This Monday, what may be the World’s Largest Pearl was reported to worldwide news outlets. Currently on record, The Pearl of Lao Tzu stands at a hefty 6kg (14 Lb) and was valued to $93m in 2003 (Forbes, 2016). However it’s contender is said to weigh 34 kg (75 lb). Reports claim that the new pearl was discovered inside a giant clam, 10 years ago by a fisherman in the Philippines, off the coast of Palawan Island. Coincidentally the birthplace of The Pearl of Lao Tzu (The Guardian, 2016).  The Filipino fisherman kept the pearl under his bed for good fortune, and only unearthed it recently due to a home fire. While the world waits for gemologists to confirm the authenticity of the monster pearl, we explore the mysterious allure of the longest known gem in the world.

World’s Largest Pearl | Photography courtesy of The Guardian

Natural Pearls form when an irritant – usually a parasite works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam (, 2016). The mollusc releases a fluid as a defence mechanism around the irritant. Layers of this fluid, called ‘nacre’, coats the invader and is deposited when a pearl is formed. Pearls can be ‘Cultured’ or farmed, as well as synthetically produced, yet none compare to the long lustrous history of the natural pearl, and the cultural and mythological tied to it.

Indonesian Pearl Farm | Photography courtesy of Pearl Wholesales

The tranquil allure of the pearl is embedded within human history and mythological texts. The ancient Chinese believed pearls were formed upon a Dragon’s head and once mature the Dragon would guard it’s pearl (Bellatory, 2016). Many scriptures link the lustrous orb to the moon, whose appearance is akin. In ancient Vedic texts, the pearl is birthed by Mother Earth and fertilised by Heaven. A flash of lightning gives life to the pearl; thus the name, ‘Daughter of the Moon’ (Gem Society, 2016). Many religions adopted the pearl as a symbol of fertility and innocence, though some scriptures links the pearl to misfortune due to the violent nature of its removal.

Natural Pearls | Photography courtesy of Gemstone Buzz

Pearls saw it’s heyday in modern society in the 20s, when Coco Chanel polarised the gem. Pairing the classic jewel with men’s slacks gave way to a form of androgynous dressing that was never seen before in its time. The 50s gave pearls a status of felinity and elegance, spurred by Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Princess Diana adored pear necklaces, bringing it’s history full circle back to royalty. By the 1990s, the pearl was considered dated. However, in recent years we have seen a shift in popular opinion, and the Daughter of the Moon has returned to it’s coveted jewel status.

Coco Chanel | Photography courtesy of 

Contemporary designers are changing the pearl game. Although many appreciate the classic string of pearls, Creatives are finding ways to modernise the pearl aesthetic and merging the orb with minimalist structures. When strategically placed in the arcs of architectural jewellery, or at at asymmetrical points, the pearl offers soft elegance to the otherwise rigid and predictable design.

Co. Ro Jewels, Wire Cuff| Lia di Gregorio, Continuum | Photography courtesy of Co. Ro Jewels, Lia di Gregorio

Some designers are subverting our preconceptions of pearl jewellery, by using black pearl and other colours. By fitting these darker gems into industrial aesthetic jewellery and metals, the pearl is transformed into an edgy accessory for the modern goth.

Pym Jewellery,  Sixtet Pearl Ring | A L’epoque, True to Life | Photography courtesy of Pym Jewellery, A L’epoque

“The rarest things in the world, next to a spirit of discernment, are diamonds and pearls.”

Jean de la Bruyere


Written by Sonia Wan


The Guardian (2016) Fisherman Hands in Giant Pearl [Online] Available at [Accessed 26/08/16]

Forbes (2016) 100 million Pearl [Online] Available at [Accessed 26/08/16]

Pearls (2016) How are pearls formed [Online] Available at [Accessed 26/08/16]

Bellatory (2016) Pearl Myths [Online] Available at [Accessed 26/08/16]

Gem Society (2016) Legend of Pearls [Online] Available at [Accessed 26/08/16]