Since ancient times, pearls have been considered the symbol of unblemished perfection. As such they are a popular choice for bridal jewellery as they are said to be a sign of purity and innocence.
In ancient Rome, the pearl was an indicator of wealth and social standing, while the ancient Greeks associated the pearl with love and marriage and unrivalled beauty. The Greeks also believed the pearl would “take away the bride’s tears” ensuring she had a happy and tear-free wedded life.
Up until the 20th century, pearls were the rarest, most highly-prized and most sought-after jewel in the world and as such only the nobility would have been able to afford them. In the early 1900’s pearls became much more common as the process of creating cultured pearls came into practice. In addition to the pearls we all associate with oysters there are also pearls made by other molluscs.
Freshwater shell and pearl mussels are from the family Unionidae, from which about 20 different species are commercially harvested. Pearl farmers introduce a shell bead into the mussel and the mollusc deposits layers of nacre around the bead. The tones of freshwater cultured pearls are dictated by the mother shell. White is most common, followed by pink. Other colours depend on the type of mussels.
The tradition of giving pearls to the bride, whether it’s a gift from father or groom, continues to this day. Also, many brides today give their bridesmaids gifts of pearls, perhaps a pendant, earrings or bracelet.And, after many years of married life the Pearl comes into it’s own again, as a gift for the 30th Wedding Anniversary.