It is interesting to learn that pearls, which have become so popular and easily available in today’s world, have a long tradition behind them. The history of pearls is no less interesting than that of any other gemstone. While the exact date of the first appearance of pearls in human history is not known, it is widely believed that pearls were first discovered by the native inhabitants of India, living in the coastal regions. They must have come across the first pearls while trying to open oysters in search for food, and been struck by their beauty and luster.
History is full of references to many famous pearls. Some of these pearls lay their claim to fame by dint of their natural size, beauty or origin. Some others have been made famous by the persons using them. Some others have been associated with famous historical incidents and anecdotes. A popular example of this last kind was the pearl that Cleopatra, the celebrated queen of ancient Egypt, drank by having it ground to powder and mixed with her wine. It is said that Cleopatra consumed only half of the pearl. The other half was used to adorn the statue of Venus in Rome.
Pearls are very ancient and proof of this fact can be seen in the jeweled pin from the sanctuary of Aphrodite in Cyprus, containing a large saltwater pearl and a smaller freshwater pearl. It dates back to 300 BC and is considered to be among the oldest objects containing pearls.
Another famous pearl in history can be found in the beautiful piece of 16th century jewelry, containing an unusually large (baroque) pearl and used as the Greek god of sea, Triton’s torso.
Many have heard of the famous Hope Diamond. However, very few of us know that there is an amazing pearl in the world known as the Hope Pearl. Just like the diamond, this pearl is also owned by Philip (Henry) Hope, and hence the name. This freshwater natural pearl has an unusual pear-shaped, strikingly lustrous appearance and is an abstract baroque. It measures about 2″ x 4½ “, weighs about 4 ounces and ranges in color from white to greenish-gold.
No discussion about the famous pearls of the world can be complete without mentioning the La Peregrina, also known as “The Wanderer” and widely considered to be one of the most famous pearls in history. The La Peregrina was discovered in 1500 by a slave in the Gulf of Panama who used it to buy his freedom! The Spanish Royalty owned it and Prince Philip II gave it to his wife, Mary Tudor of England as a wedding gift. It was subsequently passed down to Queen Margarita and Queen Isabel (wife of Philip III).