Most of the time, gems are appreciated solely for their aesthetic value, but in reality their true beauty emanates from deeper, hidden levels; Because sealed within each gemstone is a story of epic proportions spanning immeasurable time, forgotten peoples, and lost civilizations.
9,000 years before the birth of Christ, humanity took its first tentative steps toward an organized society. The cradle of these first Neolithic agricultural cultures was ‘The Fertile Crescent’; a name given to a land mass that covered an area stretching from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. The ‘Fertile Crescent’ area includes the countries we now call Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Turkey and Iran; Of all these countries, it was Iran, known as Persia until 1935, that was to have the greatest impact on the world’s cultures spanning a timeline from 3200 B.C. C. until 1935 d. C. (It was Common); a total of more than 5000 years.
The Persian Empire reached its zenith with the achaemenid dynasty. At its peak, the achaemenid dynasty, which lasted from 550 to 330 BC. C., stretched from the Indus Valley in what is now Pakistan to the banks of the Danube River in Europe. Founded by Cyrus the Great, the achaemenid The dynasty included an infamous lineage of royalty that included Xerses, infamous for his battle with the 300 Spartan warriors, and Darius, who met his fate at the hands of Alexander the Great. In the center of achaemenid dynasty were the cities of Babylon and Susa; the latter mentioned in the Bible’s Book of Esther as ‘Susan’
Among the world’s oldest cities, lasting from 5000 B.C. C. until 650 d. C., Susa was chosen as the capital of the Achaemenid dynasty due to its location on the trade routes of Persia, Mesopotamia and Asia Minor. Under Cyrus the Great, Susa became the main treasury of the dynasty; one of the strongest and richest deposits in the known world, surpassing even Babylon in its magnificence. Susa remained the center of the Achaemenid dynasty, operating as an important trading city until the 3rd century BC, when it fell to Alexander the Great and the subsequent Parthian and Sasanian empires. In 638 CE, the city fell to the Islamic conquests of Persia, and its commercial importance declined. Susa managed to survive as a city until it was finally destroyed by the Mongol Turks in 1218 CE; after which it was abandoned.
Susa, retaken by the encroaching desert, lay in ruins, lost for over 600 years. However, in 1897 the French anthropologist Jacques de Morgan undertook archaeological excavations in Susa. In February 1901, de Morgan discovered what appeared to be a tomb of Achaemenid royalty dating to approximately 350 BC. C. In fact, the real figure enclosed in the sarcophagus was that of a young woman; an Achaemenid princess. Her body had been placed and decorated with a large number of jewels and ornaments of gold and precious stones. Among the various jewels, one stood out from the rest; A pearl necklace or to be more precise a pearl necklace.
The Susa pearl necklace consists of 3 rows of 72 pearls each. When Jacques de Morgan discovered the necklace, the pearls were in an advanced state of deterioration and many of them broke when touched when they were removed from the tomb. De Morgan believed that the ‘Dog Collar’ pearl necklace originally consisted of between four and five hundred pearls. Although the pearls had suffered, the setting and stringing of the necklace were relatively intact. All of the 216 surviving pearls were interspersed and held together with gold gemstone inlays that acted as space bars. There were ten gold space bars in all, each of these bars consisted of three small discs approximately five millimeters in diameter. They separate the pearl necklace into nine equidistant divisions; At the end of each end of the necklace is a disc larger than ten millimeters to which the three rows of pearls are attached.
The actual stringing of the pearls, of Arab origin, was done with bronze threads. The Syrian-style pearl necklace design is the oldest of its kind in the world and is on display in the Persian Gallery of the Louvre Museum in Paris.