive today.

One of the tales that shows the grandeur of pearl earrings involves the queen Cleopatra of Egypt. It was said that during one of her meetings with Marc Anthony, Cleopatra was teasing him that she, an Egyptian, could serve a more sumptuous feast than he, a Roman. Further, she would wager a large sum of money on it. On the evening of Cleopatra’s banquet for Marc Anthony, he arrived to table set with only bare plates and glasses of wine. There was no food in sight. Marc Anthony said that obviously he had won the bet. That was until Cleopatra removed one of her earrings and dissolved it in a glass of wine vinegar after which, she drank it and offered her companion the other one. Marc Anthony declined and proclaimed Cleopatra the winner of the bet.

Another famous love story involves a pearl pendant, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who oddly enough played Marc Anthony and Cleopatra in the movie Cleopatra. This pendant is called La Peregrina, or "the Wanderer" and with the history behind this jewel, it’s easy to see where the name came from. The teardrop shaped pearl was first discovered in 1513 off the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama. It became part of the Spanish Crown Jewels then was given to Queen Mary I of England aka Bloody Mary in anticipation of the marriage between her and Phillip II. Then, in 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte captured Spain and his brother Joseph sat on the throne until his defeat. Upon his death, he left La Peregrina to his nephew Napoleon III who, while in London, sold it to the 2nd Marques of Abercorn due to financial problems. Now, the jewel was in America. But then, this traveler went back to England, Spain and France before being purchased in 1969 by Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. Today, it still remains one of the largest pear shaped pearls ever discovered.

A classic treasure in most ladie's jewelry box is the pearl strand. Here's a story about a necklace that's sure to make you think twice about how special your pearls are. It involves a little ole store on Fifth Avenue in New York called Cartier. Back in 1917, the world was changing and what was then millionaire’s row in New York City was no exception. What was once a haven for private residential mansions was now being infiltrated with hotels and retail stores. The private citizens were not so keen on this idea and Morton Plant was one of them. Morton owned a mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. He and his wife, Mae, were ready for a change. By chance, Mae was window shopping one day and saw a double row necklace made of pearls in the window of Cartier. When she told her husband about the necklace that was valued at a mere $1 million (today’s equivalent of $15 million) he went to Cartier and offered him his mansion and $100 for the piece. The offer was accepted and today you can see other exquisite jewels as well as world class pearls in the house of Cartier.

Cultured Pearls: Earmarks of Time

The time honored tradition of a new bride wearing her mother's pearls or giving her bridesmaids gifts of pearl jewelry evokes happy thoughts as this is a step toward a new life.

Cultured pearls are also wonderful treasures to give to a young lady as she graduates high school or college embarking on her new path. Special gifts of pearl are always remembered fondly. These genuine gems are prized not only because it reminds her of that goal she reached, but it's also a reminder of who thought so highly of her on the big day.

Red letter days for young girls are also noted with the gift of cultured pearls. Special birthdays or holidays are wonderful opportunities to not only give her the gift of fine jewelry, but to also begin teaching the young lady how to care for something of value. While nothing marks a moment in time quite like jewelry, the gift of cultured pearls is like putting a ribbon on the special occasion.