“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
Above: Aphrodite Ourania, draped, with foot resting on a tortoise (Musée du Louvre)
Late Roman rings from the Thetford Hoard pictured below:
Rings, brooches, pins, jeweled buttons, coronets; and, besides these, bracelets, necklaces, and earrings or pendants were worn from the earliest times by all who could afford them.
Not only were they made of costly materials, their value was also enhanced by the artistic workmanship that was lavished upon them. Almost all the precious stones that are known to us were familiar to the Romans and were to be found in the jewel-casket (§ 229) of the wealthy lady.
The pearl, however, seems to have been in all times, the favorite jewel of Roman women. Suetonius says that Julius Caesar paid six million sesterces (nearly $300,000) for a single pearl, which he gave to Servilia, the mother of Marcus Brutus (some historians believe Marcus, who took part in Caesar’s assassination, was his own son). Lollia Paulina, the wife of the Emperor Caligula (don’t watch the movie, he was horrid and so is it), possessed a single set of pearls and emeralds which was said by Pliny the Elder to have been valued at forty million sesterces (nearly $2,000,000).
The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117–138) showing the location of the Roman legions deployed in AD 125 is mapped below:
The ancient Greeks wore pearls at their wedding ceremonies, believing they would ensure marital bliss and prevent new brides from crying.
This time-honored custom lives on today, with brides of many cultures wearing pearls to enhance their beauty and symbolize the purity of their love.
So greatly were pearls valued, they have even changed history. After accepting Cleopatra’s wager that she could consume the wealth of an entire nation in one meal, Marc Antony watched as the Queen removed a pearl earring, crushed it and drank the powder mixed with wine. Awed by her extravagant gesture, he became enamored of her, neglecting his duties to the Roman Empire and leading to his and her ultimate demise.
Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra
Both Aphrodite and Venus are said to have emerged from an oyster shell.
The Birth of Venus, c.1485
The Pearls of Aphrodite
Pearls were even a form of currency among natives in the South Seas and in ancient China, pearl jewelry represents purity in the wearer and could be used as currency.
Antique bridal headpiece above and new halo from Etsy shop, Ornent, for $218. So pretty!
HauteAngel’s Pearls of Wisdom: Nothing is more fashionable than intelligence, kindness, generosity, love, and honesty. Step outside of your normal interests and learn something new. I have recently become fascinated with Ancient Rome, its leaders, its lifestyle and fashions. To that end, if you are interested in ancient Rome, HauteAngel recommends: Reading: Caesar: A Biography by Christian Meier; Podcast on ITunes: Life of Caesar; and Television Series: Rome (it’s not for children but excellent). If you have recommendations for me, please comment!
Get your “Intelligence is Fashionable” t-shirt!
Thanks and love! Kathryn