Imitation Pearls

Part of the Pearls exhibition.

Costume Jewelry

Because pearls are so rare, people have for thousands of years created substitutes for the real thing. Records indicate that the ancient Romans made imitation pearls. And Queen Elizabeth I of England, whose passion for pearls is apparent in every portrait of her, is said to have established an artificial pearl industry to supply what nature could not. The techniques for manufacturing imitation pearls have varied over the centuries and today include coating glass beads with a mixture of varnish and fish scales or flakes of the mineral mica.