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Gift from the nature that seem bathed in moonlight, pearls are impossible to resist. Giving off a soft, luminous sheen, pearls have been connected with purity, virtue, and serenity since time immemorial. The Persians, Egyptians, Romans, Hindus, and Jews all treasured pearls. In India and in Rome, pearls were worn by both men and women. In Rome, the pearl was believed to be Venus’s favorite gem, and thus a vital ingredient in love potions.  Romans wore pearls in their hair as a talisman for bringing love into their lives and believed that pearls were dew from the heavens that fell into the sea.  In ancient Japan, it was believed that pearls were the tears of a sea goddess.

When the outer layer of these secretions contains an iridescent blend of minerals called mother-of-pearl, or nacre, the pearl has the highly prized luster that makes it a gem.
From the late 1500s to the early 1700s, pearls were brought to Europe from the East Indies and the Persian Gulf, as well as from freshwater sources in places like Bavaria and Bohemia. It was the fashion among the upper classes to wear clothing heavily embroidered with pearls along with pearl bracelets, earrings, and necklaces. Renaissance portraits of royalty often show their subjects draped in pearls.  As late as 1853, a portrait of the Empress Eugenie shows her in a four-strand pearl choker, pearl drop earrings, and a magnificent blue gown embroidered with pearls.

In 1893  Koikichi Mikimoto produced the first cultured pearls--in which oysters, raised in carefully controlled oyster beds, had the irritants manually implanted in them—and forever changed the pearl market. Now almost all  pearls commercially sold are cultured pearls.  Natural pearls are extremely rare and valuable.

Certain pearls are so spectacular that they become part of history.  The pear-shaped La Peregrina (the pilgrim), is one of the world’s largest natural pearls. It was first found in the 1500s by a slave who was diving for pearls in the Carribean, and was granted his freedom when the owner saw this pearl what a treasure he had. The Same Pearl surfaced among the Spanish royal jewels and was given to Mary Tudor in 1564 on her engagement to King Phillip II of Spain. The pearl remained in Spain—this beautiful pearl can be seen in paintings of the wives of King Phillip IV—and then this pearl was said to belong to Joseph Bonaparte.

Eventually, La Peregrina pearl wound up in one of the most extraordinary gem collections of our time.  Richard Burton gave it to Elizabeth Taylor, and she had it set in a necklace of pearls, diamonds, and rubies that is nearly as breathtaking as Taylor herself.  The pearls and gem necklace was auctioned in 2011. It sold for nearly $12 million dollars.

Pearls are delicate gems that need to be treated carefully.  They should always be stored separately from gold, silver, and gemstones, as the harder materials can scratch or chip pearls.  Jewelers recommend that pearls be wrapped in a soft cloth or tissue paper. They should never be put in an ultrasonic cleaner or stored in plastic.  Without air, pearls can crack. They’re sensitive to chemicals, so it’s recommended that you put on all cosmetics before putting on pearls.Pearls never go out of fashion.  They are luminous gems, guaranteed to add light whenever pearls are worn.

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