Pearls of Wisdom

June, The Month of Pearls

 

Throughout history, pearls have been well-loved, well-worn, and extremely sought after. During the 1900s, pearls had its ups and downs when it came to fashion. From the single strand of pearls that adorned the neck of Coco Chanel with her Little Black Dress in the 1920s, to being the ‘cheaper option’ during the 1930s and 1940s after the Great Depression, to taking a backseat in the 1970s when sustainable jewellery and the use of diamonds and gold became popular, to making a comeback à la Princess Diana with her use of pearls in her crown, to being a fashion-forward choice today – whether it be classy and understated, or bold and colourful.

Let’s learn more about this timeless gemstone.

 

Pearls as Gemstones

Pearls are classified as organic gemstones. What makes them different to the gemstones that we are more familiar with, is that they are the only gemstone to come from a living animal. Pearls are also the oldest gemstones as they date back to over 7,500 years – think stone age! Unlike other gemstones, pearls do not require any polishing or cutting before use, and are beautiful enough to just be used in their natural form.

 

The Birth of the Pearl

Iridescent pearls, which are the most desirable, are produced by either a family of clams that live in the sea, the pearl oysters, or in freshwater, the river mussels. Saltwater pearls can grow in several species of marine pearl oysters, whereas freshwater pearls grow only within certain species of freshwater mussels. Those specific species of freshwater mussels, Unionidae and Margaritiferidae, are able to make pearls due to their thick iridescent inner shell layer composed of nacre, or “mother of pearl”. The same way that the pearly inner layer of a shell of a clam is created, is how true pearls are made.

Unfortunately, many hundreds of pearl oysters and mussels used to be killed in order to find one pearl, since they are to be gathered and opened to find pearls. This is why pearls were so extraordinarily priced in the past, because this was the only way to harvest them. Now, however, almost all pearls for sale are formed via human pearl farmers and with expert intervention.

 

Colour of Pearls

Even though pearls come in a wide array of colours, such as pink, blue, black, bronze, green and gold, to name a few, the most common colour is white. The most sought after iridescent quality, known as orient, is caused by the pearl’s structure – the secretions of calcite are so small that light waves reflect off the pearl and give it its aura effect.

The mother shell usually determines the colouring of freshwater pearls, but other factors also play a role, such as species, water quality, genetics, and the position of the pearl within the shell.

 

Places for Pearls

China is the hub for most freshwater pearls available on the market today, whereafter a smaller percentage are grown in Japan, Australia, India and the US. These pearls have more irregular shapes than saltwater pearls do, such as oval, baroque and semi-baroque. They are also much more affordable as they are not as lustrous as its saltwater counterpart.

Saltwater pearls are known to have a better quality than freshwater pearls, and it definitely reflects in its demand and price. One of the most common varieties are Akoya pearls, which hail from the seas around Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam and are formed by Akoya pearl oysters that give them a perfect spherical shape and high lustre. These pearls are the most abundant saltwater pearls.

Another common variety, South Sea Pearls, are probably the most sought-after and are cultivated in Australia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia. They are formed by the largest pearl oysters in the world, Pinctada maxima oysters, which have a high failure rate in the cultivation process; thus, finding a perfect pearl in one of these is rare, making them the most valuable on the market. Also, they are usually irregular in shape, which makes spherical pearls extremely highly priced.

 

In all its elegance and timelessness, the pearl remains one of the most sought-after gems in all decades, no matter what your style. As the birthstone of June, one cannot go wrong with this lustrous gem as a gift for a loved one. Visit our website and social media (@stonz.diamonds) to see what we have to offer as the perfect gift.

 

Sources:

AJS Gems. 2022. Pearl Information. AJS Gems. [Online]. Available at: https://www.ajsgem.com/gemstone-information/pearl-109.html [Accessed 21 June 2022].

Pearlwise. 2019. 21 Little-known facts about pearls. Pearlwise. [Online]. Available at: https://pearlwise.pro/21-little-known-facts-about-pearls-that-prove-pearls-are-the-most-unique-and-interesting-gemstone/ [Accessed 21 June 2022].

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