Pearls have long been one of nature's riches, cherished by kings, queens and movie stars, but a new exhibition in London opening on Saturday suggests their origins are far less glamorous.
The show at London's Victoria and Albert (V&A) museum debunks the myths that pearls develop from sand inside a shelled mollusc, revealing instead that they are formed around the larvae of a tapeworm excreted by another animal.
Marilyn Monroe's necklace and more than 200 other pieces of jewellery and works of art on show at the V&A do reveal the ancient and near universal love of the beads, which continues today.
"We are telling the history of pearls through history," Beatriz Chadour-Sampson, a jewellery historian and co-curator of the show, told AFP.
"In Roman times, pearls were mainly a sign of luxury and power, authority and rank.
Pearls have long been surrounded in mythology, representing sadness, sorrow but also happiness, she explained.AFP