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Pearls of Wisdom

Katie Goldstein

“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!” 

-Genevieve Antoine Dariaux

It's June! The month of the Pearl, so we thought we would take a moment to dive into the history of this unique gem, and to showcase some of our favorite pearl pieces.

....Human beings probably discovered the first pearl many thousands of years ago, likely while scouring the seashore for food.

Throughout history, the pearl, with its shimmering iridescent glow has been one of the most highly prized and sought-after gems. They have been worn and revered for millennia and in all corners of the earth. Countless references to the pearl can be found in the religions and mythology of cultures from the earliest times. The ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much they were buried with them. The pearl jewelry of the Queen of Sheba has become legendary, and it is said that Cleopatra served wine with ground pearls in it to her more important guests. Even the Bible mentions the stone, saying, " the price of wisdom is above pearls" and Lucifer is said to have broken his teeth because of his craving for pearls.

Pearls actually belong to the marine animal kingdom, but most people consider them precious stones.

The birth of a pearl is truly a miraculous event. Unlike gemstones or precious metals that must be mined from the earth, pearls are grown by live oysters far below the surface of the sea. A natural pearl begins its life when a foreign object, such as a parasite or piece of shell accidentally lodges itself in an oyster's soft inner body where it cannot be expelled. To ease this irritant, the oyster's body takes defensive action. The oyster begins to secrete a smooth, hard crystalline substance around the irritant in order to protect itself. This substance is called "nacre." As long as the irritant remains within its body, the oyster will continue to secrete nacre around it, layer upon layer. Over time, the irritant will be completely encased by the silky crystalline coatings. And the result, ultimately, is the lovely and lustrous gem called a pearl. 

Pearls are known to have many healing properties. Drinking pearl water regularly over a long period of time stabilizes the production of hormones. Chronic migraines and headaches can be alleviated by wearing a pearl necklace directly on the skin, and pearls are known to reduce allergies. 

Pearls have been used in jewelry as far back as Ancient Greece. They were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BC, and in ancient Rome, pearl jewelry was considered the ultimate status symbol. In fact, until the early 20th century, pearl was considered the most valuable gem even above the diamond.

During the European expansion into the New World, the discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe. Pearls can been seen in much Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian European jewelry, often alongside other gems.

 Unfortunately, greed and lust for the sea-grown gems resulted in the depletion of virtually all the American pearl oyster populations by the 17th century. Until the early 1900's, natural pearls were accessible only to the rich and famous. In 1916, famed French jeweler Jacques Cartier bought his landmark store on New York's Fifth Avenue -- by trading two pearl necklaces for the valuable property. 

Pearls became more accessible in the early 1900's, once people in Asia discovered how to create cultured pearls. As they became less rare, their value decreased and they became more attainable.

"A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls," declared Coco Chanel, who was rarely seen without a pile of pearls casually worn around her neck. 

 

While the Pearl grew in popularity during the first three quarters of the 20th century (worn by everyone from Jackie O to Catherine Hepburn and Liz Taylor), it's popularity began to decline during the late seventies and early 80's as it became associated with older women and more conservative styles.

However, it's true that fashion is cyclical and that what goes around comes around. Pearl is making it's way back, both in modern jewelry and in the popularity of vintage and antique pieces.

Check out some of our favorite pearl pieces below.

 Pearl and Diamond Brooch, late 19th Century

Pearl and Diamond Brooch, late 19th Century

Happy #TurquoiseTuesday

Katie Goldstein

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Turquoise, an opaque gemstone that ranges in color from robins-egg blue to grass green, is a relatively rare gem found in only a few places on earth. It is formed in dry and barren regions where acidic, copper rich groundwater seeps downward and reacts with minerals containing phosphorous and alumnium. Turquoise's name is derived from the Turkish trade route along which these stones travelled to Europe in ancient times.

Turquoise has long be prized for it's talismanic properities and is one of the world's most ancient gems. Archeological excavations revealed that the rulers of Ancient Egypt adorned themselves with turquoise jewelry and carved ornamental representations of their gods out of it. Chinese artisans have been carving the stone for over 3000 years. In fact Turquoise has long been the national stone of Tibet and is believed to guarantee health, good fortune, and protection from evil.  It was also revered and used as a ceremonial stone in Native American societies, particularly among the Navajo and Zuni. 

Turquoise first made it's way to Europe during the 13th century where it was made into jewelry. Throughout the middle ages in Europe, the stone was considered a good luck charm and it's rarity and beautiful color quickly made it a status symbol. In the 17th century is was considered a staple for well-dressed men to wear the stone.

It's popularity grew in the 1800's with the reign of Queen Victoria who was a lover of turquoise. Upon her marriage to Prince Albert, the Queen gave a brooch in the image of an eagle made of tiny turquoise cabochons to one of her ladies in waiting and portrait rings surrounded by turquoise cabochons to each of her bridesmaids. The style stuck and much of the jewelry we see of this period is this 'pave turquoise'. 

For my sixteenth birthday, my father gifted me a Victorian Turquoise ring that formed a dome of tiny blue-green, cabochons. The ring, which was sadly stolen became one of my most prized possessions and sparked my interest in the stone and jewelry of this era.

See some of our favorite pieces througout.

Credits: Images taken from Pinterest and Personal Collection. Facts from: GIA website and Lang Antiques blog.

'Fab Faberge'

Katie Goldstein

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#fabergefriday? Is that even a thing?! It is now that we've stumbled upon this Fabergé jeweled hardstone egg Pendant. The piece was made by Feodor Afanassiev in St. Petersburg, circa 1910. Carved of rock crystal and inset with circular cut emeralds, the birthstone of May, this piece is the perfect spring egg. 

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A little background: Peter Carl Fabergé, also known as Karl Gustavovich Fabergé, or Gustav Faberge (1846-1920) was a Russian jeweler best known for the famous Fabergé eggs made in the style of genuine Easter eggs, but using precious metals and gemstones rather than more mundane materials. He founded the house of Fabergé in St. Petersburg in 1842. Along with his brother, Gustav transformed the business into an international phenomenon of design-led artist jewelry where color and he lost art of enameling prevailed. Gustav's son Peter took over the firm after his fathers death and remained in charge until it was nationalized by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Since childhood I've been enamored with these magical little gems. Typically the eggs, which vary in size, are displayed on stands, serving only as onaments. These pendants are truly special.  We've selected a few of our favorites below. If you ever find yourself in St. Petersburg head to the Fabergé Museum for a closer look.

Sources: Images (Pinterest) Text (Faberge.com

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