Is it bad luck a for a bride to be wearing wedding pearls on her big day?
The pearl, with its pure white colour and shining lustre, is a beautiful symbol of perfection. Across many cultures, it is very popular for brides to choose to wear pearl jewellery. Historically, this tradition can be traced as far back as the beginnings of Hindu civilization when Krishna’s daughter Pandia was adorned with a saltwater pearl that was drawn from the ocean.
But there are many superstitions associated with getting married. In some countries today it is said that the wearing of wedding pearls is an ill omen, perhaps representing the tears that a bride may later shed in married life. Is this particular myth true or just another old tale?
Before we knew more about how pearls are formed, pearls were associated in Western culture with tears. The Romans thought pearls to be the physical tears of angels or gods and, in The Odyssey, Homer describes tears as being ‘reborn as pearls’.
Following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas, substantial oyster beds were found off the coast of Venezuela. The subsequent fashion for wearing natural pearls created a ‘pearl rush’ during the 16th and 17th centuries. European women of high rank and royalty fell in love with wearing extravagant pearl ornaments and matching sets of necklaces, bracelets, earrings and brooches. Queen Elizabeth I of England was said to own over 3,000 pearl embroidered dresses.
Keeping up with fashion, however, had a cost, and several small European royal houses bankrupted themselves over their new love for pearls. The cultural associations between pearls and tears inevitably continued, with Milton writing in 1645 in his Epitaph to the Marchioness of Winchester that the ‘pearls of dew she wears prove to be presaging tears’.
By the middle of the 18th and 19th centuries, the wearing of pearls also began to be given another symbolic meaning, being officially reserved for wear during a specific period of time following a funeral. This period of royal half-mourning was largely fashion-led, with ladies at the court of Queen Victoria being only permitted to wear pearls, diamonds or plain ornaments.
There really is no bad luck in wearing pearls at your wedding. Today’s superstitious association of pearls with bad luck simply comes from our rich ancient, medieval and modern cultural history. The beauty and simplicity of a white pearl is the perfect and traditional choice of jewellery for brides and bridesmaids.IMAGE CREDIT: Used with thanks to TenthMusePhotography http://www.flickr.com/photos/tenthmusephotography/, under a Creative Commons licence http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en