~ JUNE ~
Pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June and is also the birthstone for the Sun Signs of Gemini and Cancer. Fresh water pearls are given on the 1st, 3rd, 12th and 30th wedding anniversaries.
An organic gem, pearls are formed inside mollusks such as oysters and mussels. They are formed when an irritant such as a tiny stone or bit of sand gets inside the mollusk’s shell. A shiny substance, called nacre, is secreted around the object to protect the soft internal surface of the mollusk. As layer upon layer of nacre coats the irritant, a pearl is formed. Light that is reflected from these overlapping layers produces an iridescent luster. This process of building a solid pearl can take up to seven or eight years. The most valuable pearls are perfectly symmetrical, relatively large, are naturally produced and have a high degree of iridescence.
Pearls are found in many parts of the world. They are usually white, but may also be black, gray, silver, cream, lavender, peach or pink depending on the type of mollusk and the water it lives in. The main oyster beds are in the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of India and Sri Lanka, and in the Red Sea. Japanese pearls are found near the coast in salt water, and Chinese pearls come mainly from freshwater rivers and ponds. Freshwater pearls also occur in the rivers of Scotland, Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, and the USA (Mississippi). The water off the coasts of Polynesia and Australia are renowned for both natural and cultured black pearls- south sea pearls and produce mainly cultured pearls.
There are many types of pearls:
- Natural pearls – made without human interference
- Cultured pearls – This method was first used in 1893. A foreign substance, often a small piece of shell, is intentionally inserted into a living oyster.
- Keishi pearls – formed when the oyster rejects the inserted substance. The resulting pearl is 100% nacre. This gives it an especially lustrous and shimmering surface quality.
- Baroque pearls – pearls that have irregular shapes
- Biwa pearls – an irregular shaped pearl which forms in the freshwater of Lake Biwa, Japan
- Freshwater pearls – pearls which form in fresh water mollusks and resemble puffed rice
- Blister pearls – pearls which grow attached to the inside of the shell
- Mabe pearls – cultivated blister pearls
- Seed pearls – small, tiny pearls used in Victorian jewelry and sewn on clothing, often wedding gowns
The most prized pearls are natural in color, however, dyed pearls are a new industry trend. These vibrant shades in a rainbow of colors allow designers greater versatility and are used primarily in fashion jewelry.
Whether pearls are natural or cultured, freshwater or salt water, dyed or undyed, care should always be taken when wearing and storing. Their nacre is organic, thus very sensitive to heat, cosmetics, hair products and humidity.
Pearls were once thought to be the tears of God. The ancient Greeks believed that wearing pearls ensured a happy marriage. Pearl is often referred to as the “Queen Gem”; Diamond is referred to as the King Gem. Cleopatra was said to have dissolved a pearl in wine and swallowed it to seduce Mark Anthony because it was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac, and to attract love. They were prized by royalty, both male and female, and were even worn by knights who went into battle in the Middle Ages, believing that pearls would protect them from harm. As an emblem of modesty, chastity and purity, the Pearl symbolizes love, success, and happiness. In many countries they are used as a wedding gift and still symbolize a happy marriage.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Pearl of Allah, the largest pearl on record, was recovered from a giant clam on May 7, 1934, off the coast of Palawan Island, Philippines. The pearl is 9.4 inches long and weighs about 14 lbs. According to the “Guinness Book of Records,” the San Francisco Gem Laboratory has valued the pearl at $40 million. The Muslim diver who found the pearl said its surface bore the image of a turbaned face, and he named it the Pearl of Allah.
Victor Barbish, who owns 66 percent of the pearl on behalf of his daughter, told WorldNetDaily he received an offer in 1999 from individuals who said they represented Osama bin Laden. They tried to purchase the pearl for $60 million as gift to Saddam Hussein “to unite the Arab cultures,” and Hussein was prepared to accept, according to the pearl’s owner.
Article written by Jill Quisenberry of jQ Jewelry Designs. Jill specializes in unique handmade jewelry designed with meticulous attention to detail using only high quality sterling silver, gemstones and of course, pearls.