Pearls are one of the oldest known adornments in history as they require no cutting or shaping to reveal their beauty. Formed within the shell’s soft inner body, the creature covers any pieces of loose sand or shell with a crystalline substance, transforming them to the gleaming natural gemstone. Pearls exist in a large variety of sizes, shapes and colours. They can appear in a gleaming white, salmon pink or even deep blacks and blues. While perfectly round pearls have often been selected for jewellery, the gemstone presents in many incredible organic shapes and sizes, adding to their unique wonder.
Below, images displaying the diversity in of colour, shape and texture in fresh water pearls.
Pearls have been collected and crafted into cherished adornments as early as 5th Century BCE in cultures across the globe. In China, pearls were presented as gifts as early as 2,300 BCE. In Egypt, pearls have been recorded as early as 600 BCE.
Cleopatra was well known to have adorned pearl earrings. In an effort to exhibit her lavish wealth, she endeavoured to host the most expensive dinner party, where she famously removed one of her earrings and swallowed it with vinegar.
Pictured below, Byzantine gold and pearl earrings dated between 6th and 7th century. To the right, a gold wire and pearl earring from the Roman-Egyptian period second century CE.
Pearls were adorned in Ancient Greece. The Greek Poem Iliad and Odyssey by Homer describes the marvel of the Pearl. This work was published around the 7th century BC.
Pictured below, Roman gold and Pearl earrings. Dated 1st Century CE.
The first cultured pearls are attributed to China and date to the 5th Century BC. Upon realising the sea creatures incredible ability to turn objects into gemstones, they began to place carved objects of ceramic or clay inside the shell. This practice continues today.
Below, a cultured pearl in the shape of a Buddha from the Robert Wan pearl museum.
For the most part, up until the 20th century pearls were collected by deep sea divers. Often a dangerous pursuit where divers often plunged to depths of up to 100ft.
Below, a romanticised depiction of deep sea pearl divers by J. Wesley Van der Voort, 1883.
Today, diving for pearls is largely a thing of the past. The vast majority of these ocean gemstones are cultivated using a method created in 1883 from Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan.
Above, a bespoke piece we have made featuring a freshwater Keshi pearl set in 9ct yellow gold, and our pearl and gold studs.
Above, a pair of 9ct yellow gold claw set drop earrings from the raw birthstone collection. On the right, a claw set 9ct yellow gold pearl ring from the Mythos collection.