The Aphrodite Pin is the oldest cultural object discovered incorporating natural pearls.
The Aphrodite Pin dates back to 300 BC. It was discovered by archaeologists in the central chamber of the Sanctuary of Aphrodite in Paphos, located on the Southwestern coast of Cyprus. It is believed that the wife of a member of the Ptolemaic Court dedicated the pin to Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, beauty and desire. An inscription on the pin reads 'To the Paphian Aphrodite Eubola vowed this the wife of Aratas the kinsman Tamisa.'
The pin is a gold-plated bronze pin, measuring 17.8 centimeters in length, and weighs 538 grams. The pin is comprised of a large, white baroque pearl surmounted by a much smaller white, and also baroque pearl, with a gold knob on top. Both pearls are saltwater; although, originate from different sources. The pearls are most likely from the Persian Gulf, Red Sea or Gulf of Manner, the center of international pearl trade in ancient times.
The head of the pin represents four goats' heads separated by lotus flowers, rising from acanthus foliage. Above the goat's heads are four doves with outspread wings, leaning forward to drink from the cup of a lotus flower. Pearls and doves are common symbols associated with Aphrodite.
The Aphrodite Pin is historically significant as it is proof of Aphrodite worship in Greece and Cyprus. This pin is the first 'cultural object' known containing pearls.
The Aphrodite Pin is currently in the British Museum, gifted to the museum by the Cypress Exploration Fund after the pin's discovery. For a brief period of time in 2001, the pin was on loan to the American Museum of Natural History in New York City for the 'Pearls: A Natural History' exhibit.