Queen Pearl - Paterson Pearl

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Origin of name

Paterson Pearl

The "Queen Pearl" also known as the "Paterson Pearl" has gone down in history as the first fresh water pearl discovered in the United States since the time of the ancient Indians. The pearl discovered in Notch Brook, near Paterson, New Jersey, in 1857, sparked a "pearl rush" that almost stripped the streams of Notch Brook of freshwater mussels and led to the discovery of pearls worth around $ 15,000, (1908 market value $150,000). As word got around other streams and rivers in New Jersey were not spared and the mussel populations were decimated within a short period of time.

The "pearl fever" then spread to other states, and pearls were discovered in New York, Ohio, Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Connecticut, Mississippi and Wisconsin. The 93-grain pink pearl discovered by a carpenter named Jacob Quackenbush, came to be known as the "Paterson Pearl" a name reflecting the origin of the pearl. Notch Brook is situated in Paterson City, a historic city founded by Alexander Hamilton in the 1791 and named after William Patterson (1746-1806), the governor of New Jersey and one of the signatories to the United States Constitution. Paterson City is located in northeastern New Jersey, near the waterfalls on the Passaic River, and became a pioneering industrial city in the United States, producing silk, sail cloth for clipper ships, revolvers and firearms, and locomotives. Almost 50% of the silk made in the United States was produced in Patterson City, and the city earned its famous name as the "Silk City of the United States." Thomas Alva Edison, the master inventor of the United States, also built one of the world's first hydroelectric plants in Paterson, New Jersey, harnessing the waters of the great falls, that supplied electricity to all the factories in Paterson. The credit for launching the world's first submarine also goes to Paterson City, and was designed and executed by the Irish inventor John Philip Holland who settled in Paterson in 1873. The submarine, christened the "Holland I" was launched in June 1878 into the Passaic River from the Lister Boathouse, above the Great Falls, at Paterson. The city of Paterson is also sometimes referred to as the "cradle of the industrial revolution" in America.

Queen Pearl

The "Paterson Pearl" was purchased by Charles L. Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. New York City, for $1,500, and as it was difficult to find buyers for the pearl in the United States, the company sent it to their Paris House for sale. Within a short period of the arrival of the pearl in Paris, a French gem dealer offered 12,500 francs equivalent to about $2,500, giving a significant profit margin of nearly $1,000, and the "Paterson Pearl" changed hands.

The enterprising French dealer who purchased the "Paterson Pearl' then sold it to Empress Eugenie de Montijo, the Queen consort of Emperor Napoleon III, who had a special liking for jewels and jewelry, and built up a fabulous collection after her marriage to Napoleon III in 1853. Ever since the "Paterson Pearl" was purchased by Eugenie de Montijo, the pearl acquired its second  name the  "Queen Pearl" sometime referred to as the "American Queen Pearl" or the "Tiffany Queen Pearl."

The name "Queen Pearl" perhaps, may also refer to the extraordinary quality of the pearl in terms of its size, shape, color, luster, surface quality and nacre quality. Such extraordinary pearls are also sometimes referred to as "Queen Pearls" The perfectly spherical shape and the magnificent pink luster of the pearl as described by Kunz in his book "The Book of the Pearl" published in 1908, no doubt justifies the use of the name "Queen Pearl" for this magnificent gem.

Characteristics of the Pearl

Shape, weight, color and luster of the pearl

George Frederick Kunz and Charles Hugh Stevenson in their book "The Book of the Pearl" published in 1908, describe the pearl as a perfect sphere having a weight of 93 grains. "Tiffany Queen Pearl - Doubtless the most famous pearl ever found within the limits of the United States, and likewise one of the choicest, is the well known "Queen Pearl," found in Notch Brook near Paterson, New Jersey, in 1857. In form it is a perfect sphere, and weighs 93 grains."

According to this information the "Queen Pearl" is a perfectly round  freshwater pearl, with a light pink color having a weight of 4.65 grams, equivalent to 23.25 carats or 93 grains. The luster of the pearl is also exceptional, and according to Kunz it was from the great luster of the pearl and Empress Eugenie, the pearl derived the name "Queen Pearl." Kunz also estimated the market value of the pearl in 1908 as $10,000.

Recent attempts by researches to identify the "Queen Pearl" in the Evans Collection

The fate of the "Paterson Pearl" had been a mystery after Dr. Thomas Evans, the dentist to Empress Eugenie, who received the pearl as a gift from the empress, together with a collection of other pearls, donated the collection to the University of Pennsylvania dental school. Some authorities claimed that the "Queen Pearl" resided with other Eugenie Pearls at the University of Pennsylvania, but attempts to identify the pearl from among the collection, in the years  1999 to 2000 proved to be futile. Part of the  Evans collection was acquired by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Design, in New York City. Attempts to identify the pearl in this collection was also not successful. However recently, a pink baroque pearl incorporated in the coil of a snake topped stickpin belonging to the Evans collection at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, has been identified by some authorities, as the famous "Paterson Pearl" or "Queen Pearl" whose whereabouts had been a mystery for several decades. The pearl was dismantled and weighed and to the researchers' astonishment found to weigh exactly 93 grains, the authenticated weight of the  "Queen Pearl" as reported during its discovery in 1857. Thus the color and the weight of this baroque pearl exactly corresponds with that of the "Queen Pearl" leading researches to believe that this baroque pearl may actually be the long lost "Queen Pearl." 


© Royal Ontario Museum

The 93-grain pink baroque pearl believed to be the actual "Patterson or Queen Pearl.

Is the 93-grain pink baroque pearl on the snake-topped stickpin in the Evans Collection the actual Queen Pearl ?

However, the shape of this baroque pearl seem to be at variance with what Kunz and Stevenson described in their publication in 1908, according to which the pearl should be a perfect sphere. Doubts have been expressed about the shape of the pearl as described by Kunz and Stevenson, as they were actually citing other sources, and did not have the privilege of seeing the pearl themselves. Moreover it has been said that in freshwater mussels baroque natural pearls are generally the rule rather than the exception. On the other hand the occurrence of perfectly round natural pearls in fresh water mussels are extremely rare. Thus experts, among them Neil Landman of the American Museum of Natural History believe that the baroque pearl incorporated in the coil of the snake, in the stickpin, is probably the legendary gem. Unfortunately, Charles L. Tiffany,  of Tiffany & Co. New York City, who purchased the pearl did not indicate the shape of the pearl when he described the feelings he experienced after making the purchase, as quoted in "The Book of the Pearl." "Here this man finds a pearl within seventeen miles of our place of business ! What if thousands should be found, and many perhaps finer than this one ! However, we risked buying the pearl, as no one in New York seemed interested in it, we sent it to our Paris House for sale, and a French gem dealer offered for it a very large advance on the original price, paying 12,500 francs."

History of the "Patterson Pearl" aka the "Queen Pearl"

Discovery of a 400-grain pearl in a freshwater mussel after it was fried in oil. One of the most expensive suppers ever prepared.

The awareness of the existence of freshwater pearls in the mussels found in the brooks of New Jersey, was first realized in the year 1857, when a poor shoe maker or carpenter, by the name of David Hower or Daniel Howell discovered a large round pearl weighing nearly 400 grains, in one of many mussels collected from a brook in New Jersey, which his wife had transformed into a delicious dish for dinner, by frying in lard. While he was enjoying the fried edible mussels with his wife, Daniel Howell accidentally bit something hard in his mouth, and on investigating found out that the hard substance he bit was an unusually large round pearl. Unfortunately the heat and grease used in the cooking had destroyed the beauty and luster of the pearl, which was now worthless. Had the pearl been discovered in time it's estimated cost would have exceeded $25,000, and the pearl would have become one of the largest freshwater pearls ever discovered. Thus, poor Daniel Howell's fried mussels became one of the most expensive suppers ever prepared, reminiscent of Cleopatra's legendary and  fabulously valuable pearl that she supposedly dissolved in a cup of wine (or vinegar ?)  and drank to impress Mark Antony, perhaps as a symbol of affluence and luxury, and fulfilling a bet she had taken with Mark Antony to spend ten million sesterces on a dinner !!!

Jacob Quackenbush discovers the "Paterson Pearl" in Notch Brook, Paterson

Daniel Howell was not discouraged by his misfortune and was determined to duplicate his wonderful find. He began collecting large numbers freshwater mussels from the brooks of New Jersey and searching them for the elusive pearl. As news got around of Daniel Howell's misfortune, more people in the neighborhood joined the search hoping to strike it rich. Daniel Howell was not so lucky a second time, but within a few days a magnificent  pink pearl was discovered inside a freshwater mussel collected from a stream in Notch Brook, by a Paterson carpenter by the name of Jacob Quackenbush. The pearl weighed 93 grains, and was purchased by Charles L. Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. New York City, reportedly for $1,500. However, the exact price Mr. Quackenbush received for the pearl is not known. The Paterson Guardian newspaper reported on May 1, 1857, that the price paid was $1,000. However, an issue of the Paterson Press, published on March 25, 1897, carrying the story of the discovery of the pearl, reported that the New York Jeweler who purchased the pearl had told Mr. Quackenbush that the pearl was very valuable, and was worth more than he had cash to pay for it, and gave him besides nine $100 bills, three silver watches and some other assorted jewelry, adding up to a total of $1,000. It is not known which of the above versions is historically accurate, but whichever version may be the correct one, it is very clear that Mr. Jacob Quackenbush had been underpaid.

Which of the pearls was discovered first, the 400-grain pearl by Daniel Howell or the 93-grain pink pearl by Jacob Quackenbush ?

According to some authorities including Kunz and Stevenson, the 400-grain pearl discovered by Daniel Howell, was the first pearl to be discovered in Paterson, New Jersey, followed by the 93-grain pink "Paterson Pearl" by Jacob Quackenbush. However, according to a Passaic County Historical Society news bulletin, titled "The Pearl Craze In Passaic County" published in November 1956, it appears that the 93-grain pink "Paterson Pearl" discovered by Jacob and John Quackenbush was the first pearl to be discovered in Paterson, New Jersey. Prominence is given to the Quackenbush story and the pearl rush that followed immediately afterwards. The Daniel Howell story is also mentioned at the end of the bulletin, but only as another interesting story about pearls in Passaic country, without giving a timeline.

The significant difference between the two versions is, that while according to the first version, Jacob Quackenbush was motivated to search for pearls only after the discovery of the 400-grain pearl by Daniel Howell, that was destroyed in cooking, the Passaic County Historical Society (PCHS) version states that  the Quackenbush brothers, Jacob and John were actually pearl hunters who were motivated by their father Quackenbush Senior, who had been hunting for pearls in Notch Brook, since his days as a young boy, as early as 1815. In other words according to the first version discovery of pearls in 1857 in Paterson, New Jersey, was accidental, whereas in the second version the discovery was actually the culmination of a deliberate and painstaking search that lasted almost four decades, since 1815, carried out with the full knowledge that sometimes pearls do exist in freshwater mussels. However, the probability of finding a pearl in Oysters under natural conditions being only about 1 in 10,000, explains the long period of almost 40 years, taken to discover a significantly large pearl.

According to the PCHS version, the two brothers Jacob and John continued their search for pearls in the mussels of Notch Brook, in spite of the fact that nothing substantial was discovered. They always remembered stories told by their father of the many persons who had been rewarded with valuable stones after long periods of searching. The two brothers persisted in their search and one lucky day in 1857, Jacob Quackenbush was rewarded for his perseverance, when he discovered a magnificent pink pearl weighing 93 grains inside a mussel, which subsequently came to be known as the "Paterson Pearl."

The discovery of the "Paterson Pearl" triggers a "Pearl Mania" in Paterson City, New Jersey

The Quackenbush brothers continued their search for pearls in a secretive manner, fearing a pearl rush that would interfere with their activities. But, it did not take much long for the story of the sensational discovery of the pink pearl to become common knowledge in Paterson City. What followed was a pearl rush described by some newspapers as a "pearl mania." The Paterson, New Jersey Guardian, of April 6, 1857 stated, "Quite an excitement has, for the past fortnight, existed in the upper part of this city owing to a sort of Pearl Mania."

Hundreds joined in the search, farmers, mechanics, residents of neighboring villages and towns, and even students, scouring the shallow streams of Notch Brook, wading in the water, and bringing up mussels felt by their bare feet, which was subsequently pried open. The scene at Notch Brook was one of animation, excitement and expectations, with the crowds of people, horses and wagons along the banks of the river giving the appearance of a "camp meeting time," according to an eye witness. Many pearls were discovered in Notch Brook, but most of them were small pearls, about the size of a garden pea, or even smaller. It was reported that during the year 1857, the New York City market received about $15,000 worth of pearls from the waters of Notch Brook. However, this did not represent the entire production from the area, as some pearls were sold in the local market or retained as souvenirs or entered private collections. Paterson's first mayor, John J. Brown, was a well known connoisseur of pearls, who had a collection that included several large pearls of great beauty. General Thomas D. Hoxey, reputedly owned a large Notch Brook pearl, mounted on a tiepin, which he often wore on his cravat.

As the "pearl fever" spread, other brooks in the Passaic County were also searched extensively, and eventually covered most of the freshwater bodies in other counties in New Jersey. Some of the noted brooks that yielded some high quality pearls were the Rock Road Brook, the Godwinville Brook and Cherry Lane Brook. During the pearl-hunting craze, the pioneer pearl hunters of Notch Brook Jacob and John Quackenbush, became specialists in the valuation of pearls, whose opinion were sought by the lucky finders of pearls. The active exploitation of the freshwater mussels in the waters of Passaic county and other counties in New Jersey, depleted the mussel population, and within a few years the entire population of mussels were totally decimated, eliminating for all time the natural pearl industry.

The "Paterson Pearl" is sold to Empress Eugenie de Montijo, the consort of Napoleon III

Charles L. Tiffany who purchased the pearl from Jacob Quackenbush, sent the pearl to their Paris branch, as no one in the U.S. seem to be interested in the pearl, and finding a prospective customer would be a difficult task. Within a short period of the pearl reaching the Paris branch of Tiffany's in 1858, a French gem dealer who saw the pearl, immediately offered 12,500 francs for the pearl, which was equivalent to about $2,500, and the offer was accepted. The French gem dealer who purchased the pearl, had dealings with the French royal family, and successfully sold the pearl to the Empress of France, Eugenie de Montijo, the queen consort of Emperor Napoleon III, who was a gem and jewelry enthusiast and built up a fabulous collection of jewels and jewelry during her reign as the Empress of France. Among the notable and famous pieces of jewelry owned by the empress were, the Empress Eugenie diamond, the Marie-Therese Emerald and diamond Tiara, Empress Eugenie Diamond necklace etc. Empress Eugenie also transformed most of the crown jewels of France into new settings to suit her own taste. The "La Regente Pearl" was dismantled from its original tiara, and remounted as the centerpiece of a pearl and diamond corsage. The "Regent diamond" was mounted on a Greek diadem especially designed for her. The "Hortensia diamond" was set in a diamond-encrusted comb. 

Fall of Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie's escape to England

Napoleon III after establishing himself as the absolute ruler of France following a plebiscite held in 1852, gave France two decades of prosperity under a stable authoritarian government. During his period of rule, known as the second empire, Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie de Montijo enriched the crown jewels of France by acquiring several newly designed pieces of jewelry, as well as re-setting of old pieces, that enhanced the brilliance of their court life. Napoleon III's downfall came after he led France into a disastrous war with the Germans in 1870-71, known as the Franco-Prussian war, in which he was defeated and taken prisoner by the Germans. Following this defeat France immediately proclaimed the third republic. Empress Eugenie de Montijo, who acted as regent during her husbands absence, escaped to England with her son, where she was granted asylum by Queen Victoria, who hosted the Empress in "Osborne Cottage" which was part of "Osborne House" the Queen's favorite retreat situated in the Isle of Wight.

Empress Eugenie's dramatic escape from Paris, and the Empress' gift of pearls to Dr. Thomas W. Evans who facilitated her escape.

Eugenie de Montijo carried with her most of her personal jewelry when she escaped to England. Her daring escape from Paris at the height of the turmoil following Napoleon III's defeat, was facilitated by a Philadelphia dentist, Thomas W. Evans, who was her dentist and a family friend. After the disaster of the "Battle of Sedan" the Tuilleries were threatened with attack by mobs rampaging on the streets of Paris. Empress Eugenie and Madame Le Breton then attempted to escape in a cab, but to their utter dismay found that they had only a few francs between them. They then requested to be driven to Dr. Evans' residence, at 43, Bois de Boulogne, in Paris. After reaching the Doctor's safe haven, the two ladies were disguised in the clothing belonging to Mrs. Evans, and the very next day driven out of Paris, as two feeble female patients of the doctor, whom he was taking to their home in Neuilly.

As a token of gratitude, Empress Eugenie is said to have given as a gift her collection of fabulous pearls to Dr. Thomas W. Evans, that also included the famous "Queen Pearl" aka the "Paterson Pearl." Thus the "Queen Pearl," the first fresh water pearl of significant size that was discovered in the United States in 1857, again became the property of an American, a  citizen of the country of origin of the pearl. 

Dr. Thomas W. Evans, a short biography

Dr Thomas W. Evans builds up a lucrative practice in Europe, and becomes the dental surgeon to most of the sovereigns of Europe

Dr Thomas W. Evans who was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 23, 1823, was a descendant of a family of Welsh Quakers. He received a common school education until the age of 14 years. He then became an apprentice to a gold and silver-smith, in Philadelphia, who also specialized in manufacturing instruments used by dentists. This was the major breakthrough in his life, that brought him into contact with leading dentists of that period, that provided the incentive for him to enter the profession of dentistry. Having expressed his desire to enter the profession, Dr. John de Haven White agreed to take him in as an apprentice, and having successfully completed the two-year apprenticeship period under him, acquired the certificate of proficiency, which enabled him to practice dentistry as a profession. During the years 1844-45 he acquired his knowledge in surgery, by following a course in surgery, at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Later he practiced for a short time in Baltimore, Maryland, and subsequently in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he developed a reputation for his pioneering work, in the use of gold as a filling material in teeth, that was recognized by the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, which awarded him "first premium" recognition for the merit of his work.

In November 1847, at the age of 24 years, Dr. Evans left the United States to France, at the invitation of his colleague Dr. C. Starr Brewster, an American dentist, who had already set up a successful practice as a dental surgeon in Paris. After working with Dr. Starr Brewster for about three years, he established his own clinic at No. 15, rue de la Paix, and began a professional career that lasted for almost 50 years. During this period dentistry was still in a crude state in Europe, but America was far ahead of Europe in advancements in this field. He introduced the gold filling of teeth in Europe, a technique he pioneered while in America. Dr Evans using advanced methods and skills of his profession, was able to build up a successful practice in Europe, which included members of royalty of every sovereign in Europe, except Queen Victoria and the Sultan of Turkey. However his main consultation clinic was based in Paris, and he was not only the dentist to the royal family of France which included Emperor Napoleon III, Empress Eugenie, the members of their court and their household, but also a close friend and associate of the royal family. He had the good fortune of knowing Eugenie de Montijo, the daughter of a Spanish nobleman since her childhood, and after Eugenie became the Empress of France following her marriage to Emperor Napoleon III in 1853, he attracted the attention of Napoleon III's court, and soon had a monopoly of its practice. However, Dr. Evans also had the privilege of treating Napoleon III, in 1849 prior to his being installed as the Emperor in 1852, when he was serving as the elected president of the second republic between 1848 and 1852.

His achievements in prolonging the life of Emperor Frederick of Germany, and his contributions to the development of dentistry and surgery

When Emperor Frederick of Germany fell seriously sick, he was examined by his English Physician Dr Morell Mackenzie, and his German Physician Prof. Bergmann, who declared that the Emperor's days were limited, as he was slowly choking to death. However, Dr. Thomas W. Evans who also examined the patient, said that a tube inserted in the patient's throat would save his life, but unfortunately no tube was available and there was no way of getting one in time. Dr Evans then decided to improvise a tube with silver obtained from a Genoese medal. He worked till midnight on the tube, and when it was finished placed it in the Emperor's throat, that not only saved his life but prolonged it for another three months.

In spite of his busy practice as dentist to the Imperial French Court, and the other courts of Europe, Dr. Evans also undertook research activities in his field, that made significant contributions to the development of dentistry, surgery and medicine. His greatest contribution in this regard was the introduction and successful demonstration to the medical and dental profession of Europe, the use of nitrous oxide as a general anesthetic. His other achievements included the development of a treatment procedure for "regulating teeth" for which he was highly complimented, and conducting experiments with a contrivance in the shape of an articulator.

Dr. Thomas W. Evans invests on real estate in Paris that brings handsome profits

Being a personal fried of the Emperor and Empress, the good Dr. Evans had inside information of plans for the development of the Paris suburbs, and using this knowledge he  invested on real estate, that brought him handsome profits when the suburbs were developed and boulevards were constructed. Through such lucrative investments and other favors granted by Napoleon III, Dr. Evans was able to accumulate a fortune of $35 million. Dr Evans built a magnificent house at No. 43, Bois de Boulogne, which subsequently became a landmark to all Americans visiting Paris.

Dr Thomas W. Evans as a diplomat

Emperor Napoleon placed complete trust on Dr. Thomas W. Evans, and used him as a secret envoy to maintain direct diplomatic contact between the Tuileries and other sovereigns of Europe. During the American civil war of 1861 to 1865, Dr. Evans played a key role on behalf of the United States Federal Government, in preventing  French intervention in favor of the confederacy of southern states that declared secession from the Union.

Honors and decorations received by Dr Thomas W. Evans

In recognition of his services to the monarchies of Europe, Dr. Evans was granted several honors and decorations, which he gladly accepted, except the "Gift of the Black Eagle" from the King of Prussia, which he politely declined. The total number of honors he received was over 200, that included decorations of every kind, except the insignia of the English, and Prussian orders, and the Golden Fleece.


Dr. Thomas W. Evans bequeaths his personal fortune to charitable and educational institutions

Dr. Thomas W. Evans had built up an enormous personal fortune, but unfortunately had no children who would inherit his wealth. His wife pre-deceased him by a few months in 1897, and he carried her body to Philadelphia for burial. Dr. Thomas W. Evans died on November 14, 1897, but before his death he had already bequeathed a major part of his fortune to charitable and educational institutions. He left most of his fortune to the University of Pennsylvania, Dental Department, established in 1878 to create and maintain a dental school that would be second to none in the United States. This enabled the construction of the "Evans Building" which was officially named  "The Thomas W. Evans Museum and Dental Institute" when it was opened in 1915, the best equipped dental school in the nation at that time.

Dr. Thomas W. Evans bequeaths his pearl collection that included the "Paterson Pearl" or "Queen Pearl" to the Dental School of the University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Thomas W. Evans also bequeathed his pearl collection that included the "Paterson Pearl" aka the "Queen Pearl" to the Dental School of the University of Pennsylvania. Part of the collection was subsequently sold to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York City, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Design. Attempts made by researches to identify the "Paterson Pearl" among the collection at University of Pennsylvania, proved futile. Similar attempts made at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum also drew a blank, but finally a pink baroque pearl set in the coil of a snake, in a snake-topped stickpin at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum, was found to have the exact weight as the missing "Paterson Pearl." Thus with most of the properties of the lost "Paterson Pearl" matching the pink baroque pearl, except the shape, it is assumed that the pink baroque pearl mounted on the snake-topped stickpin, is actually the lost "Paterson Pearl." Thus in the year 1897, after the "Paterson Pearl" was bequeathed to the Dental School of the University of Pennsylvania, the pearl returned back to its country of origin, after a sojourn in France, during which time it was part of a fabulous collection of jewels and jewelry of a great empress of Europe, and perhaps contributed to the brilliance of her court.

The "Paterson Pearl" aka the "Queen Pearl" is an important exhibit in the traveling exhibition, Pearls : A Natural History

"Pearls, a Natural History" is a traveling exhibition organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the Field Museum of Chicago, featuring more than 600 pearl exhibits, ranging from a replica of the largest pearl ever discovered, the 14.5 pounds "Pearl of Islam" to pearl jewelry and fashions that had once been used by renowned personalities like Queen Victoria, Marie Antoinette, Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

"Pearls, a Natural History" was first held in October 2001, at the American Museum of Natural History, New York, and since then had been hosted in several museums around the United States, and also in countries like Canada, France, Australia, Japan, and the United Arab Emirates.

The exhibition traces the natural history of pearls, that incorporates biology, gemology, anthropology, mineralogy and ecology, as well as the cultural history of pearls. The exhibition is divided into seven sections.

The first section is the introductory section, that shows pearl diving as practiced in ancient times, without artificial air supply and wet suits. visitors are also introduced to the pearls historical associations with tradition, royalty, glamour and religion. Exhibits in this section include a 19th century Russian icon with a cover encrusted in pearls and gemstones and a cultured pearl necklace given to Marilyn Monroe by Joe DiMaggio during their 1954 honeymoon in Japan.

The next section explores the biology, chemistry and microstructure of pearls. Visitors can examine the layered structure of pearls magnified 50,000 times its actual size. Visitors are given an overview of the many species of mollusks and the variety of pearls they produce.

The next section depicts a large evolutionary tree which shows the many relationships between pearl producing organisms within the Phylum Mollusca. A Giant Clam and replica of the largest known pearl, the "Pearl of Allah" are exhibited in this section. Other exhibits include the pearl brooch given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria, on their 3rd wedding anniversary in1843, and the Tiffany & Co. Chrysanthemum brooch made of gold and platinum, set with diamonds and Mississippi river pearls.

The next section is devoted to marine pearls, produced by marine mollusks, such as pearl oysters, clams, conches and abalone. Each display case depicts a single type of marine mollusk, the pearls produced by this type, and the beautiful objects made from them. Eg. La Paz pearl oysters are displayed together with an 1875 "spider brooch" set with black La Paz pearls, and a 3rd century carved La Paz shell pendant from Ecuador.

The marine pearl section is followed by the section on freshwater pearls. A video presentation explores the lakes, rivers and streams  in North America, Japan and Europe, that breed pearls. The story of Muscatine, Iowa, a small town off the Mississippi River, that became the "Pearl Button Capital of the World" in the early 20th century, is also depicted in this section.

The sixth section is concerned with the collection and culturing of pearls, exploring various ways in which pearls were collected, farmed, and cultured throughout history. The history of perliculture and the science of culturing pearls, are also dealt with in this section. The culturing of Buddha pearls by Chinese 1600 years ago, in freshwater Cockscomb Pearl Mussels, is depicted in an early 19th century American painting.

The seventh and final section is known as "Pearls in Human History" tells the story of human fascination with pearls, from the Greeks and Romans to the present day. Exhibits in this section include a 17th century pearl-encrusted Russian vestment and a 19th century silver Japanese decorative tray, inlaid with mother-of-pearl flowers.

The "Paterson Pearl" aka the "Queen Pearl" the pink baroque pearl mounted on a snake-topped stickpin, the subject of this webpage, is also an important exhibit in the traveling exhibition, "Pearls - A Natural History."

Other important exhibits that form part of this unique exhibition include

1) A prototype of the Audrey Hepburn necklace, worn by the actress in the movie "Breakfast at Tiffany's"

2) A black Tahitian double row  pearl necklace, made up of 74 black Tahitian round cultured pearls.

3) Sultan necklace and earrings, designed by Cartier in 1930s using 63 natural pearls from the "Gulf of Mannar," dating back to the 1700s, 13 emeralds and 9 spinels.

4) Conch pearl necklace set with 4 deep pink conch pearls, with diamond laurel leaf swags, suspended from a chain of platinum.

5) The Venezuela Cross, a gold cross made in Venezuela, set with natural pearls from the Atlantic Pearl Oyster.

Back to Famous Pearls 2

You are welcome to discuss this post/related topics with Dr Shihaan and other experts from around the world in our FORUMS (forums.internetstones.com)

Related :-

1) Empress Eugenie Diamond

2) The Hope Pearl

3) Pearl of Allah/ Pearl of Lao Tzu

4) Arco Valley Pearl

5) La Pelegrina Pearl

6) La Peregrina Pearl

External Link:-

University of Pennsylvania, School of Dental Medicine


1.The New York Times - November 16, 1897.   
2.Pearls - Website of the United States Geological Survey  
3.Passin for Pearls - International Art Treasure Web Magazine - August 2004
4.Famous Pearls - Website of the American Museum of Natural History  
5.The Book of the Pearl - Kunz and Stevenson (1908) 
6.Famous Pearls - www.mnh.sci.edu
7.Silk City, Paterson, New Jersey - North Jersey's Internet Magazine   
8.Paterson, New Jersey - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia  
9.The Pearl Craze in Passaic County - PCHS bulletin, Nov. 1956
10.Thomas W. Evans - Practitioner, inventor, benefactor, dentist to royalty, www.fauchard.org   
11.Pearls : A Natural History, News release, Royal Ontario Museum website.

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