Knowledge Centre > Gemmology > Gemstones > Pearl

The Beauty of Natural Pearls

Natural pearls a history

Coveted by both Eastern and Western collectors for centuries, pearls have historically adorned some of the world’s most extravagant monarchs and society figures. From the gods of Ancient Egypt to the high society in ancient Greece and Rome, pearls have been held in very high regard and were worn as a status symbol. Pearls were seen as the ultimate display of wealth, coming from the deep seas of the mysterious orient. In 1612, the Duke of Saxony passed a law meaning only royalty were permitted to wear pearls. Instantly, the desire for these prohibited gems increased and had the intended effect of distinguishing royalty. The difficulty in gathering pearls from their source is one of the main reasons natural pearls were so exclusive.

Natural pearls are an organic gem formed inside live mollusc shells and come in all shapes and sizes. They are formed as the result of a natural irritant within the mollusc's mantle and as a defence, layers of iridescent nacre form over the top of it, creating a pearl. The major historic source for gathering natural pearls is the Persian Gulf. The majority of pearls found are not good enough quality to be used in jewellery, meaning a natural, spherical, sizeable, smooth, lustrous, white pearl with no blemishes is exceptionally rare. All pearls occurred naturally up until the twentieth century.

Natural pearls occur naturally, and are very rarely found today. This makes antique strands of natural pearls especially important. Very few natural pearls were good enough to be used in fine jewellery, so matching them in quality within a necklace is incredibly hard to achieve. Cultured, man-made pearls can be farmed on a large scale and were invented to appeal to more of a mass market. The miracle of a beautiful pearl forming is somewhat less fascinating when they are cultured, and their inherent value changes accordingly. Their appeal lies in their iridescent sheen and lustre, their silky whiteness, and their rarity. Only one in a thousand natural pearls is spherical, white, lustrous and unblemished.

The variety of pearl jewellery means there’s a piece to suit every occasion though we advise that daily wear should be approached with caution. Treated correctly, pearl jewellery can last a lifetime, making a timeless addition to a wardrobe, or perfect heirlooms for future generations.

Although the Berganza showroom will be closed from November 5th, our website is still active and we remain open for virtual consultations and pre-booked collections. If you find a special piece during this time, we would be delighted to have it delivered to you. All shipping is complimentary, gift wrapped and fully insured.  

Vintage natural pearl and diamond earrings berganza hatton garden
Vintage natural pearl and diamond earrings, American, circa 1950.
Ref: 24654
antique pearl diamond carved ring berganza hatton garden
Victorian pearl five stone carved ring, English, circa 1900.
Ref: 23580
Edwardian natural pearl diamond necklace berganza hatton garden
Edwardian natural pearl and diamond necklace, circa 1915.
Ref: 25109
Natural pearl and diamond earrings berganza hatton garden
Natural pearl and diamond earrings, circa 1880.
Ref: 26188
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Updated 30/05/2024 at 2:02PM

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