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PEARLY LINK OF OUR ANCIENTS This unique creation is the only gem made from a living creature.

Our ancient history reflects its glory as a symbol of purity, wealth and worship. But before its recognition as a precious stone it was used as an everyday adornment by the Americans and it was revealed by the explorers from Europe. Explorers in Polynesia found that children were playing with pearls as marbles. George Frederick Kunz who was supposed to be the first Gemologist of America, in his The Book of Pearl states that an ancient fish eating tribe perhaps along the coast of India, discovered pearls while opening oysters for food and were fascinated by their shape and lustre.

But certain cultures throughout history paid attention on luminescent mother-ofpearl from mollusk shells rather than pearls. People ate the flesh of the mollusks and used pieces of colourful abalone shell as inlay on carved objects made of wood, ivory and bone. Some people including the ancient Sumerians, preColumbian Americans and Pacific islanders had a higher appreciation for the larger and easily obtained mother-of-pearl shells.

(ABOVE PICTURE SHOWS THE MAJESTIC LOOK OF QUEEN ELIZABETH, THE FIRST) Ancient pearls were the symbol of moon and had magic powers. In classical Rome, persons of higher rank were only allowed to wear pearl jewellery. Ancient Romans believed that pearls could promote marital bliss. Greeks started wearing pearls at wedding ceremonies as a symbol of love and harmony. Queen Elizabeth the first, known as the pearl queen had the finest collection of amazing pearls. She used to wear heavy strands of pearls and dazzling gowns with a treasure of 3000 pearls. She had the credit for possessing the two largest pearls in the world. Archaeological evidence has shown that in the Persian Gulf region, almost 6000 years ago, people were sometimes buried with a pierced pearl resting in the right hand. Due to the expansion of trade routes, pearls became important symbols of wealth, status and religious belief. Pearls occupied an eminent position in the Roman and Byzantine empires. Ancient Middle Eastern cultures were the first to value pearl and pearl shells. The pearl wave later spread to Mediterranean. In Persia, pearls were considered equivalent to gold. By 100 BC the Mediterranean pearl interest became a craze. It is quite revealed by the presence of pearl adorned objects at the archaeological sites across the Roman Empire from Syria to North Africa and Northern France. Though pearls are considered to be the symbol of peace and purity, it was the prime reason for provoking wars. According to some historians fresh water pearls was one of the reasons for the invasion of Julius Caesar over Britain in 55 BC. Romans made aesthetic combinations of pearl jewellery with emerald, or emerald plasma and gold. Pearls were considered as Europes favourite gem.


A man wore this brooch adorned with Scottish fresh water pearl at the shoulder or chest to secure his brat, a rectangular cloth slung about the body. A compartment under the rock crystal dome may have held a religious object. The brooch once belonged at one time to the Mac Leans of Loch Buy. Exploration of America and establishment of trade routes paved way to the surplus availability of pearls in Renaissance Europe beginning in the 1500s. The upper classes spent lavishly on pearls to portray their wealth and status. They had a greater admiration for irregular or baroque pearls. By the late 1600s, the scenario changed and the preferences inclined towards less extravagant displays of pearls as there is a decline in pearls arriving from the new world. The pearls continued to retain their position of attraction throughout 18th century especially among the royal

Europe families. The women wore matched sets of pearl necklaces, bracelets, earrings and brooches. The pearl craze even spread to churches, as clerics made use of the immaculate natural pearls to adorn altars and other religious objects. In Imperial China, pearls became popular during the Qing or Manchu dynasty, which ruled from 1644 to 1911. It was known that the Emperor used pearls that were obtained only from fresh water mussels in Manchuria, the dynastys home land. The Imperial family and wealthy Elite used large number of pearls to decorate their costume and furnishings. Imperial art of the period shows many large and round pearls. India and Middle East countries have a remarkable link with pearls over centuries. The Persian Gulf and Gulf of Mannar which was located between India and Sri Lanka were the source of abundant pearls. In both Hindu and Muslim religions, pearls occupied an inevitable role and blended with their traditions. During the 1700s and 1800s, the rulers possessed the excellent collection of pearls which were obtained from the Black-lipped and Ceylon pearl oysters. Both Islam and Hindu religions had a divine connection with pearls. According to Muslims, pearls represent completeness and perfection. In Hinduism, the pearl is one of the planetary gems and associated with moon. Recollection of past is a gateway to our historic knowledge and it is the record of different cultures, religions, tradition and beliefs. It is quite amazing that these pearls which are the gem of ultimate beauty stand over centuries, uniting different races with its magnificent glow.