Gem Stories: Pearl

Pearl, the lustrous gem of the sea, has been synonymous with wealth, status and power for thousands of years. Unlike other gems, pearls need no cutting or polishing to reveal their beauty.  Although we are not sure when pearls were first discovered, the oldest written mention of pearls dates all the way back to 2206 B.C. Nearly every culture has praised pearls throughout history, each bestowing their own meaning and significance upon them.

South Sea Pearl Ring

Queen Elizabeth I of England had a boundless love for pearls.  She had over 3,000 gowns adorned with them, and a huge collection of pearl strands, earrings, pendants and rings.  She even had 80 wigs decorated with pearls! Queen Elizabeth employed dozens of pages just to keep them polished and clean.


Often referred to as the “wedding gem,” the strong association between pearls and love began in ancient times.  Both the Roman and Greek goddesses of love, Venus and Aphrodite, are strongly associated with pearls.  In the famous painting by Botticelli, Venus arises out of an oyster shell, herself a pearl. The Greeks thought pearls would prevent the bride from crying on her wedding day and were sometimes placed under her pillow to bring fertility. Today, the tradition of the bride wearing pearls continues as it has for hundreds of years.

The Birth of Venus

The miraculous process by which pearls form contribute to the gem’s continuing popularity.  A natural pearl begins its life as a tiny irritant inside the shell of a mollusk, usually an oyster.  The irritant lodges itself within the mollusk’s soft tissue and cannot escape. In an effort to protect itself, the mollusk will begin to secrete a smooth, hard substance, called nacre, around the irritant.  Over time, more and more nacre continues to build up, forming an iridescent pearl. Many interpret this formation process as a poetic metaphor for life.  Pearls serve as a symbolic reminder that beautiful things can arise out of seemingly unfortunate circumstances.  Another unique quality of pearls is their slightly porous surface, which causes them to warm against the skin while being worn.

White South Sea Pearl Pendant 550-10116

When you visit the pearl case at J.M. Edwards, you continue the long human tradition of admiring these small, beautiful wonders of nature.  Countless hours of careful nurturing and labor go into each piece.  At J.M. Edwards, we offer the highest quality pearl jewelry in the Cary and Raleigh area.  Allow our jewelry professionals to guide you through the diverse world of pearls and help you find the perfect piece.