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Pearls: History

18.10.16

Ever wonder about the history behind this gemstone we keep talking about?  

Well, we thought we’d take some time to reminisce on the history of pearls.   Let’s start from the beginning. As far back as 2300BC, it was indicated in Chinese records that pearls were the prized possessions of royalty. Pearls have always been revered as one of the world’s most beautiful and magical gems.  

There have been countless references to the pearl in religions and mythology of cultures from early times. Pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of social standing and wealth in ancient Rome while the ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much they were buried with them.

We love the story of Cleopatra and her little wager with Mark Antony. She supposedly dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it, simply to win the wager that she could consume the wealth of an entire nation in just one meal.  

The discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe, during the European expansion into the New World. However, it was down to this lust and greed for these sea-grown gems which resulted in the depletion of almost all the American pearls oysters by the 17th Century. Some countered even passed laws forbidding all but nobility & royalty to wear pearls. It was not until the early 1900’s, that the rich and famous were only able to access natural pearls.  

It was during the early 1900s, that Kokichi Mikimoto, son of a Japanese noodle maker, started a revolution in pearl production with the development of techniques for forming cultured pearls. The era of cultured pearls begun, through introducing an ‘irritant’ into the oyster to stimulate the secretion of nacre which forms the pearl; however it would take decades before the original techniques were perfected. Cultured pearls share the same properties as natural pearls; they are formed in almost identical fashion. The only difference is that a person carefully implants the irritant in the oyster rather than leaving it to chance. Read our ‘Story of Cultured Pearls’ for more details on this.  

Pearls are grown by live oysters far below the surface of the sea, unlike gemstones of precious metals that are mined from the earth. Pearls do not need any treatment to reveal their beauty. No cutting or polishing, pearls naturally have a lustre and soft inner glow unlike any other gem.  

Mikimoto made a huge effect on the pearl industry. Once exclusive of royalty and aristocracy, this magical gemstone was now virtually accessible to everyone. Pearl farmers are now able to cultivate thousands of pearls, rather than pearl divers risking their lives to hunt.  

That’s where we come in. Here at Claudia Bradby Jewellery we want to celebrate the beauty of this much loved gemstone. We use freshwater cultured pearls, choosing pearls for their lustre, shapes and colour.  We believe every woman should be afforded the luxury of beautiful pearls, every day. They should be stylish, elegant and fun and there should be a design for every conceivable wardrobe.

Shop our pearls.

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