Long known as the “Queen of Gems,” pearls possess a history and allure far beyond what today’s wearer may recognize. Throughout much of recorded history, a natural pearl necklace comprised of matched spheres was a treasure of almost incomparable value, in fact the most expensive jewelry in the world. Now we see pearls almost as accessories, relatively inexpensive decorations to accompany more costly gemstones. ~PBS
Join us for the Angela Cummings Trunk Show – Nov.1 – 30th
SYMBOLS OF WEALTH AND POWER
Before the creation of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved almost exclusively for the noble and very rich. A jewelry item that today’s working women might take for granted, a 16-inch strand of perhaps 50 pearls, often costs between $500 and $5,000. At the height of the Roman Empire, when pearl fever reached its peak, the historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman general Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother’s pearl earrings.
No one will ever know who were the earliest people to collect and wear pearls. George Frederick Kunz, whom I like to call America’s first gemologist, in his 1908 masterpiece, The Book of the Pearl, states his belief that an ancient fish-eating tribe, perhaps along the coast of India, initially appreciated the shape and lustre of saltwater pearls, which they discovered while opening oysters for food. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/history-pearls.html