A range of commodities were imported via the Indian Ocean into the Mediterranean world from the end of the first millennium bce into the early centuries of the first millennium ce. One of the most popular of these was the pearl. Here Schneider investigates the locations from which they were acquired, patterns of demand and supply, and how pearls were used as part of visible expressions of social status within Roman society. It is argued that pearls were not merely ‘luxuries’, exclusively confined to elite markets. Instead they were widely popular, with demand for pearls of varying qualities spreading down the social scale, such that it is possible to speak of them as a ‘semi-luxury’.