For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean in areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Mannar. Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Americas, they discovered that around the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200 km north of the Venezuelan coast, was an extensive pearl bed.
One discovered and named pearl, La Peregrina, was offered to the Spanish queen. According to Garcilasso de la Vega, who says that he saw La Peregrina at Seville in 1507, it was found at Panama in 1560 by a black slve who was rewarded with his liberty, and his owner with the office of alcalde of Panama.
Black pearls, frequently referred to as Black Tahitian Pearls, are highly valued because of their rarity; the culturing process for them dictates a smaller volume output and can never be mass produced. This is due to bad health and/or non-survival of the process, rejection of the nucleus and their sensitivity to changing climatic and ocean conditions. Before the days of cultured pearls, black pearls were rare and highly valued for the simple reason that white pearl oysters rarely produced naturally black pearls, and black pearl oysters rarely produced any natural pearls at all.
In a Christian New Testament parable, Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a “pearl of great price” in Matthew 13: 45-46. “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”
The language of symbolism was in common use around the time of Jesus Christ; most people were familiar with the symbolic meanings. The circle is a symbol of God because it has no beginning and no end. The circle or pearl was considered to represent Love and Knowledge. The combination of equal amounts of Love and Knowledge is a symbol of Wisdom; the 2 circles intertwined – owl eyes – is symbolic of Wisdom. Some other pearls are Truth, and Faith. Pearls are also important in Hebrew, Islamic and Hindu scriptures – the Ayurveda contains references to pearl powder as a stimulant of digestion and to treat mental ailments.