Egyptian Information on Pearls

Did the ancient Egyptians use many pearls? Find out here...Egyptian information on pearls from historic authors Kunz & Stevenson and their 1908 book.

The mother of pearl shell was in use as an ornament in ancient Egypt certainly as early as the sixth dynasty (circa 3200 B.C.), the period of the Tanis Sphinx.

Large Sphinx, from Tanis
Large Sphinx, from Tanis

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In a recent letter from Luxor, where he is studying the ruins of ancient Thebes, Dr. James T. Dennis states that he has found several of these shells bearing cartouches of that period; and in the "pan-bearing graves" of the twelfth dynasty 925 B.C.), the shell occurred not only complete, but cut in roughly circular or oblong angular blocks and strung on chains with beads of carnelian, pottery, etc.

So far as can be determined from the representations of ancient Egyptian costumes, pearls do no seem to have been employed to any great extent in their decoration.

Woman in In Egyptian Costume
Woman in In Egyptian Costume

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The necklaces, earrings, and other jewels found in the tombs, which are composed largely of gold set with crystal gems, contain the remains of a few pearls, but give no indication that they were numerous.

Various Egyptian Costume: Left to Right, Princess Prince King Priest and Queen
Various Egyptian Costume: Left to Right, Princess Prince King Priest and Queen

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In fact, no evidence in Egyptian information on pearls exists that they were used extensively before the Persian conquest in the fifth century B.C. and probably it was not until the time of the Ptolemies that there began the lavish abundance which characterized the court of Alexandria at the height of her power.

Ruins of the Ptolemy Library in Alexandria, Egypt, 1811
Ruins of the Ptolemy Library in Alexandria, Egypt, 1811

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Read more info about historic pearls after Egyptian information on pearls.


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