The Pearl and Love Stories

"The Patience Rose" associated with Krishna, the god of love, dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love, the pearl is often associated with beauty that inspires passion. The word pearl itself is a loving vocabulary. It has been claimed that the pearl is the Stone of Love. It makes beauty irresistible, it makes the one who possesses it chaste, candid the young girl, pure the young woman... The pearl will be the symbol of sweet resignations... and of permitted loves and tenderness. The graceful jewel signifies faith, purity, religious ardor. It softens violent characters, gives peace of mind, makes anger fall and gives patience... the patience rose, as Shakespeare said. This is how the Baroness Staff expressed herself in flowery terms. And perhaps indeed we must convince ourselves that the pearl carries within it all these powers, all these virtues. Contemplating or wearing it while thinking of the "patience rose" is already integrating a bit of peace within oneself and around oneself. The same Baroness Staff attributes a life of its own to the pearl: "A woman loves her pearls with a different love than her diamonds... And the pearl loves the one who wears it on her breast."

The pearl, known as the "Stone of Love," is said to have the ability to provoke love. Women love pearls and pearls love women. In famous love stories, pearls have sometimes played a role. Who doesn't know the story of Antony and Cleopatra? When Cleopatra went to meet Antony on a sumptuous galley, the queen wore two unique pearls in her ears, both in size and beauty. During the feast that followed, Antony marveled at the opulence of the table, and the beauty replied that at the next meal she would spend millions of sesterces. The sum was huge, and the lovers made a bet. The supper was lavish, and Antony smiled and asked for her bill. But the queen called her officers and had them bring a cup of vinegar. The queen took off one of her earrings, dissolved the pearl in the vinegar, and drank it. Cleopatra had won her bet, and it took the intervention of Lucus Plaucus for the second pearl not to suffer the same fate. Upon Cleopatra's death, this pearl was brought to Rome and Septimius Severus divided it into two jewels that adorned the ears of the Venus of the Pantheon. Pliny, always bitter, commented on the matter: "Half of one of their dinners was enough to adorn a goddess." Some contest the story by arguing that a pearl of that size could not dissolve so quickly, but let's leave the charm to legends.

Cleopatra remained faithful to her taste for extravagance even beyond death, as her tomb was adorned with jewels and pearls. The pomp of the Great Mughals took this craze even further, and Shah Jahan, the king of the world, built a mosaic of flowers made of pearls and precious stones for his wife. Tradition even claims that Abraham was sensitive to the beauty of pearls. He adorned the ears of Agar, his seductive slave, with them. But his wife Sarah, jealous, quickly chased Agar into the desert. Men often compete in generosity, and sometimes extravagance, to prove their attachment or to impress the woman they love. King Solomon, the wise ruler of the ancient kingdom of Israel, king of kings and king of magicians, had a particular attachment to pearls. He regarded them as a symbol of purity and loved to gaze at their gentle lustre. He wore them on his forehead and collected the most beautiful ones in honor of his muse, the Queen of Sheba.

Jules Caesar gave an exceptional and very expensive pearl as a token of love to Servilia, the mother of Brutus. Emperor Severus bought two large white pearls for the empress, but the price asked for them was so high that instead of giving them to his wife, he made a statue of Venus with them. Only an immortal was worthy of such costly jewels. When Francis I married Eleanor of Austria, he gave her the collection of crown jewels, which included diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and gold settings, a necklace made of nineteen cords each enriched with fourteen pearls. During her coronation at Saint-Denis, the queen wore precious stones and pearls valued at more than a million gold pieces in her hairstyle and on her bodice. King Francis I had a garment adorned with pearls. And during this era, ladies would not have considered going to bed wearing pearls and precious stones.

In 1635, Prince-Elector Maximilian of Bavaria sent a necklace of three hundred selected pearls, each worth a thousand florins, as a token of love to the daughter of Emperor Ferdinand II. We arrive at an overwhelming luxury, in the literal sense, with the marriage of the mother of Francis I and the Duke of Cleves. Her dress was so loaded with pearls, gold, silver, and precious stones that the young girl, barely twelve years old, could not walk and had to be carried to the church! Such demonstrations of love are rather heavy, no matter their magnificence.

Famous Hollywood lovers, Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, also contributed to this long history between pearls and love stories. In 1969, Richard Burton gave Elizabeth Taylor the famous Peregrina, or the Incomparable. It was an undeniable tribute. The Peregrina was the size of a pigeon egg and had the shape of a pear. It was brought from Panama and given to King Philip of Spain. The Duke of Saint-Simon wrote about it: "It was at court where I saw and handled the famous Peregrina that the king had that evening in the peak of his hat, hanging from a beautiful diamond clasp. This pearl of the finest water that has ever been seen, is precisely made and flared like those small musky pears called 'seven in the mouth.' It's rightfully named this pearl 'the wanderer,' as it passed through many hands over the centuries, before arriving at Elizabeth Taylor. It is said that she sometimes mistreated it, and her dog even used it to sharpen its teeth. The storms of love! But once again, magic was at play. Elizabeth admits: "I love to wear them, feel them, touch them; for women, pearls are feminine, warm, and very romantic."

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