Brides have loved and worn the “Jewel of the Sea” (aka Pearl Jewelry) for centuries. Whether they have worn pearls as necklaces, pearl earrings, accented veils or even pendants, this tradition is steeped in lore and love.
Across the world and cultures, the pearl symbolizes love, purity, chastity, prosperity and truth... All the essential ingredients in a successful marriage! A white pearl necklace is often the perfect complement to the traditional white wedding dress. They quietly glow and enhance the bride's beauty rather than shout and distract the eye.
The pearls' subtle elegance and timeless beauty make them an easy choice for brides everywhere.
Pearls and brides have gone together since well … practically forever!
The ancient Greeks believed that pearls were tears shed by Aphrodite, the goddess of Love. It is no surprise then that the Greeks then began giving brides pearls on their wedding day to prevent tears, and to increase the chances of a successful marriage.
For the Greeks, pearls were often either worn woven into the traditional Stefana, or wedding crown, or as edging on the bridal veil.
Pearl and lace Stefana, or Grecian bridal crowns. Pearls are a traditional and very popular choice for couples incorporating the Stefana into their wedding ceremonies. Photo courtesy of Wedding in Crete
The Romans especially revered pearls, so much so that Julius Cesar declared that pearls could only be worn by royalty. The tradition of wearing a wedding veil originated in Rome; Romans believed that the veil would shield the bride from evil spirits and bad luck before her nuptials. It is not a stretch to imagine bridal veils for high society brides could be edged in precious pearls, with gorgeous gold and pearl earrings to match.
Today, brides still wear wedding veils but now our choices for fabrics, designs and embellishments is unmatched. Inexpensive Freshwater pearls can be used to edge a veil, and real or faux pearls can be glued to a sheer veil in various patterns. The effect is stunning and magical as shown below.
Black pearl studded bridal veil with embroidered stars. Image courtesy Happy Wedd
In Europe, pearls have traditionally been treasured by the elites and commoners alike, but the European love affair with pearls didn’t really kick off until the Renaissance. After the Crusades, pearls and precious gemstones began pouring into the West as new trade routes opened throughout the Middle East and Asia.
Pearls represented purity, chastity, love and truth to many in the West, and were incredibly popular for use in jewelry and religious works of art such as Illuminated books and icons. Pearls became so popular and such a status symbol that many laws were passed restricting wearing pearls to royalty and gentry households only.
During the Dark Ages, Knights took pearls into battle with them as a protective charm and would later bestow their lucky gems to their brides upon their wedding day.
The Kings and Queens of the Middle Ages adorned themselves with lavish pearl jewelry at countless wedding ceremonies because of this gem’s very special significance. Pearl embellished veils and crowns, pearl earrings, necklaces, rings, belts and more were all standard jewelry regularly worn by both men and women.
Depiction of Queen Catherine of Aragon on her wedding to Prince Arthur of the House of Tudor. Dress and jewelry created for The Spanish Princess, a historical drama series detailing Catherine's arrival in England and her first marriage and life before later marrying King Henry VIII. Image Nick Briggs / Starz Entertainment
Incorporating pearls into royal weddings has carried on through the years. Here is Queen Elizabeth II wearing an elegant Double-Strand Pearl Necklace on her wedding to Prince Philip in 1947. Her gown, purchased with clothing coupon rations she had saved up for two years after the end of World War II, was also embroidered with 10,000 seed pearls and crystals.
Photo courtesy of Forbes online
Queen Elizabeth's pearl-embroidered wedding gown, as shown by the Royal Collection Trust. Photo courtesy of Town and Country Magazine
In India, the Hindu god Vishnu plucked pearls from the sea to give to his daughter on her wedding day. Vishnu is also recorded as giving his consort, Laskshmi the goddess of prosperity, pearls as well.
Natural pearls were once found off the coastal waters, and the ruling caste (both men and women) prized their lustrous gems very highly. Pearls have been viewed as a symbol of love and used in Indian weddings for centuries.
Vishnu and Lakshmi pictured together. Pearls were highly valued in Indian culture throughout the centuries.
In the Middle East, natural pearls from the Persian Gulf were once one of the main exports up until the 1950s. The Middle East was famous around the world for its high-quality natural pearls formed in the Pinctada radiata pearl oyster. The oldest pearl in the world was uncovered during an archaeological excavation of the burial tomb of a princess centered in Abu Dhabi.
Named “Basra” pearls for the Basra, Iraq region that the pearls were traded in, these gorgeous gems came in shades of Silver to Creamy White, Pink to Peach and even natural hues of Gold. The pearl trade made many a family very wealthy, and the finest pearls of course were reserved for high status families in the Middle East.
👉 Read More: Ultimate Guide to Pearl Colors
This stunning natural pearl necklace/breastplate is called the Rani Haar, or Queen's Necklace and was on display at the Dubai Design District showcasing Arabian jewelry styles from ancient to modern designs. Photo courtesy of The National News
All over the world, the precious pearl reigns supreme for brides as the “go-to” choice for their special day. Below we’ll look at some of the cultural bridal styles worn by women on their wedding day.
American and European brides often incorporate pearls in a myriad of ways into their wedding attire. Whether it is a pearl-embellished wedding dress, a pearl and crystal hair piece, a simple pendant and earrings or more formal Single or Double-Strand Akoya Pearl Necklace, pearls are a mainstay for the modern Western bride.
Brides in China often wear a red dress (said to bring good luck) embroidered with a Phoenix and a Dragon in gold thread. Pearls are generally worn in elaborate hair pieces and combs.
Traditional Indian jewelry is very ornate and elaborate, with pearls, precious colored gemstones, diamonds and intricately wrought 24K Gold settings. Pearls can be worn as Necklaces, Earrings, pearl-embellished clothing, Bracelets and more.
Photo courtesy of Afrah Eljanoub
For brides in the Middle East, weddings are very diverse depending on the region. Many brides wear the traditional hijab and henna inks while brides in Saudi Arabia have mostly embraced the modern white wedding dress, veil and jewelry styles.
However they choose to get married, there is something to appreciate here and yes, pearls definitely make an appearance!
Photo courtesy of Bored Panda
African brides also have very diverse traditional garb worn on their wedding day depending on the country. Many brides traditionally wear a hair-covering turban, bright, colorful jewelry made of corals and other precious materials and colorful gowns. Modern brides are also incorporating the white wedding dress to beautiful effect. I am adoring these pearl accented flower crowns!
Photo Bored Panda
The pearl jewelry you will look best in on your wedding day depends so much on your dress!
Consider your gown … will it be strapless, or off the shoulder? Will you have a V-Neck, square or high collar? Dresses that show a wide expanse of décolletage and collarbones work beautifully with a classic pearl necklace. A classic Single Strand Hanadama Pearl Necklace, or an Old Hollywood style Double-Strand Pearl Necklace is perfect for adding that touch of luxury and elegance to these necklines.
Larger pearls like White South Sea are the perfect choice for an elegant Pearl Pendant. Whether you decide to go for a romantic Tear Drop-Shaped South Sea Pendant, or pair your pearl with glittering diamond accents, this simple yet lovely look is a perfect way to accessorize your dress without drawing too much attention away from it.
This Drop-Shaped White South Sea Pearl and Diamond Lily Pendant was custom-created for a special client using a 15.0mm, AAA Quality South Sea pearl and a .10ct VS1 diamond prong-set. View the original Lily Pendant here.
While the Classic White pearl is a go-to and traditional choice, many brides these days are not afraid of adding a splash of eye-catching color to their attire.
Customized Tahitian Pearl and Diamond Branch Necklace by Pure Pearls
Backless dresses present the perfect opportunity to drape long, luxurious Pearl Rope Necklaces, Pearl Lariat or Pearl Pendant on a long chain down your back to highlight the open outlines of your gown and add a touch of contemporary style.
Layered pearl necklace photo courtesy of WeddingoMania; Pearl Rope Necklace on Bust by PurePearls.com
Many wedding dresses feature high or even closed necklines. Dresses that have more demure lines like the sheer Illusion neckline, a Queen Anne or a Jewel Neck style should forego pearl necklaces and pendants altogether. Opt instead for a stunning pair of pearl earrings. Luxurious South Sea Pearl Earrings offer large, glamourous sizes and designs while the smaller, more versatile Hanadama Akoya pearl is well suited for a more sedate look.
Brides are not limited to pearl studs either. Add a touch of romance with a pair of Drop-Shaped Baroque Pearl Earrings, or glam it up with sparkling Diamond and Pearl Earrings. No matter what you choose, wearing pearl earrings at your wedding is a timeless, meaningful addition to your special day.
Hanadama Akoya Pearl Earrings are the cream of the pearl crop when it comes to Japanese Akoya pearls. Known for their mirror-like luster and intense Orient, these pearl earrings are an elegant choice for any bride.
A Pearl Bracelet delicately draping across the wrist could be the perfect finishing touch for a sleeveless or illusion gown. Double up on elegance and create a lasting keepsake with our custom Monogrammed Bridal Pearl Bracelet. This timeless Double-Strand Pearl Bracelet can be a treasured heirloom with the bride’s new initials engraved into the 14K Gold clasp and a pair of sparkling diamond spacers to keep the pearls in line.
Other popular choices are pearl embellished tiaras, veils and gowns, along with adding some lustrous pearly glamour with shoes adorned with pearls. The options are endless!
Above all, pearls are utterly timeless and no matter what you choose, you’re sure to look absolutely stunning. The gorgeous pearl jewelry you wear on your wedding day can be handed down over the years to become treasured heirlooms.
Which traditions and jewelry designs are your favorite? Leave a comment below!
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