As the official gemstone for June and for those born under the signs of Gemini and Cancer, pearls have been a timeless symbol for elegance and purity. They are highly versatile and they pop up throughout history fin almost every civilization on the globe. Ancient Egypt was head over heels in love with pearls. Roman women used to go to sleep with their pearly jewels on, while Aphrodite is said to have been born out of the sea with pearls dropping from the hair. Fast forward several centuries to nowadays. We’re still mesmerized by their iridescent rosy glow and we combine them with other materials to update them to our day and age. Probably the most overlooked fact in the history of pearls is that men used to wear them as much as women do nowadays.
Strands of pearls can really complement a mustache
With pearls being used as early as 520 BC, it’s no wonder that at some point in time they were worn by men too. Back then sporting several strands of pearls didn’t make others perceive you as effeminate. On the contrary, since there were no cultured pearls, the prices for natural pearls were staggering. You had to be very wealthy to afford these jewels. So displaying them as necklaces, bracelets or rings was a sign of power and influence. The motto was “the bigger, the better”. Large pearls screamed opulence and wealth, so you can see why men didn’t shy away from wearing them in the past.
The manliest crown in England
Although Henry VIII’s real crown was melted almost four hundred years ago on the orders of Cromwell, there were plenty of generous written depictions to help jewelers recreate it. The result is a breathtaking head piece that is adorned with white, pink and blue pearls. The beautiful gemstones are set in gold and look exquisite against the royal blue velvet of the crown. If powerful and influential Henry VIII chose to wear the beauties of the sea on his head, this is yet another proof that supports the idea that pearls are not only for the ladies.
The Prince with the pearl earring
Earring in men are quite frowned upon nowadays. But this was not always so. And I’m not talking about pirates here. Royalty men used pearls as a symbol of power and opulence. They enjoyed spicing up their outfits by adding a rebellious earring, a statement ring or endless strands of pearls. Prince Charles of Wales, who later became Charles I, appears to have liked pearl earrings above anything else. In one painting he is illustrated wearing a fancy collar, a serious demeanor and a simple dangling earring with a big pearl. You can see that people back then seemed to be more open to fashion trends than we are today.
Flipping through fashion magazines nowadays makes me wonder why men have put such a big gap between them and pearls. It’s no longer socially accepted to sport a pearl earring if you’re a man. Wearing strands of pearl necklaces doesn’t stand for opulence and refinement in men anymore, and are only seen as acceptable in women, who get an instant elegant boost by wearing them. Maybe in the future we’ll embrace pearl cufflinks and bracelets for men again. Until then, pearls remain a symbol of timeless elegance for women.