4,000 Years of Pearl Fashion History in 5 Minutes

Have you ever looked at a pearl? No, I mean really held one up close to your eye and examined it in bright, natural lighting? If so, then you’ve been treated to one of mother nature’s most spectacular displays of brilliant light, lustre, color, shape and texture gloriously captured in an organic gem roughly the size of a humble pea.

It’s no wonder then that pearls have been highly valued and associated with classical elegance, romance and timeless beauty throughout the ages and among cultures spanning the globe. Here’s a brief snippet on pearls and their rise to the center stage of luxury and fashion:

Cleopatra the last Egyptian queen is said to have dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it to prove that she could consume the wealth of an entire country in one meal.

Roman statues of goddesses including Venus were commonly decorated with magnificent pearl earrings and Caligula the Roman emperor wore pearl studded sandals and adorned his favorite horse with a pearl necklace.

Possibly the oldest pearl necklace in existence, an exquisite 3-stranded necklace with 216 pearls was discovered inside a queen’s tomb in the ancient Persian city, Susa, dating back to the 7th-9th century B.C. This masterpiece has been on display in the Louvre Museum for over 100 years.

Elizabeth the I of England was famously portrayed in a long, pearl-studded dress.

European royalty developed an insatiable demand for pearls and lavishly wore them as jewelry, in crowns, dangling from ropes and embroidered on clothes between the 17th and 19th century.

Jacque Cartier traded 2 pearl necklaces for his landmark store on New York’s famous Fifth Avenue in 1916.

Iconic figures such as Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Louise Kelly epitomized modern beauty and glamor by wearing elegant pearl strands in the 1960’s.

Today, pearl jewelry is commonly featured on runways and in photo shoots by major fashion labels such as Dolce & Gabanna, Christian Dior, Oscar De La Renta and Georgio Armani.

Do you have any prized pearl jewelry pieces in your collection? What outfits or occasions accentuate them best for you?