The History of Pearl Jewelry


Pearls, the organic gemstones, have been used as jewelry since ancient times. Their rarity, beauty, and durability have made them one of the most popular gems used for adornment. The history of Pearl jewelry dates back thousands of years and spans across different cultures and regions. In this article, we will delve deep into the history of Pearl jewelry.

What are Pearls?

Pearls are formed inside shells of certain mollusks called oysters or mussels. When an irritant such as a sand grain or a parasite enters the shell, the mollusk responds by coating the irritant with nacre, a smooth, iridescent substance that eventually forms a pearl. The size, shape, and luster of the pearl depend on various factors, including the type of mollusk, the size of the irritant, and the growing conditions.

History of Pearl Jewelry:

Pearls have been used in jewelry for a very long time. Here’s a brief overview of the history of Pearl jewelry.

Ancient Times:

Pearls were prized by ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. They were considered symbols of wealth and status and were often used to adorn royalty and the wealthy. The ancient Romans believed that pearls were the tears of the gods and wore them as a symbol of purity.

Middle Ages:

During the Middle Ages, pearls continued to be popular among the wealthy, particularly in Europe. Pearls were often used to adorn crowns, scepters, and other symbols of royalty. The demand for pearls was so high that the Catholic Church declared pearls to be “the property of the Church” and forbade non-clergy to wear them.


In the Renaissance era, pearl jewelry became more affordable and accessible to the middle class. Pearls were used to adorn not just royal garments but also everyday fashion jewelry. A popular fashion of the time was the “pearl collar,” a necklace made of several rows of pearls.

Victorian Era:

In the Victorian era, pearls were used as symbols of innocence and purity. They were often given as gifts to young women on their coming-of-age ceremonies or weddings. Queen Victoria herself was a fan of pearls and wore them frequently. During this time, the demand for freshwater pearls from China and Japan increased, making pearls more affordable for the masses.

20th Century:

In the 20th century, pearl jewelry continued to be popular, particularly among the wealthy. The discovery of pearls in Australia in the 1950s led to an increase in the availability of affordable pearls. This resulted in the creation of more modern and innovative designs using pearls. Today, pearls are still a popular gemstone used in jewelry making.

Different types of Pearls:

There are several types of pearls, each with its unique characteristics. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most commonly used pearls.

Akoya Pearls:

Akoya pearls are the classic round pearls commonly used in pearl jewelry. They are produced by the Akoya oyster, primarily in Japan and China. Akoya pearls are known for their high luster, rich color, and round shape.

Freshwater Pearls:

Freshwater pearls are produced by mussels in freshwater rivers and lakes. They come in different shapes, sizes, and colors and are generally more affordable than other types of pearls.

South Sea Pearls:

South Sea pearls are larger than other types of pearls and possess a unique luster that makes them highly desirable. They are produced by the Pinctada maxima oyster, primarily in Australia and Indonesia.

Tahitian Pearls:

Tahitian pearls are a type of saltwater pearl produced by the black-lipped oyster in French Polynesia. They come in different dark colors, including black, gray, and green, and are highly sought after for their unique color.

Cultured vs. Natural Pearls:

Cultured pearls are pearls that are created in pearl farms. They are produced by artificially implanting a piece of tissue or a bead into the mollusk to stimulate the pearl-forming process. Natural pearls, on the other hand, are formed without human intervention.


The history of Pearl jewelry is as rich and varied as the pearls themselves. From ancient civilizations to modern times, pearls have been prized for their natural beauty and rarity. Today, pearls continue to be a popular choice for jewelry makers, and their timeless elegance ensures that they will remain in fashion for many years to come. Whether you prefer classic Akoya pearls or colorful Tahitian pearls, there is a pearl out there to suit every taste and personality.

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