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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.

What Is Your Favorite Gem?

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    • profile image

      K. A. P 8 weeks 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 2 months ago

      Amethyst

    • profile image

      Monique Zaidi 5 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 6 months ago

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

    • profile image

      Anonymous.... 6 months ago

      Not bad.....

    • profile image

      pwaseta 6 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.

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      Pearl 6 months ago

      my name is Pearl and they are beautiful. white Pearls

    • profile image

      C j patterson 7 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!

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      Sudhakara Poojary, Surekha Nivas, Nitte parapadi, KA, India 9 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.

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      jennifer 14 months ago

      my birthstone is pearl

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      Samantha Erickson 16 months ago

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

    • profile image

      pizza 18 months ago

      om muy god! i love pirls

    • Hans Peter Hansen profile image

      Hans Peter Hansen 22 months 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 23 months 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 2 years ago

      intesresting enjoyed the information. love my pearls.

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      Lezel 2 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 4 years ago

      Beautiful!

    • profile image

      cmadden 4 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 5 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 6 years ago

      I enjoyed reading your lens, thanks

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 6 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.