Pearl History

We all have our own relationship with the pearl, but this gem also has a rich history that exists in many cultures across time around the world.

Beloved by many through millennia, pearls are universal gemstones. Historically, they have been worn by both men and women — in fact, men were the first to wear them. These lustrous gems have been known to adorn the crowns and jewelry of royalty, thus earning the titles the Queen of Gems and the Gem of Queens.

Known as the world’s oldest gem, pearls have been revered since before written history. Glimpse into the pearl’s illustrious history below.

2300 BC: Pearls associated with love and royalty
According to ancient scrolls, pearls were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty.

In Ancient Greece, these gems were considered the ultimate status symbol, and were regulated to be worn only by ruling classes. They were also once thought to be the tears of joy of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. These gems are thus said to bring joy and love, as it was the goddess’ sacred gem.

420 BC: The Susa Pearls
The Susa Pearls, the oldest pearl jewelry known, was found in 1901 in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess (now on display at the Louvre). It is dated back to approximately 420 BC.

Dark Ages: Pearls as talismans
During the Dark Ages, pearls were worn or carried by knights during battle for safety, as they believed these precious gems would protect them from harm.

15th-16th century AD: The Pearl Age
In Europe, the 15th-16th century AD came to be known as the Pearl Age, a period of heightened demand for pearls in Europe upon discovery of the gem in Central and South America. Because of the volume of pearls that were brought to the West, pearls became a trend that transcended social classes.

Mid-15th century AD: Pandanan Wreck
The Pandanan Wreck, which was discovered in 1933, signified robust trading between the Philippines and its Southeast Asian neighbors. Coins, porcelain, and jars from China, Vietnam, and Thailand were found in the wreck. Ancient Chinese records revealed that they used to trade these goods for pearls in the island of Palawan. As early as the 1400s, the Philippines was already known for its pearls.

1893: First cultured pearl created in Japan

1920s: Jazz Age
In the 1920s, pearl necklaces in the form of simple strands reflected the fashion for streamlined designs.

1950s: Symbols of femininity
In the 1950s, pearls signified subtle elegance, innocence, and femininity. Wearing pearls was popularized by icons like Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, and Audrey Hepburn.

1979: Jewelmer is founded

21st century: Pearls as a versatile gem

Now, pearls can be worn at different occasions by people of virtually any age. The variety of sizes, shapes, and hues makes the pearl an incredibly versatile gem.