“The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens.” – Grace Kelly
Pearls are so interwoven with our history that many tales and legends have survived the passage of time, and centuries later still capture our imagination.
Once such legend that has spanned the ages is the fascinating history of the Servilia Pearl. It chronicles an ancient story of love, Roman royalty, immense wealth, and power.
In history, black pearls were exotic, extremely rare and held exceptional value. This gave them the exclusive status of only being worn by royals and nobles, earning them the nicknames of “queen of pearls” and “pearl of queens.” Even though today black pearls are now cultivated, they are still rare.
Todays’ black pearls continue to be revered for their mysterious qualities. Thanks to modern cultivation techniques, access to this once rare pearl is now available to everyone. Learn more about this rare gem and how they get their color in our blog, ‘The Hidden Meaning of Black Pearls’.
Who Was Servilia?
Historians tell us that ‘Servilia II’ was born to a distinguished family around 101 BC and died after 42 BC. She was a Roman noblewoman and the mother of Brutus.
Well-connected and politically active behind the scenes, she established herself as a Roman princess in all but name. Married twice, Servilia gained fame as Julius Caesar’s favorite mistress and as the legend goes, she was the Roman love of Caesar's life, although they never married. The plot of their love story is filled with complexity as the pages of history reveal, and it was her son Brutus and son-in-law Gaius Cassius Longinus who would be involved in Caesar’s assignation in 44 BC.
A Gift Beyond Compare
Caesar was said to be a connoisseur of pearls, and was known to guess their value by weighing them in his palm. During his reign as the highest elected politician of the Roman Republic, he restricted the purchasing of pearls based on age, marital status and wealth.
As a tribute of love to Servilia, what has become known as ‘Servilia’s Pearl’ was a gift from Julius Caesar beyond all measure of value and luxury of both that time, and modern day.
Described by imperial biographer Gaius Suetonius who catalogued the biographies of 12 successive Roman rulers, it was one large, black pearl worth six million sesterces, (Roman coins). That equated to a worth in today’s currency of approximately 1.5 billion dollars, making it perhaps the most valuable gem of all time. It may also be the first known individual pearl recorded in human history.
Roman text describes the pearl being worn as an earring as, ‘The spoils of nations in an ear, changed to the treasure of a shell.’
Historic records conflict on when exactly Caesar gave Servilia the pearl, with some sources claiming it was during his first consulship in 59 BC, while others claim it was upon his return from the war in Gaul. Different accounts state he obtained it as a spoil of war during his campaign in Gaul or possibly during his invasions of Britain which was a ripe location for harvesting pearls.
The Black Pearl Legend That Spans Centuries
“Why she is a pearl, whose price hath launched a thousand ships, and turned crowned kings to merchants.” – Shakespeare
Servilia and the extraordinarily valuable black pearl has been the subject of numerous poems and stories over the centuries due to its historical significance. It’s referenced in classics such as Jules Verne’s novel ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’. Nowadays, some commercial pearls are named after Servilia, to capture the mystery of a time long ago, but whose allure still lingers today.
You can capture your own magic of the Servilia Pearl legend by adorning black pearls in all varieties of enchanting designs from our Black Pearl collection, with something for anyone wanting to feel like royalty.