Knowledge Centre > Gemmology > Gemstones > Pearl

The pearl: treasured through time.


The pearl is one of nature’s greatest wonders, forming inside a pearl-bearing mollusc, layers of nacre are grown around a foreign object as self-defence. These layers of nacre are what create the enchanting iridescent lustre that draws you in! The pearl is officially the oldest gem, long cherished by all and even preceding written history. One of the earliest natural pearls was discovered in an archaeological dig on Marawah Island located in the Persian Gulf in 2019. The pearl dates back 8,000 years to the Neolithic period (1000 B.C. - 2200 B.C)!

Throughout history, royalty have adorned themselves with natural pearls, symbolising wealth, status, and power. In ancient Rome, pearls were considered more valuable than diamonds. Julius Caesar (100 B.C. - 44 B.C.) passed a law stating that only the upper classes could wear pearls within Rome’s borders. As the demand for pearls began to rise so did the myths and legends surrounding them. Some cultures began to believe that pearls had connections with religion and power, for example, pearls were formed from angel tears, or if worn to battle, they would provide protection.

The nobility and royalty of Western Europe began to covet the natural pearl, and adorned themselves with elaborate pearl rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and brooches. In 1612 the Duke of Saxony passed a law allowing only royalty to wear pearls. Upper society were then excluded, creating immense desire for these unattainable gems! However, as popularity grew the number of pearl-bearing molluscs began to decline, causing the natural pearl to become even rarer.

Today, the natural pearl is one of the rarest gems, as there are only a few scarce occasions in which a natural pearl is found in the current ocean environment. In the early 1900’s cultured pearls came on to the market, discovered by Kokichi Mikimoto, who artificially inserted a foreign object (part of another mollusc’s soft body or shell) and kick started the pearl formation process within the mollusc. The cultured pearl does not hold the intrinsic beauty and value of a natural pearl, and the rarity of the natural pearl enforces the ever increasing desire and appreciation. The natural pearl is treasured so highly that in 1916 Cartier exchanged a double strand pearl necklace for Morton Plant's renaissance style mansion at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. The mansion went on the be Cartier's flagship store in New York.

The pearl continues to be loved and in 2022 they featured on runways and adorned by many celebrities. The natural pearl is an astonishing gem with a rich history and really does make a true investment piece!

In the Berganza collection, we have many natural pearl pieces from across the era's. Visit the showroom to find your perfect pearl piece.

Ancient Roman gold and pearl earrings berganza hatton garden
Ancient Roman gold and pearl earrings, circa 3rd-4th century AD.
Ref: 24016
Natural pearl stud earrings, circa 1910 hatton garden
Natural pearl stud earrings.
Ref: 28005
Vintage natural pearl and diamond earrings berganza hatton garden
Vintage natural pearl and diamond earrings, American, circa 1950.
Ref: 24654
front view antique pearl diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Belle Epoque natural pearl and diamond ring, French, circa 1900.
Ref: 22446
Antique pearl bird brooch berganza hatton garden
Antique pearl bird brooch, English, circa 1880.
Ref: 25392
Marcus & Co. natural pearl and diamond necklace Hatton Garden
Marcus & Co. natural pearl and diamond necklace, circa 1915.
Ref: 28077
Natural pearl and diamond double heart ring, French, circa 1905. Hatton Garden
Natural pearl and diamond double heart ring, French, circa 1905.
Ref: 27232
Art Deco natural pearl diamond ring berganza hatton garden
Art Deco natural pearl and diamond ring, circa 1935.
Ref: 22413
Natural saltwater pearl and diamond cluster ring hatton garden
Natural saltwater pearl and diamond cluster ring, French, circa 1910.
Ref: 27254
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Updated 18/05/2024 at 3:51PM

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