Why We Wear Pearls
Updated: Jan 28
Pearls have long been synonymous with purity, but their true meaning encompasses so much more. They are the ultimate symbol of strength, wisdom, integrity, and loyalty. Their value and influence have crossed time and cultures and this is why the pearl is the Queen of Gems.
Kamala Harris became the real MVP (Madam Vice President) when she was inaugurated as both the first woman and first person of color to hold the office of Vice President in the history of the United States.
Across the nation, people wore chucks and pearls as we watched her sworn in on January 20, 2021. Wearing these items made us feel connected to her. Many Black women in particular felt like we were not just watching history but were a part of it.
Unless you live under a rock in Bikini Bottom, you should know that Vice President Harris is a graduate of the HBCU Howard University. While a student there, she joined Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., a Black Greek Letter Organization. There are 9 Black Greek Letter fraternities and sororities that form what is known as the Divine 9. The female organizations in the group all hold the pearl in high regard and use it in their symbolism.
Alpha Kappa Alpha's founding members are known as the 20 pearls.
Delta Sigma Theta refers to their cardinal virtues as 9 pearls.
The founding members of Zeta Phi Beta are the 5 pearls.
Members of Sigma Gamma Rho wear 10 pearls to represent the 7 founding members and 3 virtues of their organization.
Before Black Greek letter organizations were founded, pearls were choice jewelry members of the Order of the Eastern Star, PHA.
Pearls have been connected to the history of Black women in the United States for a long time. We put this stone in the center of our fashion choices, as symbols in our organizations, and so much more. I believe it's because we can identify with it on a deeper level.
Just as pearls are not made like any other gemstone, Black women of the Diaspora are not created in the same way as other women around the world.
I'm not talking biology. This statement is about nature vs nurture.
Think of the transatlantic slave trade as an oyster. This oyster has locked on and applied pressure to a foreign object. The goal of the oyster was self-preservation. The goal of the oyster was to change this object to fit its needs and become like the oyster. Although the pearl that has formed is made out of the same thing as the oyster, it did not take on the shape or characteristics of the oyster. Black folk are the same way.
They took our culture and ethnic identities to give us theirs- instead, we made our own. They tried to take our will yet we never stopped fighting. No matter what pressure is applied, Black people -especially Black women - make something beautiful.
Just like pearls, we are rare, we are valuable, we are beautiful.
A few fun facts about pearls:
1. Pearls are the only gemstones that form from living organisms.
2. In ancient times, both Romans and Egyptians valued pearls above all other gems. Cleopatra was able to convince Marc Anthony that Egypt was too rich in both wealth and culture to conquer. She served him the world's most expensive meal - a pearl crushed and dissolved in a glass of wine.