When my great-grandmother Hannah died, she left behind some beautiful antique vintage pearl handcrafted jewelry, value untold . The earrings were teardrop pearls dangling from a rhinestone post. They were so fancy and I really didn’t have an occasion to wear them. Plus I was in my teens and these were for a more mature woman. They were pretty to look at and they were my grandmothers, so I saved them for many years. Little did I realize that those earrings would be part of the most special day of my life, my wedding day!
MY FIRST OYSTER
Hannah’s pearls were not my first ones. A few years earlier, I was on vacation with my best friend growing up. Her parents had a camper and we would go on trips. That particular year we went to Canada, The Toronto National Exhibition. They had all sorts of sites to see, food to eat and vendors selling their wares. There was a stand where you could pick your oyster out of the water. You were given a small shucking tool to open it up and pick your new-found gem right out of the oyster! The bluish white freshwater pearl was place in a gray velvet bag for safe keeping until I would return home and put it in a setting. Since I only had one, I had to decide whether I wanted a necklace or a ring. I opted for a ring. The sterling silver setting was very basic, the pearl contained all the beauty and luster.
What is a Pearl? There are many types and shapes on the market today. Pearls are the only gems that are formed within a living creature. Natural pearls are rare to find. Modern day pearl farmers insert a bead (irritant) into mollusk shells (oysters) and the natural response of the oyster is to release a substance called nacre, which forms around the irritant to make a pearl. There are cultured pearls, saltwater, freshwater and imitation. The cost can range from $10 to $10,000. They are mostly white or a creamy color and come from the Far East and Pacific Ocean, including China and Japan. Tahiti pearls grown in the South Pacific are typically black, but can be blue, gray or even purple. Akoya pearls are probably the most popular pearls today and have been around since the 1930’s.
HISTORY OF PEARLS
Pearls can be traced to ancient times in nearly all civilizations. Even in the story of Adam and Eve, it is said when the first couple was banished from the Garden of Eden, their tears created a lake of pearls. In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate status symbol. Julius Caesar created a law stating that only the ruling class could wear these special gems of the sea. Egyptians were buried with their pearls so they could take them to the afterlife. It is said that Cleopatra actually crushed one of her pearls and drank it in a glass of wine to show how powerful she was. The Chinese gave gifts of pearls to the wealthy as early as 2300 BC. Black pearls were symbolic of wisdom and the Chinese people actually believed they were formed inside the head of a dragon. According to legend, a person had to slay the dragon to get the pearls. In Japan, it was believed pearls came from the tears of mythical creatures, such as angels and mermaids. And Persians believed they were formed after a storm where the rainbow met the earth. The imperfections of the pearls were from the lightening and thunder.
June is the month assigned to pearls and they also signify the 3rd and 30th Wedding Anniversaries. The ancient Greeks believed if you wore pearls on your wedding day it would stop the tears. This unique gemstone has so many meanings and qualities that it is associated with. Sincerity and loyalty are at the top of the list and probably why it is the most popular gem used for weddings. White to represent innocence and purity, as the bride comes to meet her husband in holy matrimony. Some other attributes associated with the pearl are integrity, focus, truth and wisdom. So much value has been given to this precious gem there is even a saying, pearls of wisdom. Pearls are symbolic of wisdom gained through experience. They are also believed to attract good luck to the wearer. Jesus even refers to pearls in the Bible. He says not to cast your “Pearls before swine”. In other words, do not waste good things on people who don’t appreciate it. In this proverb he was instructing his disciples to preach to receptive audiences who would recognize the value of their teachings. .
MY WEDDING DAY
Remember my grandmother’s earrings? Fast forward 45 years. I finally meet my true love and convinced him to marry me 4 yrs later! (Story found in post Antique Gemstone Jewelry for a Beautiful You) Actually, truth be told, it wasn’t really that he didn’t want to get married again. (He was divorced twice by the time I found him on Match.com) He loved me more than both his prior wives. It’s just that he didn’t want to get divorced again. Once I convinced him I would never let him go, he got me the ring and we proceeded to plan the big day. I proceeded to shop for a dress, the most important dress I would ever wear. I went to a couple of different wedding shops and tried about 10 dresses before I found the perfect one. It was lined with pearls and rhinestones, just like Hannah’s pearl earrings. When I put it on, it fit perfect except it was a little long which the owner assured me it could be hemmed easily. Best part was it was half off because the zipper was faulty but I had a good tailor. For a minimal amount, the dress was mine. As we approached the counter to complete the transaction, I saw the perfect pearl necklace to match my antique pearl earrings. It was uncanny, the luster almost identical to my 100 yr old earrings. The way the rhinestones were placed between the pearls made it look like a matching set. As I walked down the aisle, I was sure Hannah was smiling from heaven, along with Mom and Dad. As for the legend about no tears, that did not ring true on my day. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when my Pastor and his wife sang Annie’s Song by John Denver right before we took our vows. As he announced the well-known favorite, he let everyone know that it was written for Annie by her husband John, but today it was Kerry Lee’s song!!!