No other gem has captivated our fascination and admiration like the pearl. Diamonds may be forever, but pearls have been recognized as prized jewels for centuries longer than any cut stone. Almost all other gemstones are formed by mineral deposits that must be mined, cut, and polished to reveal their sparkling beauty. Pearls, on the other hand, are beautiful as they are - straight out of the mollusk. High quality pearls have an intense, brilliant luster and shiny iridescence that emanates from within the gem. For these reasons, pearls have become a symbol of purity and natural beauty.
Pearls are natural wonders that have been treasured for centuries by cultures ancient and modern around the world. Greek mythology proclaimed pearls to be tears of joy shed by the goddess Aphrodite. Ancient Egyptians associated pearls with Isis, the goddess of healing and life.
Julius Caesar limited the wearing of pearl jewelry to the rulers of the Roman Empire during the first century B.C. In the glory days of the British Empire, only royalty were allowed to wear these lustrous gems. Until fairly recently, pearls were still worn exclusively by royalty and wealthy nobility, as they were far too expensive for anyone else to afford.
Tribal Indians, too, believed that pearls were tears of their gods. An Arab legend weaves a tale of dewdrops filled with moonlight that fell into the ocean and were swallowed by oysters, creating the precious pearls. The Gates of Heaven are made of pearl, according to the King James Bible. Pearls were rumored to cure hundreds of ailments. There are many more references to the pearl in works of great literature, and the lustrous jewels are often seen in famous paintings as jewelry, hair decorations and clothing adornments.
According to some historical accounts, Native Americans accepted strings of beads in exchange for the island of Manhattan. A few centuries later, in 1916, renowned French jeweler Jacques Cartier acquired land there for his first American store. The price? A strand of natural pearls. This long and storied past only adds to the appeal of the incomparable pearl, cherished today as a traditional wedding gift, a birthstone, and in jewelry that reflects taste and refinement.