The only gem that is formed within a living thing, pearls have been treasured for thousands of years for their beauty. Their formation and their colour has made them one of the worlds most popular gems, and while imitations may be common, nothing can compare to a real pearl.
18k gold filled pearl pendant charms
The Meaning and History of Pearls
Wild pearls have been sought after for centuries. History books from the 5th century BC mention bays famous for their pearls off the coast of Sri Lanka. The South China Sea was also famous in ancient times for its pearls, most of which ended up at the court of the Chinese Emperors. The pearls found across the freshwaters of the British Isles were also one of the things that attracted Julius Caesar to the region. The Romans were important in popularising the wearing of pearls across Europe, and gave us the name that we use nowadays. The Silk Road also allowed pearls from China and India to travel across Persia and into the Middle East and Europe, where they became popular with the local nobles.
When the Spanish began exploring the Caribbean coasts, they found sources of pearls along the Caribbean coast. These new sources allowed pearls to remain popular in the new nations of the Americas, as importing them from the “Old World” was too expensive for anyone except the super-rich. The work of Japanese inventor and businessman Mikimoto Kokichi revolutionised the production of pearls. Through careful farming of oysters, he was able to create proper pearl farms and produce pearls more efficiently. These cultured pearls are now 99% of all pearls produced in the world today.
The final stage in pearl history is their massive boom in popularity. Thanks to the work of Mikimoto and his new method, the pearl became accessible to people other than royals. Actresses of Hollywood’s Golden Age fell in love with them, with Audrey Hepburn wearing an iconic pearl necklace in Breakfast with Tiffany’s. The most famous pearl necklace of the time has to be the one gifted to Marilyn Monroe by her baseball player husband Joe DiMaggio. These pearls became an icon alongside her, and are now owned by the Mikimoto family business and they loan it out to exhibitions across the world.
Marilyn Monroe Wearing the Infamous Mikimoto Pearl Necklace
Where does Pearl come from?
It is in fact from the Romans and Latin that we get the word “pearl”. The Latin perna or “leg” was used to refer to the molluscs that produce pearls. This evolved into perle in French, which came across to England with the Normans and became pearl. The name Margaret actually comes from the Old Persian word for pearls, which itself came to Latin as margarita, to French as marguerite, and then into English as we know it today.
Mix and match our pearl pendant charms with our Alpha pendant charm collection for a statement look or personalised gift
The Properties of Pearl
As they are not a rock or mineral, pearls are quite weak when compared to other gems. They sit at a 2.5 on the Mohs scale, which means that they can be scratched easily, even by other gems. They are better than most when it comes to sunlight, but dehydration or chemicals can easily discolour or damage a real pearl. The unique colour and lustre of each pearl depends on how each layer of the gem was formed. Sort of like the rings on a tree, but each layer is translucent and adds a hint more lustre.
Our 18k gold filled pearl pendant charms can be matched with any of Add A Charm fine jewellery
Pearl - the June Birthstone
The role of pearls as the birthstone for June comes from their status as the gemstone for the star sign Gemini. Gemini covers the latter part of May and the bulk of June so from this the pearl became closely associated with the month of June. As well as being the traditional birthstone for June, Pearls are also called "wedding tear" as they perfectly match the universal white of a bride's gown and are said to bring good luck to those who wear them on their wedding day.
18K Gold vermeil, Add A Charm, small hoops adorned with a pearl pendant charm
Mystical Properties of Pearl
Many of pearl’s mystical properties are associated with their purity and their colour. They bring with them ideas of purity and innocence, which have let them become a traditional wedding gift in Indian and Medieval European culture. For the Romans, a pearl would help a young wife settle into her new home. Ancient China took inspiration from their oceanic origins and believed that pearls could protect against fire and mythical dragons.
18K gold vermeil, Add A Charm, large hoops adorned with a pearl pendant charm
Interesting facts about pearls
- Black pearls are found in the black-lipped oysters of the Pacific Ocean
- The largest ever pearl, the Pearl of Puerto, weighs 34kg
- The La Peregrina Pearl, gifted to the Spanish king in 1579, was sold to an anonymous bidder in 2011 for £7.1 million
- The “momme”, a Japanese unit of weight, is still used just to measure pearls
- Pearl powder is used in China for skincare
18k gold vermeil Bell Freshwater Pearl Necklace Set
Caring for your Pearl
The most important thing to remember for pearls is that they really aren't very strong. They can scratch if stored alongside harder gems and you should take care when wearing them. They can also crack or discolour around heat or chemicals. They are a fairly high maintenance gem, but that’s down to their natural production. They are not minerals, and are not formed underground, so they don’t have the same strength as other gemstones.
Mix and match with our other 18k gold jewellery collection to create your own capsule jewellery collection
Where to buy Pearl Jewellery
Pearls are an instant classic that work very well as a statement piece and can make a regular outfit look amazing. Their beautiful white lustre is a stunning look that has been enjoyed for centuries, and thanks to Mr Mikimoto you don’t have to be a royal to enjoy it. To rock an exquisite pearl you can check out our Bell collection of freshwater pearl jewellery. This includes our 18k gold filled freshwater pearl earrings with matching freshwater Pearl necklace set to mix and match with other jewels. Our Bell pearl birthstone pendant charms can be customised with our fine Add A Charm jewellery collection for a statement looking.