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PEARLS - A REGAL HISTORY

  • 3 min read

PEARLS - A REGAL HISTORY

Pearls are the oldest gem known to man, for centuries a symbol of power, purity, wisdom, beauty, and wealth.
Pearls emerge beautifully from nature, and as such were prized well above diamonds and all other gems until the 1950s.
 
Pearls have been used as a measure of wealth since the  Roman Empire to the 20th Century.
 
The first recorded royal pearl was Cleopatra’s magnificent “pear-shaped” pearl earrings. To demonstrate Egypt’s deep heritage, culture and that as a world power was beyond conquering, Cleopatra wagered Mark Anthony that she could consume the entire wealth of a country in a single meal, and so drank one of these precious “pear-shaped” earrings in her glass of wine. Upon Cleopatra's death, the remaining pearl earring was taken to Rome, halved and placed on the earlobes of the statue of Venus in the Pantheon.
 
6th Century Byzantine Empress, Theodora, loved pearls. Her long pearl earrings became so heavy that to save her earlobes she wore a diadem with long strands of pearls hanging from each side to which she could add as many pearls as she liked.
 
The most famous pearl was found with the discovery of the American continent in the 1500’s - the Peregrina. A natural pearl, the size of a pigeon's egg. It was found by a slave, who was given his freedom and a farm as a reward. The Peregrina became the most highly regarded jewel of the 16th century and was given to Mary Tudor as a wedding gift.
Joseph Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon I, took the Peregrina to France. In 1969, Elizabeth Taylor bought a pearl reputed to be the Peregrina for $37,000.  La Peregrina was recently auctioned by Christie's Auction House and sold for $10 million, it is currently in Middle Eastern ownership.
 
Elizabeth I was the biggest ‘pearl-a-holic’ in history. Some of her pearls came from Mary Tudor, others from the crown jewels of Navarre, Portugal, Burgundy, and Scotland. The finest pearls in Europe came into her possession when Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded, leaving an empty treasury; her jewels were sold to Elizabeth I despite strong contest from other heads of state who wanted them for themselves, like Catherine de Medici.
 
Empress Eugenie, the 2nd greatest "pearl-a-holic" in history, was the most stylish and trend-setting woman of her time. The Empress's love of pearls is well documented. She owned a beautiful strand of natural Tahitian pearls, the famous Peregrina pearl, and the "Queen Pearl" - a natural freshwater pearl which she bought from Charles Tiffany
 
You could say that pearls are royalty's best friend, at the end of the 19th through to our 21st Century, pearls have been noted for never being obtrusive and always having a refining effect, pearls were used to harmonize diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and other coloured stones. All European royal families have an armory of pearls that have passed from generation to generation, like our current Queen who is never seen without her natural 3 strand pearl necklace and earrings. The Duchess of Cambridge is often seen with pearl drops on hoops.
 
Pearls are also loved by our new ‘Royalty’ - iconic, style trending figures, like Jacky Kennedy and Michelle Obama in the political arena; fashion royalty like Coco Chanel; music royalty like Rihana and Lady Gaga. Acting royalty like Audrey Hepburn, Helen Mirren, and Kristin Scott Thomas. What do they all have in common? Pearls.
As Coco Chanel once said “pearls are always appropriate”

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