A pearl earring from Ancient Rome. The rise of the Silk Road in the 300s BC encouraged rulers to send thousands of poor divers down to the bottom of the ocean to find pearls to sell. Kings in Sri Lanka (an island south-east of India) got rich selling pearls. Rich people wore pearls in China and Japan, in the Persian Empire, in Ptolemaic Egypt (Cleopatra wore them), and the Roman Empire. Pearls were so expensive that Roman glass workers made fake pearls out of glass-coated silver. About 500 AD, Chinese manufacturers started to put tiny Buddhas inside freshwater mussel shells so they would get coated with pearl, too.
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