PEARL: June Birthstone
"All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster's autobiography."
History of Pearls
The pearl is the traditional birthstone for the month of June. The pearl is not only the birthstone for June but it is the gem given as a gift on the third and thirtieth anniversaries.
Pearls have been long known as the "Queen of Gems". They have been treasured for thousands of years and have been considered a symbol of status and wealth. Many royals throughout history have worn pearls in their jewelry. A natural pearl necklace was a treasure of almost incomparable value and in fact the most expensive jewelry in the world. Now we see pearls almost as accessories, relatively inexpensive decorations to accompany more costly gemstones.
Pearls are the only gemstone that is actually made by a living creature. Most are found inside oysters, but very rarely are they found in clams. A few years ago in 2016, the world's largest pearl was discovered in the Philippines. And to make it even rarer, this 2 foot long pearl was found in a clam! This incredible pearl weighs 75 pounds and its estimated value is around $100 million.
Natural Pearl vs. Cultured Pearl
There are two main classifications of pearls: Natural Pearl and Cultured Pearl.
A Natural Pearl is formed when an irritant penetrates and lodges in the mantle tissue of a mollusk. To protect itself, the invertebrate begins to coat the trapped substance with nacre. Nacre is what gives pearls their magical, iridescent glow. Over time, as more layers of nacre are applied, a pearl begins to form. Natural pearls are found in about one of every 10,000 mollusks. A Cultured Pearl results from the process by which a pearl farmer induces pearl formation by physically planting an irritant into the mollusk. From there, the farmers carefully monitor the water to make sure that the conditions are perfect for the mollusk to form a pearl. Bottom line, naturals pearls are produced naturally, without any human interference, while cultured pearls are tended to by people.
Kokichi Mikimoto, the son of a Japanese noodle maker, created the world's first cultured pearl in 1893. The introduction of cultured pearls turned the whole pearl industry upside down and caused the value of natural pearls to plummet. Before the creation of cultured pearls though, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved almost exclusively for the noble and very rich.
TYPES OF PEARLS
Any type of mollusk can grow a pearl so there are a lot of different kinds of pearls. These are the 4 main types of pearls:
- South Sea Pearls are primarily grown in Australia, Philippines and Indonesia. They range in color from white to gold. White South Sea Pearls are treasured for their size and satin luster, while Golden South Sea Pearls are among the rarest and most valuable pearls in the world. South Sea pearls are the largest saltwater pearls grown today.
- Tahitian Pearls are grown in French Polynesia and are the only pearls in the world that are naturally black. Their color ranges from light, creamy white and grey, to greens, iridescent peacock and deep black.
- Freshwater Pearls are best known for their wide range of colors, shapes, sizes and their affordable prices. They come from lakes or ponds, as opposed to saltwater from the sea.
- Akoya Pearls are the classic pearl of choice. For nearly 100 years, akoya pearls have been grown off the coast of Japan and are treasured for their perfect shape and reflective shine.
Determining the Quality of a Pearl
The qualities that determine the value of a natural or cultured pearl or a piece of pearl jewelry are luster, nacre thickness, shape, surface quality, color and size. If the jewelry has two or more pearls, you will want to take matching into consideration.
- LUSTER. Of the seven pearl value factors, is the most important. Luster is what gives a natural or cultured pearl its unique beauty. Pearls with high luster have sharp bright reflections on the surface and are more valuable, if all the other value factors are equal.
- NACRE THICKNESS. Luster and nacre quality are closely related. Nacre thickness is evaluated to make sure that pearls are durable as well as beautiful. Generally, the thicker the nacre, the more valuable the pearl. Thick nacre not only looks better than thin, it also is much more durable.
- SHAPE. Round is the rarest cultured pearl shape because it is the most difficult to culture. This makes it the most valuable. Oval, pear or baroque (irregularly shaped) cultured pearls are also sought after.
- SURFACE QUALITY. Like colored stones, most pearls are not perfect. Some might show scratches on the surface, a flattened section or a ridge that looks like a crease. The number of blemishes on a pearl's surface is evaluated to judge quality. Pearl is ranked 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which means it is very soft and easily scratched.
- COLOR. Pearls have a wide range of tone from light to dark. Pearl colors tend to be muted, with a soft, subtle quality. Although white is most classic, appreciation has grown for more unusual natural colors. The pearl's color can have three components; body color, overtone and orient.
- Body color is the pearl’s overall color.
- Overtone is one or more translucent colors that are on a pearl’s body color.
- Orient is a shimmer of iridescent colors on or below a pearl’s surface. All pearls show body color, but only some show overtone, orient, or both.
- SIZE. The size of a pearl is measured across its diameter. It ranges from 1.8mm to 6mm in Natural pearls and from 3mm up to the very rare 18mm in Cultured pearls. When other value factors are equal, larger pearls are rarer and more valuable than smaller pearls of the same type.
- MATCHING. For pearl strands and multi-pearl pieces, how well the pearls match (or mix) affects the value. Jewelry designers sometimes mix colors, shapes, and sizes for unique effects.
A pearl necklace is such a classic piece of jewelry that it works for almost any occasion. Pearl necklaces be classified as uniform (where all of the pearls are about the same size) or graduated (where the pearls change uniformly from ends to center).
When shopping for pearls, there are various lengths available:
- Collar fits directly against the throat
- Choker rests at the base of the neck
- Princess reaches near the collarbone
- Matinee length is usually 20-24 inches
- Opera length is 30-36 inches
- Rope is the longest length and refers to all strands longer than 36 inches
Pearl Jewelry in Boca Raton
Looking for a beautiful strand of pearls or pearl jewelry for a loved one? Come check out the selection of pearls that are available in our jewelry store at Devon's Diamonds & Decor. 502 Via de Palmas in Boca Raton, Florida.