Monday, November 15, 2010

Pearls - Legend And History

Pearls are one of the oldest types of gems, and continue to be popular today. Some legends and history about pearls:
  • The oldest surviving piece of pearl jewelry is a necklace that was found buried with a Persian Princess. It is estimated to be over 2000 years old.
  • Historians believe pearls were worn in ancient Middle East and Asian societies 3500 years ago.
  • They were highly regarded in ancient Rome and very valuable. A Roman general reportedly sold one pearl earring and financed an entire military campaign with the earnings.
  • Legend has it that Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, dissolved a pearl in wine and drank it to prove her love for the Roman Marc Antony.
  • The Bible refers to pearls several times.
  • The ancient Greeks valued them not only for their beauty, but for their associations with love and marriage.
  • The Medieval world valued them and they were worn not only by women but by knights going to battle. These knights believed that pearls could protect them from harm.
  • In Renaissance Europe, several countries passed laws forbidding anyone but the nobility to wear pearls or have them in their possession.
  • The ancient Inca and Aztec cultures valued them for their beauty and magical powers.
  • Native American men and women of the Atlantic coast and Mississippi river region wore freshwater pearl pendants and earrings.
  • The discovery of pearls in the waters off Central America brought great wealth to Europe during the years of expansion. The 'pearl rush ' was so great that practically all of the American pearl oyster population was gone by the end of the 17th century.
  • Famous French jeweler Jacques Cartier traded two pearl necklaces for valuable property on New York's famous Fifth Avenue, and built his famous jewelry store there in 1916.
  • Pearls remained very expensive and only the very wealthy could afford them until the early 20th century when pearl cultivation began.

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