Ten White Salt-Water Pearls on 14kt Gold Fill French Hooks.
Each pearl averages about 1/2 carat, and between 4 and 5 millimeters in diameter.
DETAIL: The Red Sea was the primary source of pearls for the Ancient Mediterranean world. They were highly prized in the ancient classical world, where it was believed that pearls were formed when an angel's tears fell into an open oyster shell. In the ancient Roman and Byzantine world (and through Medieval Europe), pearls were used to decorate the crowns and robes of Kings and Queens. In Medieval and Renaissance Europe the appetite for pearls became so great that laws forbade anyone other than royalty or the very privileged classes from even wearing pearls. Pearls were the exclusive domain of the crown! Here are a pair of very beautiful pearl earrings made from very beautiful but slightly blemished cultured pearls. They’d been sitting in a warehouse in Hyderabad, India for decades – perhaps since the early 1950’s. Though they are slightly blemished, it is not something one would notice at a casual glance. To casual scrutiny they look like a $100 pair of designer earrings – and to many, the character and uniqueness of such pearls offsets their “not quite perfect” quality.
We mounted the pearls onto high quality – not cheap gold plated – contemporary 14kt gold fill French hooks. This is first-quality jewelry designed to last years and years, not cheap costume jewelry. If you prefer, we could remount them onto kidney wires, euroclicks, or ball-stud dangles in either 14kt gold fill or even on 14kt solid gold. The pearls possess a highly polished, reflective, lustrous, creamy white surface with iridescent highlights. They average between four and five millimeters in diameter, and each pearl weighs (on average) about one-half carat – the total gemstone weight of the two earrings being about five carats. Those caveats in mind, these are very nice gemstones. If they were perfect, a pair of designed earrings like this would retail for anywhere between $50 and $100 - or more. And yes, these images are of the actual earrings offered.
PEARL HISTORY: The pearl is likely the first gemstone known to prehistoric man. A fragment of the oldest known pearl jewelry, found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess who died in 520 B.C., is displayed in the Louvre in Paris. Pearl necklaces have also been found by archaeologists within the sarcophagus of ancient Egyptian mummies. In the ancient world, natural salt-water pearls were principally harvested from the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Manaar (Indian Ocean), and the Red Sea. Man has adorned him(her)self with pearls for at least 6,000 years. In the ancient gemstone markets of Babylon, 5,000 years ago, pearls were prized possessions believed to restore youth. Written accounts of pearl jewelry exist both in third millennium B.C. Indian and Chinese texts. The ultimate origin of pearls in the ancient world was the source of many competing myths and legends. Ancient Chinese written accounts tell that pearls fell from the skies when dragons above fight (the pearls droplets of dragon saliva). Alternate ancient Chinese legends stated that pearls were found in the brains of dragons. As early as the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.) the ancient Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea.
The ancient Hindus believed that pearls were dewdrops that fell at night into the sea and collected in oysters. The pearl (“mukta” in Sanskrit) was associated with many Hindu deities, the most famous being the Koustubha which Lord Vishnu wore on his chest. According to the accounts of Marco Polo, the kings of Malabar (near present-day Calicut, Kerala, India) wore a necklace of 108 rubies and 108 precious pearls which was given from one generation of kings to the next. The spherical shape of some pearls also led many ancient cultures to associate this gem with the moon. To the Ancient Persians, pearls symbolized the moon and its magical powers, the moon instilling pearls with its celestial glow and mystery. In some Muslim legends, the pearl is God's first act of creation. Many ancient Mediterranean cultures believed pearls were formed when an angel's tears fell into the open oyster shell, or alternatively were the tears of gods. However according to one ancient Greek legend, pearls were formed by lightning striking the ocean. Another ancient Greek legend posited that pearls were dew from the moon collected by oysters that opened their shells as they floated on the sea at night.
Even the Bible referred to the high value of pearls when Christ said, "the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for beautiful pearls, who, finding one of great cost, sells all his possessions to buy it.” Also according to biblical accounts, the twelve gates of the (post-apocalyptic) New Jerusalem are each made of a single pearl (the “pearly gates” of heaven). "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every gate was of one pearl, and the streets of the city were pure gold, as if transparent glass." Likewise in Islamic Scripture, the Koran specifies that the rewards of paradise include pearls. “God will admit those who believe and work righteous deeds, to gardens beneath which rivers flow. They shall be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and pearls; and their garments there will be of silk.” The Greeks thought that pearls held the essence of love and beauty. A pair of pearl earrings owned by Cleopatra were estimated by the ancient Roman Historian Pliny to have a value of about 60 million sesterces (equivalent to 10,000 pounds of gold, $40 million in today’s value). Who can forget the tale of Cleopatra dissolving one of these two pearls in the presence of Marc Antony, so she could “taste” the essence of pearl.
Throughout ancient Rome and into medieval Europe, pearls always decorated crowns and robes of kings and queens. In fact, all of Rome and the entire Roman Mediterranean were “pearl crazy”. According to the first century historian and naturalist “Pliny the Elder” (who wrote that pearls were created from the morning dew), the craze started when a portrait of Pompey the Great was rendered in pearls to mark the occasion of his third triumph (celebratory parade) over the defeat of Mithridates, King of Pontus (present day Turkey on the Black Sea). As well, amongst the spoils of the war displayed during the parade were numerous pearls set in crowns and other jewelry. In the following fashion frenzy, the women of Rome preferred to wear two or three pearls dangling from their ears, so they would rattle as they moved, attracting attention to the fact that they were wearing pearls. Roman matrons had pearls woven into their garments, and even used pearls to decorate their couches. The third wife of the Roman Emperor Caligula reportedly owned pearl jewelry with a value of 40 million sesterces ($25 million in today’s dollars). In fact it was rumored within Rome itself that the real purpose of Julius Caesar’s invasion of Britain was to gain control of the fresh water pearls that were found there, and that "in comparing their size he sometimes weighed them with his own hand". In 46 B.C., when Caesar returned from Egypt to Rome where he was joined by Cleopatra and their infant son, he dedicated a cuirass made completely of British pearls in the Temple of Venus Genetrix.
In the ancient world, shamans used pearls to help enhance their psychic and divination powers, and to connect with lunar gods and gods of the oceans and seas. During the Middle Ages it was believed that pearls possessed the power to protect the wearer in battle, and so it was not uncommon to find suits of armor for the nobility encrusted with pearls. In Renaissance Europe the appetite for pearls became so great that laws forbade anyone other than royalty or the very privileged classes from even wearing pearls. Pearls were the exclusive domain of the crown and select nobility! The appetite for pearls was enormous, and the natural salt water pearl beds of Central and South America were ravaged. The principal salt-water oyster beds remaining which still produce solid pearls today lay in Australia, the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of India, Sri Lanka, and in the Red Sea. The principle sources for cultured saltwater pearls today are Australia, Indonesia, Tahiti, the Philippines, and Burma. China, the USA, and Bavaria are the principle sources for freshwater pearls.
Unknown today to most, America exported to Victorian Europe large numbers of very high quality freshwater pearls from the Ohio, Mississippi, and Tennessee River basins. So many gems were exported to Europe that the New World quickly gained the appellation "Land of Pearls." Except for the freshwater production of small specimens, genuine solid pearls are by and large only obtainable as antiques. From the 1930’s to present day, cultured pearls from Japan have predominated the marketplace. Most people generally credit the “invention” of cultured pearls with Kokichi Mikimoto in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. However eight hundred years ago in China, monks planted carvings of Buddhist deities into river mollusks in order to be coated with pearl-like layers, the first recorded cultured “pearls”. Since the 1990’s, with the decline of Japanese cultured pearl production due to pollution and disease, China has increasingly been the dominant supplier of cultured pearls, both freshwater and saltwater. However it is still generally believed that the finest cultured pearls ever produced, with the exception of limited quantities produced in Tahiti, were produced in Japan between 1930 and 1970.
Pearls are found in a wide variety of colors and shades, the most highly valued being white, black, rose, and cream. Black pearls are very rare and highly prized, and are typically found only in Tahiti and the Cook Islands. Also especially prized are rose-colored pearls found in India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), and the South Pacific. Pearls are formed as lustrous concretion produced principally by certain bivalve mollusks (as well as scallops, abalone, conchs, and even snails). A pearl consists almost entirely of nacre (also known as “mother-of-pearl”), which is the substance forming the inner layers of the mollusk shells. Both marine and freshwater mollusks produce pearls. In nature a pearl starts when an irritant or parasite has managed to get inside the mollusk’s shell. The irritant or parasite serves as the nucleus of the pearl which results when nacre is deposited layer-upon-layer by the mollusk around the irritant or parasite as a defense mechanism.
A natural pearl is very rare in nature, and occurs only once in 15,000 mollusks. Cultured pearls are formed when man intercedes, depositing the nucleus of a new pearl inside the tissue of the mollusk, thus “artificially” inducing the mollusk to create pearl. Freshwater pearls are produced by mussels in various parts of the world, though China is the principal producer of freshwater pearls. However pearl production is a carefully fostered industry in central Europe, and the forest streams of Bavaria, in particular, are a source of choice freshwater pearls. Gem-quality freshwater pearls are also produced in the Mississippi River. If you’d like to learn more about the history of pearls, there’s a great article here.
Throughout the history of the ancient world, gemstones were believed capable of curing illness, possessed of valuable metaphysical properties, and to provide protection. Found in Egypt dated 1500 B. C., the "Papyrus Ebers" offered one of most complete therapeutic manuscripts containing prescriptions using gemstones and minerals. Gemstones were not only valued for their medicinal and protective properties, but also for educational and spiritual enhancement. In the ancient world pearls were thought to signify charity, faith and innocence. They were believed to help to provide a focus to ones attention, and enhance personal integrity. The pearl was known as a stone of sincerity. Pearls were believed to inhibit rowdy behavior. The luster was thought to provide a reflection of the inner self, so that one could perceive oneself as others did. In the ancient cultures of Asia pearls were thought to quicken the laws of karma and to cement engagements and love relationships. They were also used as a talisman to keep children safe. Pearls were also powdered and used as a medicine to promote mental health, as well as an aid for stomach, stomach ulcer, spleen, and intestinal tract problems.
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We do NOT recommend uninsured shipments, and expressly disclaim any responsibility for the loss of an uninsured shipment. Unfortunately the contents of parcels are easily “lost” or misdelivered by postal employees – even in the USA. If you intend to pay via PayPal, please be aware that PayPal Protection Policies REQUIRE insured, trackable shipments, which is INCLUDED in our price. International tracking is at additional cost. We do offer U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail for both international and domestic shipments, as well United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (Fed-Ex). Please ask for a rate quotation. We will accept whatever payment method you are most comfortable with. If upon receipt of the item you are disappointed for any reason whatever, I offer a no questions asked return policy. Send it back, I will give you a complete refund of the purchase price (less our original shipping costs).
We travel to Russia each year seeking antique gemstones and jewelry from one of the globe’s most prolific gemstone producing and cutting centers, the area between Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, Russia. From all corners of Siberia, as well as from India, Ceylon, Burma and Siam, gemstones have for centuries gone to Yekaterinburg where they have been cut and incorporated into the fabulous jewelry for which the Czars and the royal families of Europe were famous for. My wife grew up and received a university education in the Southern Urals of Russia, just a few hours away from the mountains of Siberia, where alexandrite, diamond, emerald, sapphire, chrysoberyl, topaz, demantoid garnet, and many other rare and precious gemstones are produced. Though perhaps difficult to find in the USA, antique gemstones are commonly unmounted from old, broken settings – the gold reused – the gemstones recut and reset.
Before these gorgeous antique gemstones are recut, we try to acquire the best of them in their original, antique, hand-finished state – most of them centuries old. We believe that the work created by these long-gone master artisans is worth protecting and preserving rather than destroying this heritage of antique gemstones by recutting the original work out of existence. That by preserving their work, in a sense, we are preserving their lives and the legacy they left for modern times. Far better to appreciate their craft than to destroy it with modern cutting. Not everyone agrees – fully 95% or more of the antique gemstones which come into these marketplaces are recut, and the heritage of the past lost. But if you agree with us that the past is worth protecting, and that past lives and the produce of those lives still matters today, consider buying an antique, hand cut, natural gemstone rather than one of the mass-produced machine cut (often synthetic or “lab produced”) gemstones which dominate the market today.
Our interest in the fabulous history of Russian gemstones and the fabulous jewelry of the Czar’s led to further education and contacts in India, Ceylon, and Siam, other ancient centers of gemstone production and finishing. We have a number of “helpers” (family members, friends, and colleagues) in Russia and in India who act as eyes and ears for us year-round, and in reciprocity we donate a portion of our revenues to support educational institutions in Russia and India. Occasionally while in Russia, India, Siam, and Ceylon we will also find such good buys on unique contemporary gemstones and jewelry that we will purchase a few pieces to offer to our customers here in America. These are always offered clearly labeled as contemporary, and not antiques – just to avoid confusion. We can set most any antique gemstone you purchase from us in your choice of styles and metals ranging from rings to pendants to earrings and bracelets; in sterling silver, 14kt solid gold, and 14kt gold fill. When you purchase from us, you can count on quick shipping and careful, secure packaging. We would be happy to provide you with a certificate/guarantee of authenticity for any item you purchase from us. There is a $2 fee for mailing under separate cover. Please see our "ADDITIONAL TERMS OF SALE."