Ornaments of the Ocean
Pearls in Rago’s June Jewelry Auction
7 June 2018
“Pearls lie not on the seashore. If thou desirest one thou must dive for it.”
by Lauren Cronk, Junior Specialist, Fine Jewelry
With their soft reflective luster and luscious hues, it is no wonder that pearls have been prized worldwide for millennia. Examples of the “world’s oldest gem” were discovered in the sarcophagus of a Persian Princess dating back to 420 BC.
With such a deep history spanning many cultures, pearls have been the subject of countless myths. Early Arab nations believed that the gems were dew drops swallowed by oysters, while the knights of the Dark Ages believed pearls kept them safe in battle.
These legendary jewels have served as a status symbol to Chinese, Roman and Western European royalty, and eventually became an important trade commodity. European nobility yearned to possess elaborate pearl jewelry, creating a high demand for - and driving scarcity of - these organic ‘stones’ by the 19th century.
Style icons such as Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy, known for sporting pearls with their everyday wear, furthered the pearl’s popularity in modern times. Today, pearls are a staple of many women’s wardrobes.
Pearls of different origins can be found in many colors, shapes and sizes:
Japanese Akoya saltwater cultured pearls are known for their perfectly round shape and reflective luster. Primarily white, but can be found in a silver-blue or gold color.
Chinese freshwater cultured pearls are extensively farmed (and very affordable as a result). They grow in a range of pastel colors such as yellow, orange, pink or purple with blue or green overtones.
Lot 140. A strand of freshwater cultured pearls suspending a texture gold link pendant with integrated clasp, designed by Judith Ripka. Available in Rago’s June 8 2018 Unreserved Jewelry Auction. Est. $600 – 800.
Tahitian saltwater cultured pearls originate from French Polynesia. They are famous for their iconic black color and most desirable among them are noted for their aborigine overlay.
South Sea saltwater cultured pearls originate from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They are prized for their large size.
Lot 2380. A lovely example of a classic pearl strand. These round and lustrous white south sea pearls are a sure staple of any wardrobe. Available in Rago’s June 10 Fine Jewelry Auction. Est. $2,200 – 2,800.
Baroque pearls are irregularly shaped and often serve as the canvas for artisanal and imaginative designs are are often donned as a twist on the classic pearl necklace.
Mabe pearls, grown against the inside of the shell, feature flat bottoms.