The Meanings and Myths of Pearls
The Ocean's Rainbow
All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography.— Federico Fellini
Pearls: Symbolism, Myths, Meaning
Pearls symbolize wisdom acquired through experience. They are believed to attract wealth and luck as well as offer protection. Known for their calming effect, pearls can balance one's karma, strengthen relationships, and keep children safe. The pearl is also said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of its wearer.
Ancient Myths About the Pearl
Many myths and folktales surround this ancient gemstone of the sea.
- Early Chinese civilization considered black pearls a symbol of wisdom and believed they were formed within a dragon's head. Once full-grown, the pearls were carried between the dragon's teeth. According to this myth, one had to slay the dragon to gather the pearls. The ancient Japanese believed that pearls were created from the tears of mythical creatures, such as mermaids, nymphs, and angels.
- One Persian legend tells that pearls were created when a rainbow met the earth after a storm. Imperfections in a pearl's appearance were thought to be the result of thunder and lightning.
- The ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much that they were buried with them. Cleopatra reportedly dissolved a pearl from one of her earrings in a glass of either wine or vinegar, depending on the source, and drank it. She did this just to show Mark Anthony that she could devour the wealth of an entire nation in just one gulp.
The Meaning of Colored Pearls
The wearer will find love
Black or gold
Wealth and prosperity
Success, fame, and good fortune
Practicality, masculinity, dependability, and harmony
Innocence, beauty, purity, and new beginnings
Tahitian Black Pearls
Tahitian black pearls are extremely rare. There are many Polynesian legends surrounding this opalescent gem.
- According to one myth, Oro, the god of peace and fertility, visited the earth on a rainbow to bring a magical oyster called The Ufi to the Polynesian people. When Oro discovered the beautiful black pearl that appeared from within The Ufi, he offered it to the princess Bora Bora as a symbol of his love.
- Another romantic tale tells of the full moon bathing in the dark ocean. The beams of light attracted oysters to the surface shimmering with heavenly dew. In time, the drops of dew cover the black pearl with colorful hues of blue, green, gold, and pink.
Weddings, Pearls, and Love
Ancient Greek legend thought that pearls were the tears of the gods. They also believed that wearing pearls would prevent women from crying on their wedding day.
Hindu folklore speaks of pearls as dewdrops that fell out of the night, into the moonlit sea. One of the earliest accounts of pearls and weddings comes from the Hindu story of Krishna (or Vishnu), who plucked the first pearl from the depths of the ocean and gave it to his daughter Pandaia on her wedding day as a symbol of love, union, and purity.
Pearls in Religion
One of the earliest religious accounts of the pearl claims that Adam and Eve wept after they were cast out of Paradise, creating a lake of pearls. The white pearls were believed to be from Eve's tears, and the black pearls Adam's. It is further said that men are better able to control their emotions, and so Adam shed fewer tears than Eve. This explains the rarity of the black pearl. Other religious references to pearls include:
- Christians and Hindus adopted the pearl as a symbol of purity. The tradition of a bride wearing pearls on her wedding day continues to this day.
- By the Middle Ages, pearls were considered sacred Christian objects due to their association with religious purity. Early Christians said the pearls covering the Holy Grail made its water pure.
- The Koran speaks of pearls as one of the great rewards found in Paradise, and the gem itself has become a symbol of perfection.