The pearl has long been a favorite gemstone because of its soft luster, its glowing iridescence, and its rich associations with purity. In Latin, the pearl’s name means “unique” because there are no two pearls alike. Pearls have a 4000 year history of being treasured as decoration and at one time Rome and other parts of Europe passed a number of laws regarding who could wear this esteemed jewel. The oldest surviving pearl necklace is dated back as far as 2000 years and it was located in a sarcophagus of a Persian Princess.
Beside decorations, history tells us of famous stories involving pearls. It is said that Cleopatra wagered Marc Antony that she could throw the most extensive dinner party in history, and then promptly dissolved a pearl in a glass of wine and drank it. Caligula was also said to have decorated his horse with a pearl necklace after he made the horse consul. Charles I was famed for wearing a large pearl drop earring (known as the Charles I), and the pearl has since disappeared from history.
Pollution and overfishing in the 1800s put a heavy strain on the pearl industry and significantly wiped out supplies. It wasn’t until Kokichi Mikimoto, the son of a Japanese noodle maker, who revolutionized the pearl industry by perfecting the cultured pearl process.
The largest pearl in the world is known as the Pearl of Lao Tzu and though not gem-quality, the pearl measures 9.45 inches in diameter. It was discovered in the Philippines in 1939. Another notable pearl of great size is the La Peregrina pearl, a lustrous white pear-shaped pearl weighing 203.8 grains. The La Peregrina was found of the coats of Panama in the 16th century and was giving to Queen Mary of Spain. It was also purchased in 1969 by Richard Burton as a gift for Elizabeth Taylor.
Today pearls are available in all shapes, sizes, and colors. And pearl fashions have come a long way since the simple strands and studs of our grandmothers. For example, this beautiful Tahitian Pearl and Diamond ring shows off a fresh new look for pearls, making them fashion forward as well as heirloom worthy. This particular ring is a Mikimoto design (yep, Mikimoto pearls are still alive and well). So rejoice, all you who share a June birthday. You can be proud to call the oldest jewel your birthstone.
King Jewelers Nashville is proud to be an authorized dealer for Mikimoto pearls in Middle Tennessee. Mikimoto is available for sale on the Kings Jewelers website at www.kings1912.com. For more information regarding Mikimoto, please visit www.mikimotoamerica.com or our Mikimoto Pearl page.