From prehistoric eras to ancient cultures and modern times, humans have consistently adorned themselves. Regardless of religion, culture, class or gender, people have fashioned materials into necklaces, bracelets and other ornaments to decorate their bodies.
Archaeological finds include jewelry made from animal hides, leather and plant materials that were decorated with animal teeth, feathers, shells, pebbles, bones, seeds and flowers. Later, as human technologies advanced, metals and gems began appearing in the archaeological record. A natural gemstone fished from the sea, pearls have been revered for thousands of years as a prized embellishment for their shape, luster and colors.
From India to China, Egypt to Rome, and throughout the modern world, we give you six reasons why pearls continue to be a girl’s best friend.
Coming of age, graduations, weddings, anniversaries, milestone achievements and special occasions are marked with the giving and wearing of pearls. Every pearl is unique and its shape is natural and without artificial modification. Worn as a simple string, an embellished brooch or a delicate bracelet, pearls are, as Jackie Kennedy famously declared, always appropriate.
Like a baby that develops in the belly of its mother, pearls are formed within the soft tissue of mollusks like oysters and mussels. Pearls represent the love bond between you and your loved ones like the essential relationship between the strong, resilient, and iridescent mother of pearl of the inner shell and the pearl created within.
When small particles, parasites or organisms gain entry to the shell of certain mollusks, they respond by creating a ‘pearl sac’ to defend themselves against the threatening irritant. Over and over the mollusk secretes calcium carbonate to cover the irritant. With time, these layers build up and result in the formation of a smooth, beautiful pearl.
Keynote speaker and change expert, Susan Young eloquently challenges us to consider changes in our lives – from adversity, difficulties and experiences – through the metaphor of an oyster and its pearl. She says: “As a pearl is formed and its layers grow, a rich iridescence begins to glow. The oyster has taken what was at first an irritation and intrusion and uses it to enrich its value. How can you coat or frame the changes in your life to harvest beauty, brilliance, and wisdom?”
The same elements that make pearls iridescent and strong make pearl powder a beauty ‘superfood’. The fine, white powder of ground pearls is rich in calcium as well as magnesium, amino acids, and trace minerals. Served up by Chinese herbalists as a medical remedy for eons, pearl powder has entered the Western wellness arena as a nutritional supplement for women. Although research and information are limited, pearl powder supplements reportedly help to prevent skin discoloration, digestive issues, and osteoporosis.
Pearl powder has also stepped into the limelight as a star ingredient in cosmetics (which the Chinese already knew about millennia ago!). It is often incorporated into exfoliants, masks, and shimmering finishing powders and eye shadows.
Environmentally friendly and grown in water, pearls are a gift from nature. Water is considered one of the ‘classical elements’ in ancient Greek philosophy and is associated with the qualities of emotion and intuition. As a classic gemstone often gifted and worn for special occasions, pearls are synonymous with memories and emotional experiences. Blessedly, pearls suit all styles and add a touch of elegance to every occasion.
French style guru Genevieve Antoine Dariaux favored pearls. “There is just one piece of jewelry that is equally becoming to everybody, lovely with almost every ensemble, appropriate for almost any occasion, and indispensable in every woman’s wardrobe… long live the pearl necklace, true or false, from our first date until our last breath!”
Pearls are often given as a considered and thoughtful gift. The buyer spends time to choose the most appropriate jewelry type, and they weigh up the size, color and shape of the pearls with the gift recipient in mind.
Like relationships that are nurtured over time, pearls have to be cared for by their wearer to maintain their warm glow and luster. Acids in perfumes, lotions, hairspray, makeup and swimming pools can damage the pearl’s iridescent coating and dissolve its beautiful shine over time.
Aside from diligently waiting to put on your pearls after applying cosmetics and always removing them before swimming and showering, you can nurture your pearls in a number of ways.
Wear your pearls often to improve their luster as the oils from your skin keep them moisturized. Always wipe off traces of perspiration, cosmetics and lotion using a soft cloth. It is best to have your pearls cleaned by a reliable jeweler to keep them in perfect condition for generations.
Pearls suit every occasion whether you are receiving pearls as a gift, giving them to a loved one or wearing them. As Ki Hackney, founder of Style magazine said, “You can’t ever go wrong with pearls. Perhaps pearls are a girl’s best friend after all.”