History of pearls is much older than the written history of it. We can’t give credit of discovering Pearls to a single person. But most accepted theory is, it was discovered by accident, by those who were searching the seashore for food.
Oldest Pearl discovered so far
Oldest pearl discovered in 2017 and it is pink in color. It was found at an archeological site on Marwah Island, off the cost of Abu Dhabi. Through radio carbon dating it was found that the age of this pink color pearl is around 8000 years old. This tell us that the history of pearl trading can be traced back to Neolithic times.
Ancient Pearl Jewellery
Pearl jewellery can be traced back to ancient Greeks but if we study other cultures like Indian Culture the history of pearls and pearl jewellery is much older than any other civilization.
The oldest Pearl jewellery is in the form of necklace and it is still in existence and was found in the tomb of ancient Persian queen. The necklace is said to 2400 year old.
History of Pearls in different Cultures and Religion
Roman Culture and History
Pearls in Roman history was considered as one of the most precious Gem. It was the symbol of wealth and prestige. It was so precious at that time, that the Julius Caesar once literally tried to limit the access of pearls only to ruling and elite class, other than them were prohibited from wearing it.
There is a very famous historical incident in Roman history. Once Cleopatra wagered with Marc Antony that she can give the most expensive dinner in history when the only thing that was present on the dining table was a glass of sour wine i.e vinegar. Marc Antony got suspicious about her claim then suddenly she took of one of her earring, which is of pearl, and dissolved it in that vinegar and drank it. It is said that the cost of that pearl was approx. 10 million sesterces. She was declared winner.
Greek Culture and History
Like Romans, ancient Greeks too considered pearls in high esteem. Mostly they were used in weddings because they believed that pearls bring love in life. During dark ages these precious stones were cherished by the elite class on the other hand the gallant knights often wore pearls during battle. They believed that it would bring good luck for them.
In religious history, Greeks associate bright gems with goddess Aphrodite, to symbolize her beauty. They believed that the goddess of love born out of the sea and came out naked wearing just a pearls necklace. Greek mythology also suggested that the pearls were the tears of God and they believe in this myth for thousands of years.
In Europe it was believed that the pearls were formed from the solidification of water drops because of moon or sun light. They believed in this myth for hundreds of years and they also believed that many supernatural powers were also associated with it.
Arab culture and their Religious Scripture
In Arab Culture also the pearls were considered as precious and divine. Persian gulf was always the home of natural oyster beds.
In Islamic Religious scripture Quran, pearls are described as greatest treasure in paradise.
22:33 God will admit those who believe and work righteous deeds, to gardens beneath which river flows: they shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearls; and their garments there will be of silk.
52:24 Round about them will serve, [devoted] to them, youths[handsome] as pearls well guarded.
There are many verses in Bible where pearl is mentioned. Here are few verses which tells how precious the pearl is in christian beliefs.
In a christian new testament parable (matthew-13:45-46), Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to a “pearl of great price”. ” Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:, who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
JOB 28:18 No mention shall be made of corals or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
Revelation 21:21 And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was one of pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.
The history of pearls is in India is thousands of years old. Pearl is translated as “Moti” in India. In ancient epic poem Ramayna , describes a necklace made with 27 pearls, this shows that the pearls were in use since the vedic era. Astrology and in ancient Indian medicine system pearls held a very important place.
In astrology it is believed that Pearl has the power to curb the negative effects of moon and to attract the positive energy of moon. But according to Indian astrology not everyone is eligible to wear pearl. Astrologers do some math before prescribing it to their client. Some astrological benefits of the Pearls are mentioned below
- It remove the evil effects of the planet moon
- It increases the concentration power, therefore beneficial for students.
- It makes the married life harmonious.
- It expels mental depression and stress
In Ayurveda pearls hold a very significant place. In many ayurvedic formulations powder of pearls is used like to treat mental illness or High Blood Pressure. It is found that it is very effective in treating High BP.
Similarly like Ayurveda, Pearls are also used as medicine in Chinese and Arabic system of medicine
Pearls in Hindu religion and Scriptures
In Hindu religion the sacred nine pearls were first mentioned in Garuda Purana.
The Brihat-samhita of Varahmira, the Indian mathematician also described the nine pearls.
The Rig Veda oldest of all Vedas, also has many verses mentioning about pearls. The Atharveda mentions an amulet made of pearls and used as talisman in India. God Krishna is also associated with pearls in several stories. The most famous Pearl known as Kaustubh Moti, God Vishnu wears it on his chest.
Legends related to Mythology of Pearls
The ancient Japanese believed that the pearls were created out of the tears of mermaids, nymphs, angels and other mythical beings.
According to a Chinese myth, the pearl fell from sky when dragons fought amongst the clouds. Another myth states that pearls originated from raindrops swallowed by oysters.
Ancient Chinese civilization believed that black pearls were formed within dragon’s head. Full grown Pearls were carried between his death, you had to slay the dragon to collect pearls.
Oro the God of peace and fertility, visited the earth on a rainbow to bring a magical oyster. He offered the black pearl to the princess of Bora Bora as a symbol of his love.
Persian Myth believed that pearls were created when rainbow meets the earth after the storm. And the imperfection in pearl’s appearance is because of thunder and lightening.
Role of color in pearl mythology
The color of pearls also have been associated with certain qualities, for example : black or gold with wealth, blue with love and pink with success.