For a start, it’s worth noting that there are two types of Pearls, natural and cultivated. But both have the same nature. At the same time, each category of this gem has its value at jewelry market and history.
Everyone knows that Pearls is the only gem of organic origin. The ancients believed that Pearl is a result of the efforts of mollusk to get rid of the unknown object that got inside it. In an attempt to remove this substance, the oyster crying. Its tears are the Pearls. But there were lots of opinions on the subject of the origin of these “teardrops.”
There are two types of commonly known mollusks producing genuine pearls that suit for commercial purposes, Sea Pearl and River Pearl.
Ancient History of Natural Pearls
A Pearl is perhaps the first gemstone known to the ancients. Prehistoric men were excited to discover such a marvelous object in the shell. In the Vedas, we can read that Peals symbolized Krishna for the Hindu people. This gem has left traces in the sacred Hindu treatises Ramayana and Mahabharata. Other Hindu sources, Mahavansa and the Dipavansa, are telling us about the Pearl producing on Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). So India and Ceylon were the first regions producing Pearls for jewelry purposes.
George F. Kunz mentions the ancient Chinese book titled Shangshu. Here we may find a record about the river Hwai, which was a spot of Pearl production even in the 13th century BC. There were lots of legends and myths about Pearls in the ancient Chinese treatises. We also can meet the mentions of Pearls in in Egyptian, Assyrian, Persian, Hebrew, and other ancient sources. The sources prove that Pearls of Oriental origin.
Medieval and Modern History of Pearls
The first Pearls came to Europe thanks to the Medieval travelers. Many Kings of that time have been collecting Pearls in immense quantity. But many Treasuries have been lost due to the endless wars and natural cataclysms. Starting from the third century, the Franks dominated Europe. Their Treasures contained an enormous amount of gems and pearls. Therefore, we frequently meet the treatises about Pearls, its value, and its use in jewelry in many European sources.
During the Dark Ages, the alchemists and Illuminati used Pearls for the sacred rituals. However, in jewelry, Pearls were used rather for the ornamental purposes. Between the 9th and 14th centuries, this gemstone applied in medicine, alchemy, and magic. Thanks to the Oriental influence, Pearls were famous for its magical and healing properties.
Later, the travelers noted when they paid a visit to India and China that the Oriental Kings wore Pearls and decorated their clothes with this gem. Moreover, the court and army officers also wore pearls like jewelry. Thus the custom came in Europe. The diaries of Marco Polo prove this fact. For instance, he describes the king of Malabar, who wore a chain containing 104 large rounded Pearls. His ring also included a large white Pearl.
Marco Polo also emphasizes that the King collected all of the giant Pearls exclusively for his purposes. For all the rest, it was forbidden to wear Pearls that weight over a half of “Saggio” (a measure of weight). From now on, during the 12th-13th centuries, each noble men collected and wore Pearls. Women and men alike decorated their dress with Pearls of various value and size.
The Pearls of New World
The biggest wave flooded the European markets after the discovery of America by Columbus. Peru, Venezuela, and Mexico, (especially Montezuma district) immediately turned into the primary source of Pearls in the world. The Aztecs collected this gem in the immense quantity. The Spaniards discovered a lot of fisheries owned by the locals on the coasts of Venezuela, Panama, and Mexico. The story says that the legend about Eldorado appeared in this period. Thus, the American Pearls appeared in the European markets.
Magical and Healing Properties
In pre-Columbian America, Aztecs decorated their temples with Pearls. The French custom prescribes a young woman to wear Pearls as a symbol of innocence. Since 1345, this custom was legitimized and regulated by law titled “The Law of Ulm.” Read more about the healing and mystical properties of Pearls.