This article traces the use of pearls from antiquity to the initial appearance of cultured pearls in the 1920s. The first section touches on the early fascination with pearls as revealed through historical literature, including Cleopatra's pearls, Roman pearl jewelry, and medicinal pearl recipes of the Middle Ages. During the Renaissance, Spain's exploration of the New World resulted in the discovery of vast quantities of valuable pearls that were eventually spread throughout Europe. Queen Elizabeth I's magnificent collection of pearls and the intriguing baroque pearl figurines of the later Renaissance are also discussed. The article concludes with a review of pearl fashion from 1800 to 1930, including delicate Victorian seed-pearl jewelry, Queen Alexandra's dog-collar chokers, and Art Deco pearl-inlaid jewelry.