Stone Of The Month - June - Pearl
As we welcome in the summer months, we also say hello to our next stone of the month, the fabulous pearl.
Pearls have had their place in fine jewellery for over 2500 years. Often called the "queen of gems", the pearl is quite possibly the most important of all organic gem materials. Rather than being produced within a rock, pearls are created in an oyster when a foreign object is introduced. This could be a piece of dirt, or a rogue stone, and in order to protect itself, the oyster sprays nacre over the object as a defensive mechanism, which then builds up layers, eventually creating the pearl. This process happens both naturally and with human intervention. Most pearls you will see will indeed be those that were created by human intervention, which are called cultured pearls. Whilst the cultured pearl itself is obviously created out of the same natural substance by the oyster, its value is far less than natural formed pearls. Ironic then, that in most cases it is the cultured pearl, which is far more desirable, as they will almost always be of a perfect round shape, due to the nature of a perfect round shape being introduced into the pearl. Natural pearls normally consist of all sorts of shapes featuring bumps and curves, and so are viewed as less attractive when worn as a pearl necklace, than those that are all perfect symmetrical balls, despite the fact that the natural pearls are worth an eye watering amount more.
As pearls have been used within jewellery for an incredibly long time, imitations and fakes have also been created for centuries, far longer than imitations have been around for other stones. These fake pearls are predominantly made from glass and are quite clear to detect as such. What is harder to detect is the difference between a natural and cultured pearl. The proper way of doing so would be to use a professional laboratory, who can then use techniques such as X-rays. However, as you might have guessed, most jewellers do not have access to a laboratory, and so a simple rub over a tooth can often determine the pearls authenticity.
Pearls are traditionally thought of to represent innocence and purity, but they are actually perhaps one of the more sensual of stones due to their aphrodisiac properties. All sorts of cultures across the world and over the years have used pearls, and so the meanings of them change heavily according to what part of the world you are in. Pearl use can be dated back to 13th century China, where small figures of Buddha were placed inside oysters. The Japanese cultured pearl industry has played a huge part in history in the usage of pearls, and so most of the perfectly spherical cultured pearls we see today are produced by the Japanese Akoya oyster.
Much like diamonds, pearls and their creation are a very interesting topic, and carry a lot of historical weight which i simply cannot and should not write about in this blog. I haven't even covered the difference between freshwater and south sea pearls, and i do not plan to right now. However, despite the fact that pearls in the context of jewellery have certainly become a lot less popular and desirable in the modern age, it is hard to deny their somewhat dated beauty.