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A pair of grape shaped pearl and gold vermeil earrings on a twig in front of a grey linen backdrop

Pearls have been used in jewellery for millennia, and it’s not hard to see why. They have an otherworldly lustre, a celestial glow which has long been associated with the moon, fertility and femininity.  

Often referred to as the world’s oldest gem, it’s likely that pearls were first stumbled upon by chance, by foragers searching for food along the seashore.

The world’s oldest pearl was discovered at Marawah Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. Archaeologists used radiocarbon dating to determine that the pearl dated back to between 5800 and 5600 BC. Pearls are believed to have been worn as jewellery at the time and used to trade goods with Mesopotamia.

Black lipped oyster with natural pearl,
Robert Wan Pearl Museum

Myth and Symbolism of Pearl Jewellery

Pearl jewellery is surrounded by myth and symbolism in many civilisations.

In Hindu folklore, dewdrops fell from the moon into the sea, turned into pearls, and Krishna picked one out of the water as a gift for his daughter on her wedding day.

Legend has it that Cleopatra crushed a pearl into a glass of wine to prove to Marc Antony that she could give the most expensive dinner in history, proving to him the superior wealth of Egypt.

Seed Pearl Jewellery

Traditionally, the value of pearls for use in jewellery is determined by their lustre, colour, size, lack of surface flaw and symmetry.

Large pearls may be valuable, but I really love the range of sizes and shapes available with freshwater pearls. This allows me to play with texture and form and create barnacle-like clusters.

I particularly love tiny freshwater seed pearls. These are tiny pearls of less than 2mm in diameter, created from freshwater mussels, mainly off the coast of China.

Seed pearls were widely used in pearl jewellery in the 18th and 19th centuries. Georgian jewellers created elaborate floral designs by threading seed pearls onto horsehair on a mother of pearl base. Queen Victoria popularised the use of seed pearls in mourning jewellery, with pearls representing tears for the departed loved one.

Pearls in Wedding Jewellery

Pearls are a classic and elegant choice for bridal jewellery and complement a wide range of bridal looks. Their natural, ethereal aesthetic and association with purity and fertility make them a popular choice.

Try small pearl stud earrings and a pearl pendant chain necklace, an ethereal pair of seed pearl drop earrings with an up-do, or a pearl necklace with a strapless wedding dress or an open neckline.

Whatever you choose, pearls reflect light in the most flattering way. Bask in that moon-like glow.

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