Renaissance Baroque Pearls
Since Roman times, natural pearls were the most valued and important gemstone. Until 1916, when Kokichi Mikimoto developed a reliable method of pearl cultivation, pearls were hunted in the shallow seas of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. In every ton of pearl oysters and mussels harvested maybe three or four quality pearls were found.
Pearls of the New World
Queen Elizabeth I (d. 1603) was famous for her long strands of large natural pearls. During the time of Queen Elizabeth I, world exploration expanded into the Western Hemisphere, and vast beds of pearl oysters were found along the shores of the New World in Venezuela and Columbia.
Weird, Irregular Shapes
The problem with many of the pearls found in the New World was that they were found in weird, irregular shapes, called baroque. Pearl dealers at the time didn’t know what to do with baroque pearls.
Animal, Dragon, and Mermaids
Finally, enterprising craftsmen began to consider the shape of these weird baroque pearls and started making sculptured pendants adding colored gemstones and enamel to make birds, animals, flowers, dragons, and mermaids. Soon sculptured pendants were all the rage.