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Gemstone Information Infocenter at Holisticonline.com

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Comprehensive Gemstone Information

 

Pearl - The Oldest Gem

Introduction

History

Scientific Description

Types of Pearls

Saltwater Pearls

Freshwater Pearls

Faux (Fake) Pearls

How to Test for Fake

Classification of Pearls by Shape

Pricing Pearls

Care for Pearls

Therapeutic Properties of Pearl

Identification

How to Buy Pearl Jewelry

Introduction

Pearl is unique among gemstones. It is the only gem found within a living creature. It is the only gem that requires no fashioning (cutting or polishing) before use. It is also used exclusively by one gender. Although efforts have been made to market pearl jewelry to males, pearls remain the most "feminine" of all gemstones.

Pearl is the June Birthstone. Pearls have long been considered ideal wedding gifts because they symbolize purity and innocence. Traditionally it is a near requirement for brides. In the Hindu religion, the presentation of an un-drilled Pearl and its piercing has formed part of the marriage ceremony. In the west, Pearls are the recommended gift for couples celebrating their third and 30th wedding anniversaries.

History

Pearls are the oldest known gem, and for centuries were considered the most valuable. Pearls were so valuable that the Roman General Vitellius allegedly financed an entire military campaign with just one of his mother's Pearl earrings!

Pearls have been used for personal ornament for thousands of years. They were probably one of the earliest gems found by prehistoric man. It was attractive to him because pearl came as naturally-perfect objects which required no additional craftsmanship. They were probably first found along the coastline of India.

Legend says that pearls were formed when the oysters opened their shells, rose to the water's surface and were seeded by the early morning's drops of dew and the first rays of sparkling sunlight. People in middle east believed that pearls were a symbol of the moon and had magical powers.

The oldest known Pearl jewelry is a necklace found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess who died in 520 BC.

The earliest written record of the value of pearls is recorded in a 23rd-century BC Chinese book. The pearl's unique qualities of luster and iridescence were noted by Homer in the Odyssey: "Earrings bright with triple drops that cast a trembling light." Pearls are mentioned in ancient Hindu epics. It is mentioned in a Chinese dictionary from 1,000 B.C., in Marco Polo's accounts about the king of China, and in Pliny's 1st century, A.D. Historia naturalis.

The Romans were particularly enamored of this gem of the sea. Rome's Pearl craze reached its zenith during the first century BC when upper class Roman women wore their pearls to bed so they could be reminded of their wealth immediately upon awakening.

The Koran states that a good Muslim, upon entering the Kingdom of Heaven, "is crowned with pearls of incomparable luster, and is attended by beautiful maidens resembling hidden pearls."

During the 12th and 13th centuries, the Crusaders spread the use and popularity of pearls throughout Europe. The Aztecs of central Mexico studded the interiors of their palaces with pearls and emeralds.

During the Dark Ages, fair maidens of nobility cherished delicate pearl necklaces. Gallant knights often wore pearls onto the battlefield. They believed that the magic possessed by the pearls would protect them from harm.

Next: Scientific Description

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Jewelry with Pearl

[Pearl Page 2] [Pearl Page 3] [Pearl Page 4]

See Also:

Products with Pearl

Therapeutic Properties of Pearl

Gemstone Infocenter Home

Gift Selections incorporating Gemstones

Guide to Caring for Gemstones

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