Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design


Historic Costume and Textiles, Textile Conservation, and Cultural Analysis


Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design

First Advisor

Jessica Strübel


Pearls have been treasured as rare and valuable objects for thousands of years and across many different cultures. Due to their inherently rare and expensive nature, however, a demand for cheaper and more accessible substitutes was created. While imitation pearls have existed for thousands of years, a lack of surviving examples, photographs, or other visual evidence means that it is unknown what early imitation pearls would have looked like. The purpose of this research was to examine the development of artificial pearls throughout history, using a mixed methods experimental design. By examining various historic methods for producing imitation pearls, this will allow for a better understanding of forces driving the continued development and refinement of these production methods. Various historic methods for preparing imitation pearls were examined, and a total of four recipes spanning from the 3rd/4th to the 20th century were selected for replication.

The four selected recipes had varying degrees of success, with regards to their imitative properties. A recipe written by Leonardo da Vinci c. 1480 served to create the most successful imitation with regards to color and pearlescence, while the other three recipes created pearls which featured pearlescent qualities but were the wrong color, or vice versa. Various factors playing into the success or failure of each recipe are discussed. Some of these factors may include a lack of clarity in the original recipe, deviations made throughout the experimental process, or researcher error. Research implications are discussed, including potential applications in sustainability.

Available for download on Thursday, May 08, 2025