A Dazzling Variety
There are 8 distinct kinds of pearls that were used in vintage pearl jewelry. They include baroque pearls, blister pearls, cultured pearls, freshwater pearls, mabe pearls, natural pearls, Quahog pearls, and seed pearls.
A Beautiful Color
Pearls aren’t always white or cream colored. They can naturally occur in a variety of colors, including pink, purple, brown, or onyx. Their color greatly depends on the type of shellfish in which they are created and the surrounding water type.
A Distinct Texture
There is an easy way to determine if vintage pearls are real or imitation. Cultured pearls have a distinct, gritty texture that can be identified by rubbing them against the enamel of your tooth. Professional jewelers also have tools that can identify whether your vintage pearls are natural or man-made.
A Precious Item
Pearls are the only precious stone that is manufactured from a living being. Because they were so precious, divers often risked their lives trying to find naturally occurring pearls in the wild.
A Rare Find
The Golash Brooch features one of the most valuable vintage pearls in history. Dating from 1835, it features the largest and rarest Quahog pearl in existence. Although the brooch is nearly priceless, it was acquired for just $14 at an antique store that inaccurately mistook it for a cheap piece of costume jewelry.
A Popular Adornment
Vintage pearls are present throughout history. Ancient Egyptians regarded them as accessories that only royalty was allowed to wear, which is a tradition that carried through to the Middle Ages. Pearls reached the height of their popularity in the late 19th century, but are still incredibly popular adornments in modern precious jewelry.
A Perfect Piece
While simple strands of pearls are incredibly elegant and popular, vintage pearls are present in other adornments as well. Brooches, hair combs, and hat pins made during the Victorian era often feature pearls along with other precious gemstones and metals.
A Sentimental Accessory
Often dotted with seed pearls, mourning jewelry was extremely popular in the Victorian era. Usually black in color, these pieces featured religious symbols and inscriptions that memorialized a loved one that had recently passed. The seed pearls were meant to symbolize teardrops shed during the mourning period.
An Eternal Symbol
The popularity of pearls leads to mass manufacturing of synthetic pearls made from plastic or glass. While costume jewelry made the look of pearls accessible to the masses, natural pearls are still extremely precious, valuable, and rare.
An Everlasting Heirloom
Strands of pearls are widely regarded as vintage heirlooms in many cultures. Often, they are passed down on a woman’s wedding day, as vintage pearls are historically meant to symbolize purity.