View Full Version : Using pearls as a currency...

08-09-2008, 03:24 PM
Is it possible? The setting is a fantasy coastal civilization where there are little to no metals and the civilization is not too advanced (something along the Grecoroman era) have there been a history using pearls for trade currency before?

Ageless Stranger
08-09-2008, 04:35 PM
It's done by a country in my fantasy WIP so sure.

Anything I think is okay, automcatically becomes so. :D

08-09-2008, 05:20 PM
Some of the early English and Spanish explorers of the American coast aquired large treasure troves of pearls from the natives. Apparently they were a trade object collected by the natives (not exaclty the same as a currency). Upon returning to Europe with the pearls, the explorers were dissapointed to find that they were considered worthless there because they had been cooked in the oyster rather than harvested prior to cooking.

08-09-2008, 05:57 PM
The only difficulty inherent in using pearls for currency is their relative fragility compared to metals, carved stone, etc. They can be easily scratched, chipped, or broken in half, and it's not all that hard to crush them. Your characters will have to handle their pearls with caution.

Assuming they retain no decorative value and are just money, the scratches won't matter, so a small bag or pouch holding multiple pearls would be safe enough. But a pearl tossed to someone as payment and not caught could break if it lands on a hard surface.

Maryn, dimly remembering societies which used shells as money

08-09-2008, 06:09 PM
Maryn, dimly remembering societies which used shells as money


08-09-2008, 06:35 PM
Anything that is 'rare' and aestheticaly attractive has value. Even more so if it is also 'useful'. SO yes, if peope like pearls, or shells, or a rock (flint), ore (gold), or particular fruit - and it is rare or difficult to acquire - no reason not to trade, barter or use it for currency.

08-09-2008, 06:39 PM
Black pearls are the rarest and would be valued at much more. Freshwater pearls are irregular and likely would be valued less. Pearl farming has been done for centuries with the canny setting in a tiny icon or cross then they harvest the oyster and sell the 'miracle' pearl at highly inflated rates to the ignorant and gullible.

08-09-2008, 07:46 PM
John Steinbeck's the Pearl used pearls as part of currency.

08-11-2008, 05:12 AM

There was also wampum, a sort of currency made from purple and white clamshells. I don't see a problem with a society using pearls for money.

Kathie Freeman
08-11-2008, 07:41 PM
Currency is anything that a group of people agree on. In any given culture it can be anything from huge stones that are never moved to animal skins to pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents. Pearls have been used as currency in a number of cultures, past and present.