Well, since I all unwittingly started this feature last week, the first Saturday in June, with one of June's birthstone, it only seems fitting to continue in that vein. So for your reading pleasure - ok, for your knowledge widening pleasure - I present Pearl.
Pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June as adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It is also the birthstone for the Sun Signs of Gemini and Cancer. Fresh water pearls are given on the 1st wedding anniversary. Pearls are also given on the 3rd, 12th and 30th anniversaries. Since times immemorial, pearls have adorned women, especially those from the higher echelons of society. A pearl is a heavenly work of art which, when used with a grouping of platinum, gold and silver jewelry signifies a revered level of beauty and art. The impact of pearls on the people can be fathomed from the fact that the very word has been inscribed in the English vocabulary indelibly.
A pearl is a hard, roundish object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of mollusks, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes of pearls (baroque pearls) occur. Pearls are very alluring and hold a quality that both defines elegance and natural beauty. There are more varieties and availability of pearls today than ever before. Today most pearls are cultured, meaning that the mollusk is purposely inserted with an irritant or "nucleus" from which it creates a pearl. The "cultured pearl" now rivals with fine diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies.
A true pearl is formed when an irritant such as a tiny stone or bit of sand gets inside the mollusk's shell. A lustrous 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 a characteristic iridescent luster. This process of building a solid pearl can take up to seven or eight years. A "natural pearl" is one that formed without any human intervention at all, in the wild, and is very rare. A "cultured pearl", on the other hand, is one that has been formed on a pearl farm. The great majority of pearls on the market are cultured pearls. An organic gem, pearls are formed inside mollusks such as oysters and mussels.
Almost any shelled mollusk can, by natural processes, produce some kind of "pearl". True iridescent pearls, the most desirable pearls, are produced by two groups of molluscan, bivalves or clams. Fine gem-quality saltwater and freshwater pearls can and do sometimes occur completely naturally, but this is rare. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or pearl mussels have to be gathered and opened, and thus killed, in order to find even one pearl, and for many centuries that was the only way pearls were obtained. This was the main reason why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past. In modern times however, almost all the pearls for sale were formed with a good deal of expert intervention from human pearl farmers. Technology has enabled pearl companies to offer matchless pearls and some of the exclusive ones offered by them are:
- The freshwater pearls with their brilliant shape and luster.
- The high quality flower pearls also known as Hanadama.
- The very exquisite Conch pearl.
- Black Tahiti pearls, also known as, Black pearls. Careful examination and selection hinders mass production of this pearl. Rare and mysterious is used when describing black pearls.
- Keshi pearls, also described as accidental pearls, found around the Philippines, Australia, French Polynesia, Japan and Indonesia.
The color of pearls varies with the mollusk and its environment. It ranges from black to white, with the rose of Indian pearls esteemed most. Other colors are cream, gray, blue, yellow, lavender, green, and mauve. All occur in delicate shades. Cultured pearls are being produced in virtually every color of the rainbow. Darker toned pearls are more desirable and expensive compared to lighter toned pearls. Many natural body colors are available in pearls including white, black, gray, blue, gold, pink, and green. Distinctive colored pearls are rarer and harder to find.
There are three pearl shapes including symmetrical, spherical, and baroque. The spherical is the rarest and most desirable. Symmetrical pearls include teardrop or pear-shaped pearls and are desirable but usually less expensive than spherical pearls. Baroque pearls are irregularly shaped and often the least expensive.
There are many types of pearls:
- natural pearls (made without human interference)
- cultured pearls (made when a foreign substance is intentionally inserted into a living oyster. This method was first used in 1893)
- baroque pearls (pearls that have irregular shapes)
- Biwa pearls (an irregular shaped pearl which forms in the freshwater of Lake Biwa, Japan)
- blister pearls (pearls which grow attached to the inside of the shell)
- black pearls (gray to black pearls)
- freshwater pearls (pearls which form in fresh water mollusks and resemble puffed rice
- Mabe pearls (cultivated blister pearls )
- seed pearls (small, tiny pearls used in Victorian jewelry and sewn on clothing)
The finest Oriental pearls are found in the Persian Gulf. Other notable sources of fine-quality pearls include the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka, the waters off Celebes, Indonesia, and the islands of the South Pacific. In the Americas, the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico, and the waters of the Pacific coast of Mexico have yielded dark-hued pearls with a metallic sheen as well as white pearls of good quality. Freshwater mussels in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere have produced pearls of great value, as for example those from the Mississippi River. Pearling is a carefully fostered industry in central Europe, and the forest streams of Bavaria, in particular, are the source of choice pearls. Northern Australia established its first cultured pearl farms in the 1960s, that by the mid-1970s were an established industry, producing pearl shell as well as pearls. Japan and Australia are the largest producers of cultured pearls, though Fiji also produces some.
Freshwater pearling in China has been known from before 1000 BC. The discovery that pearls could be cultivated in freshwater mussels is said to have been made in 13th-century China, and the Chinese have been adept for hundreds of years at cultivating pearls by opening the mussel's shell and inserting into it small pellets of mud or tiny bosses of wood, bone, or metal and returning the mussel to its bed for about three years to await the maturation of a pearl formation. Cultured pearls of China have been almost exclusively blister pearls. The production of whole cultured pearls was perfected by the Japanese. The research that led to the establishment of the industry was started in the 1890s by Mikimoto Kokichi, who, after long experimentation, concluded that a very small mother-of-pearl bead introduced into the mollusk's tissue was the most successful stimulant to pearl production. Cultured pearls closely approximate natural pearls.
The finest quality pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries, and the word pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, and admirable. Any jewelry instantaneously lends an appearance of class to a woman and her attire. However, pearls are a class apart. They possess a royal air to them. It is a magical piece of jewelry, as it is, a product of nature's bountiful ways. Pearls have a very royal beauty to them. By simply wearing a pearl jewelry, a woman looks elegant and magnificent. Earlier, only the rich people could afford to own them. Thanks to the modern pearl culturing technique pioneered by the Japanese and furthered by the Chinese, pearls have now become quite affordable even to the common people. Pearls have been harvested, or more recently cultivated, primarily for use in jewelry, but in the past they were also stitched onto lavish clothing, as worn, for example, by royalty. Pearls have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, or in paint formulations.
Pearls have been used to treat disorders of the digestive tract and muscular systems, as well as to aid fertility and to ease childbirth. The stone redresses gastric disorders, asthma, cough, eye trouble, breathing trouble and also lung disorders.
Since the earliest civilizations, people have believed that a pearl's magical qualities did not end with its creation. Early Chinese myths told of pearls falling from the sky when dragons fought. Ancient Romans considered themselves to be on the good graces of their Goddess Isis, if they received a gift of pearls. Ancient legend says that pearls were thought to be the tears of the gods and the Greeks believed that wearing pearls would promote marital bliss and prevent newlywed women from crying.
Cultured or freshwater pearls are considered to offer the power of love, money, protection, and luck. Pearls are thought to give wisdom through experience, to quicken the laws of karma and to cement engagements and love relationships. They are thought to keep children safe.
Historically symbolic of purity, innocence and faith, pearls enhance personal integrity and help clear the mind so that it can be a clean channel for wisdom and spiritual guidance. These Moon and water ruled “gems” enhance sincerity, truth and loyalty and bring calming reflection. Pearls attune the wearer to ebb and flow of life. They are calming and centering. They give purity and promote faith, charity, and integrity, truth and loyalty. They especially enhance personal integrity. They help one connect with the Goddess, the ultimate feminine energy.
Pearl is the mother stone, fostering motherly love, and is also a protective stone. It inspires purity, innocence, serenity, tranquility, focus and helps us get in touch with the simple honest things of life. Pearls are said to redress mental disturbance, endow maternal bliss, grant success in education, and also give access to property and vehicles. Pearls ensure good health and longevity and are said to attract fame and wealth. They are said to help tackle the evil eye and may abridge differences between quarreling spouses.
The magical properties of the pearl bring the wonderful gifts of peace of mind, focus, wisdom, patience, protection and love. And these are all properties that are important to the pearl's finest magic - fertility! Legend has it that pearls are so closely related to fertility because of the time and patience that it takes for one oyster to produce just one pearl, much like the time and patience it takes to create one beautiful baby.
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