The Ancient History of Pearls

Pearl jewelry has been precious for thousands of years. In Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Japanese culture, pearls have long been prized for their beauty. The sheer range of designs of ancient pearls is a true guide to their historical value.

Pearls also had another value in ancient times – they were easily portable cash. Pearls are lightweight, easy to hide, and could be traded for goods and services anywhere in the world.

Ancient pearls

Pearl jewelry, in fact, may go back a lot further than recorded history. In prehistoric times, seashells were already being used as ornaments, even as necklaces. It’s quite likely that prehistoric humans encountered pearls very early in their foraging expeditions on the seashores as they traveled the world.

Given their current and historical popularity, it’s quite likely that early humans took a liking to these natural jewels very early. It is also notable that the early jewelry was also a form of currency, traded between inland and coastal groups. Pearls may well have been traded even before the invention of money.

The early Greek, Egyptian, Persian, Roman, and Chinese civilizations were the first truly expert jewelers. Pearls, which occur naturally all along the coast of these early civilisations, were of course very much in demand.

It would be hard to put a date on the first recorded instances of pearl jewelry, though. It’s unlikely that anyone will ever have a specific date for the first pearl earrings, or pearl necklaces, for example.

What is clear, however, is that pearl jewelry design has been evolving for thousands of years. Akoya pearls, which are the basis of the famous Mikimoto pearls, were also the original pearls used by Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and other Asian civilizations. Pearls, in fact, have kept pace with civilization and humanity ever since the very earliest days. They have earned a special place in the hearts of people throughout the years, and continue to be treasured for that same beauty today.

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