A wedding gift from father to daughter is special. And when you’re a Hindu god, “special” takes on new meaning. So, as a wedding gift for his daughter, Pandaïa, what did the Hindu god Krishna chose? None other than that beautiful and unique treasure from the sea: a pearl.
Pearl, the shimmery birthstone for June, has been venerated and valued for so long, no one is really sure who first collected and wore them.
Pearls certainly have an extensive history of great power and wealth. When crazy Caligula elevated Incitatus, his beloved horse, to Roman political office during his (short) reign from 37-41 AD, he gifted his four-legged consul with a necklace made of pearls. A single pearl earring pilfered by Roman military commander Vitellius (AD15 – AD69) from his mother’s jewelry collection was valuable enough to fund an entire campaign. And Cleopatra used the allure of the pearl to dazzle Marcus Antonious with the splendor of Egypt. She bet the powerful Roman general – who was also her great love – that she could host the priciest meal ever. In front of her were placed a plate, a goblet and earrings made from extremely large and rare pearls. She plopped one of the earrings into the liquid which was said to be wine, but was probably vinegar; it dissolves the calcium carbonate from which pearls are made. When the pearl disappeared, she drank it. Mark Antony graciously acknowledged she had won the wager, declining to consume the remaining pearl.
The 16th century was dubbed the “pearl age.” Queen Elizabeth I certainly coveted pearls, particularly those belonging to her relative Mary Stuart: a fabled necklace made of six strands of black pearls. Known as the “Hanoverian” pearls, they were originally a gift from Pope Clement VII (born Guilio de Medici) to his niece Catherine, when she married King Henry II of France. Their son, the Dauphin Francis, married Mary Queen of Scots, which is how they came into the clutches of the Tudors. How Elizabeth then acquired them is questionable, but she certainly wore them grandly in a painting from 1588 by George Gower which celebrated British victory of the Spanish Armada – a picture known as the Armada Portrait.
More recently, railroad tycoon Morton F. Plant wanted to gift his new (second) wife with something lovely. A lovely young(ish) thing herself, Maisie – who was 31 to Plant’s 61 – had her eye on a strand of natural pearls on display at Cartier. The price? $1 million. In 1917! (Around $16 million in today’s dollars.) Plant made an interesting trade for the pearls: his luxurious five-story Fifth Avenue mansion located at the corner of 52nd, which became Cartier’s US flagship store.
For such lofty adventures, the pearl has remarkably ponderous origins: the soft tissue inside of a mollusk. The oyster slowly deposits layer after beautiful layer around an “irritant” and slowly creates a shimmery sphere or sphere-like shape. Pearls are variously credited with healing powers, skin-beautifying properties, as well as possibly promoting inner wisdom and nurturing feelings of love. Love is generally in the air this time of year…spring has sprung and summer is about to! We of course love pearls and to celebrate June’s birthstone, we’ve selected some of our favorites for you:
Golden Pearl Goddess Band
One pearl ring to rule them all!
Baroque Pearl Lariat
For days when you’re feeling Zelda Fitzgerald fab.
Teardrop Royal Filigree Pearl Earring
A classic look whether for daytime play or having the red carpet rolled out at night.
How do you pearl? Be sure to show us with #Isharya. And have a happy birthday, June lovelies. May your day be fun, festive and fashionable.