Pearls have been used as adornment for centuries, at least as far back as
ancient Greece, where they believed pearls were the tears of the gods. The
oldest known pearl jewelry was discovered in the sarcophagus of a Persian
princess who died in 520 B.C.
Ancient Japanese folktales told that pearls were created from the tears of
mythical creatures like mermaids and nymphs. Early Chinese civilizations
believed that dragons carried pearls between their teeth and the dragon must
be slain to claim the pearls, which symbolized wisdom.
Other cultures associated pearls with the moon, calling them "teardrops of the
moon." Hindu folklore explained that dewdrops fell from the moon into the sea,
and Krishna picked one for his daughter on her wedding day.
Because natural pearls were so rare throughout history, only the richest nobles could afford them. During the Byzantine Empire, rules dictated that
only the emperor was allowed to wear these treasured gemstones. Ancient
Egyptians were often buried with their prized pearls.
Tudor England was known as the Pearl Age because of the stone’s popularity
with the upper class during the sixteenth century. Portraits showed royals
wearing pearl jewelry and clothing adorned with pearls.
Pearls became more accessible in the early 1900s when the first commercial
culturing of saltwater pearls began in Asia. Since the 1920s, cultured pearls
have almost completely replaced natural pearls in the market, making this
classic gemstone affordable for nearly any budget.