Born in the wombs of shells and polished by mother nature herself, pearls were regarded as gifts from the gods. For millennia, the creation of pearls was credited to the tears of heavenly creatures or the formation of sun-touched dewdrops. Countless civilizations, both Western and Non-Western, have their own myths and legends surrounding the pearl, a mark of their mysterious allure. The artform of jewelry, favored by the Roman aristocracy, took advantage of naturally perfected pearls to create stunning pieces with staggering prices. The pearl’s meaning evolved throughout the Roman Empire and into Early Christian Rome, setting up a contradictory legacy of earthly decadence and divine modesty. Deciphering the language of the pearl through perhaps the most recognizable period of Western history allows for a closer examination of the social customs of a world superpower. During the Roman Era, pearls went through a dramatic period of metamorphosis which mirrored the state of empire. The ancient Romans transformed pearls from a symbol of the gods to a memento of mortal decadence, finally ending their evolution as gems of the heavens.

First Page


Last Page


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

ref_aujh2020100101.pdf (123 kB)
Supplemental Reference List with DOIs