A History of Pearls
A Brief Overview of How Pearls Have Continued to Be a Prized Gem Throughout History
There is a rich history of pearls that dates back many thousands of years. One of the first natural gemstones to be valued by people, pearls have a mystique and beauty about them that makes them so captivating.
Natural History of Pearls
Well before the birth of Christ, ancient cultures had discovered the natural pearl in massive oyster beds. These oyster beds had for so long been quietly producing beautiful pearls under the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and Indian Ocean. At this point in the history of pearls, pearl jewelry began its status as a symbol of wealth in Middle Eastern and Asian cultures and continued for hundreds of years. Rulers of the era dawned themselves in gorgeous natural pearl jewelry that was only available to the wealthy.
As the Roman Empire expanded into Egyptian and Greek territories, the status power of the pearl was adopted. As time went on, and new cultures came into power, the reign of the pearl continued. Even Christopher Columbus, in his third voyage to the New World, caused quite a stir in the pearl industry with his discovery of the untapped pearl beds in Central America. These newly discovered resources caused many European nations to strive for a piece of these precious jewels and created a new demand.
However, by 1890, it seemed that all the natural pearl resources had all but disappeared. The demand for pearl jewelry had grown too much for nature to keep up with. Fortunately, a new innovation was about to begin that would transform the pearl industry forever.
Cultured History of Pearls
Since the demand for pearl jewelry had grown so much, the natural resources of pearls had depleted causing the need for some way to increase pearl production. At a time when the demand for pearls was becoming too great, three Japanese men stepped in with the solution that transformed pearls forever.
Tokichi Nishikawa, Tatsuhei Mise, and Kokichi Mikimoto each played an important role in the development of modern pearl culturing techniques. They developed a way to harvest pearls in a much speedier fashion than the natural process. The final product is a beautiful pearl virtually identical to a natural pearl.
In the 1920's the cultured pearl industry flourished in a time when self indulgence was gaining popularity. People could finally have access to the precious pearls that once were reserved for only royalty. Pearls still retained their image of wealth and privilege, but thanks to the new innovation, pearls could be produced in a controlled manner and were much more accessible.
There are three types of Saltwater Cultured Pearls available, which are Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls, and South Sea Pearls. Each has their similarities and their differences, which mainly are colors and size. There are also traditional Freshwater Pearls which are now mostly cultured in China.
Today, pearls still captivate the public the way they did thousands of years ago. Pearl jewelry will continue its sign of beauty, elegance, and stature. Knowing the rich history of pearls gives you a key insight into why pearl jewelry is so highly regarded and gives you a new appreciation for these beautiful gems.
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