History

For several thousand years, the majority of seawater pearls were salvaged by divers diving in the Indian Ocean, in regions such as the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Mannar. Beginning during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), the Chinese sought at length for seawater pearls in the South Chian Sea. When Spanish conquistadors landed in the Western Hemisphere, they found that, in the region of the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200 km north of the Venzuelan coast, was a wide-ranging pearl bed. One found and named pearl, La Perigrina, was given as a gift to the Spanish queen. La Perigrina was discovered near Panama in 1560 by a Negro, later rewarded with his freedom, and his owner, exalted with the office of Alcalde of Panama.

Margarita pearls are very complicated to find in our time, and are distringuised by their distinctive yellowish shade. The most recognizable Margarita necklace in existence in modern times is the one that one-time Venezuelan President Romulu Bettencourt presented to Jacqueline Kennedy when she and husband President John F. Kennedy paid a formal visit to Venezuela.

Pearl hunting was the most widespread means of gathering pearls prior to the start of the 20th century. Divers recovered oysters from ocean floors and river bottoms by hand and checked them separately for pearls. Not all mussels and oysters generate pearls. In fact, within a load of three tons, merely three or four oysters will generate faultless pearls.

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