The Meanings and Myths of Pearls

Updated on December 15, 2014

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

Blue
The wearer will find love
 
Black or gold
Wealth and prosperity
 
Pink
Success, fame, and good fortune
 
Brown
Practicality, masculinity, dependability, and harmony
 
White
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

Wearing a veil covered with pearls, like this one, will help the bride to avoid crying on her wedding day, according to the Ancient Greeks.
Wearing a veil covered with pearls, like this one, will help the bride to avoid crying on her wedding day, according to the Ancient Greeks. | Source

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

White pearls are believed to be the tears Eve shed when she left Paradise.
White pearls are believed to be the tears Eve shed when she left Paradise. | Source

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.

Questions & Answers

    What Is Your Favorite Gem?

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      • profile image

        me 5 weeks ago

        cheesy pies

      • profile image

        Y.D.A.Foes 6 weeks ago

        Add your comment...

      • profile image

        Y.D.A.Foes 8 weeks ago

        Topaz.My birthstone.

      • profile image

        Annie Soucek 3 months ago

        Finding natural pearls black, white, big, small and a bunch of black and white seeds are priceless. Looking at them makes me happy. They looked very mysterious. The glare of the sun or the light is so strong like the eye of the tiger. I been eating oysters all my life, I have never seen this. There's no way I would sell them. There gonna give me luck.

      • profile image

        Laine 4 months ago

        I just came from Palawan few days ago and bought South sea pearls. It was really a dream come true since I have been longing to have my own set of pearls for a long time. And reading this made me happier. Thanks for the info.

      • profile image

        the real Aphmau 5 months ago

        i have a pearl

      • profile image

        K. A. P 8 months ago

        My favorite gem is ruby. It synonymous passion, love, a zest for life, and hope. I loved all the interesting facts. I just found one in Florida(white pearl) and wanted to know all about it and now I love it more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:):):)#purity!

      • profile image

        Louiza 9 months ago

        Amethyst

      • profile image

        Monique Zaidi 11 months ago

        Beautiful insight and sharing of legends. Thank you so much

        This is a blessing to everyones day. May we all become pearls in the journeys of life.

      • profile image

        Tabitha 12 months ago

        pearls are under valued they are beautiful and speak volumes for our earth

      • profile image

        Anonymous.... 12 months ago

        Not bad.....

      • profile image

        pwaseta 13 months ago

        On the day after my birthday, I found a small white pearl when I was eating fried oysters in a seafood restaurant with my daughter. One hour later we found out that her father had passed away suddenly. His birthday was in June. He was a good man with a good heart. His death did cause sadness. We feel like the pearl was a sign from above.

      • profile image

        Pearl 13 months ago

        my name is Pearl and they are beautiful. white Pearls

      • profile image

        C j patterson 13 months ago

        Pearls and crystals are my favorites.

        They both shine

        I've bought pearls with definite raised ridges and wondered if they were real

        Cuz they are so not pretty in the usual sense Now i think they are REAL!

      • profile image

        Sudhakara Poojary, Surekha Nivas, Nitte parapadi, KA, India 15 months ago

        Thanks for sharing awesome information on meaning of colored Pearls. Wow! Great to know about it. It’s very interesting to read on pearls with different religion legend. All of above the practical look is amazing with beauty and purity.

      • profile image

        jennifer 20 months ago

        my birthstone is pearl

      • profile image

        Samantha Erickson 22 months ago

        What does the dragon claw with the black pearl necklace means?

      • profile image

        pizza 2 years ago

        om muy god! i love pirls

      • Hans Peter Hansen profile image

        Hans Peter Hansen 2 years ago from Perth Western Australia

        How did the story about the pearl being a symbol of tears and sadness and therefore they do not buy them (In the UK especially)

      • profile image

        nathan 2 years ago

        I all the pearls!!!!!$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

      • profile image

        crystal 2 years ago

        my birthstone is a pearl and i am proud to be born in june and having my birthstone as pearl now that i know more about it i feel lucky :):):):) note : i find that your lens is really really really really really enjoyable an interesting ;)

      • profile image

        shanta singh 3 years ago

        intesresting enjoyed the information. love my pearls.

      • profile image

        Lezel 3 years ago

        i got a natural white pearl in the oyster. I feel so happy & lucky to have it.As i knew the meaning of white pearl i feel blessed.

      • Tricia Deed profile image

        Tricia Deed 4 years ago from Orlando, Florida

        The white pearl is my favorite. And after reading your information I can see why. In my case I am always having new beginnings. Thank you for complimenting my lens. It is much appreciated.

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        anonymous 4 years ago

        I was here yesterday but hit a glitch on making a comment but wanted to come back because I found your information so interesting. I wasn't aware that there were so many colors in the first place or that there was meaning to the different ones....you've added even more luster to their beauty here for sure!

      • JeffGilbert profile image

        JeffGilbert 4 years ago

        Great take on pearls and very interesting history on them. Great lens!

      • VspaBotanicals profile image

        VspaBotanicals 5 years ago

        Beautiful!

      • profile image

        cmadden 5 years ago

        I love pearls! I don't think I'll ever have a natural one, though.

      • JoleneBelmain profile image

        JoleneBelmain 5 years ago

        Wow I never knew there were so many different types of pearl... they are gorgeous!!

      • profile image

        fattpatt 6 years ago

        i have been eating oysters for about 16 years and have never found or seen a real Pearl, today i have bitten into a Black,Gold marble looking Pearl and all i could think about is God.

      • Sylvestermouse profile image

        Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

        Awesome information! My son actually caught several clams over a decade ago. Two of them held a black pearl He gave one of the pearls to me as a gift and we had it set in a necklace. The second he is saving for his bride. As far as I know, he still has not found his bride :) He is just now old enough to really be seeking that rare find.

      • JeanJohnson LM profile image

        JeanJohnson LM 7 years ago

        I enjoyed reading your lens, thanks

      • Charmcrazey profile image

        Wanda Fitzgerald 7 years ago from Central Florida

        I love pearls. Blessed by the Fashion Jewelry Squidoo Angel and also lensrolled to my Cultured Pearl Jewelry Guide lens.

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