No other gem has captivated our collective fascination like the pearl. One of the world’s first gemstones, a pearl is truly a miracle of nature. They are unlike any other gemstone. Pearls are grown in oceans, streams and lakes by molluscs, such as oysters or mussels while other gemstones are mined from the earth. Pearls are beautiful as they are, straight out of the mollusc. The pearl was the first gem to be valued by mankind. They have been recognized as prized gems for centuries longer than any cut gem. Early civilizations thought pearls had magical powers. References to it can be traced back to the earliest of civilizations. The Ancients also revered and treasured pearls for their beauty and as objects of great wealth. Legend has it that Cleopatra once wagered with Marc Antony that she could consume the world’s most expensive meal. To win the wager, she dissolved a pearl from a priceless pair of earrings in a glass of wine and drank it. Marc Antony conceded the victory and she won his heart. Greeks treasured pearls for their unrivalled beauty and their association with love and marriage. During the Dark Ages, maidens wore strings of pearls to signify nobility, while knights ride off to battle wearing these gems for good luck. Native Americans supposedly exchanged beads for the islands of Manhattan, while in 1916 the renowned French jeweller Jacques Cartier bought the land for his first American store with a strand of natural pearls. European royals decorated themselves in pearl jewellery. Many European countries even passed laws stating that only nobility could wear them. European expansion into the new world, coupled with greed and lust for wealth, resulted in the almost complete depletion of pearls and the pearl-yielding oyster and mussel population by the 17th century. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s when culturing techniques were developed, that the beauty of pearls began to become accessible to all. Today the pearl is a symbol of purity and natural beauty.