Most people are very familiar with the pearl as one the birthstones for June (Alexandrite and Moonstone are the other two June gemstones). Pearl, with its variety of colors and shapes, is an organic gem loved and treasured for centuries. It is said that the Romans built armies from the sale of a single pearl, while poems abound about its transcendent beauty.
The pearl was selected as a birthstone for June by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. Not only can you select your favorite pearl as a birthstone, you can also receive a pearl for your 3rd, 12th and 30th wedding anniversaries. The allure of pearls is far reaching…
Pearl is considered to be organic since it is formed inside mollusks such as oysters and the mussel. An irritant, perhaps a bit of sand or a stone, can get inside the shell. Nacre is then secreted around this irritant creating a lustrous substance. Layers upon layers overlap to create an iridescent luster. A pearl can take up to 8 years to be created.
Principal oyster beds are located in The Persian Gulf, the Indian Ocean primarily along the coasts of Sri Lanka and India, as well as the Red Sea. Japanese pearls are found near the coast in salt water. Polynesia’s coasts and Australia produce cultured pearls.
Types of pearls are extensive ranging from the natural to cultured (when the irritant is placed by man inside the living oyster), to baroque, Biwa, blister, black, Freshwater pearls, seed and mabe pearls. China and Japan cultivate freshwater and cultured pearls. Freshwater pearls also occur in the rivers of Germany, Austria, Scotland, Ireland, France and the USA (Mississippi). Colors range from white and creams to pinks and iridescent black.
South Sea pearls are recognized as a most collectible pearl. The Swan Lake Suite of South Sea pearls (a necklace and earrings with diamonds) was purchased by an English couple. Princess Diana had worn the necklace to the royal gala performance of the ballet Swan Lake in June 1997 at the Royal Albert Hall. Created by Girrards, the necklace boasted 5 of Princess Diana’s’ favorite gems–the South Sea pearl. She later returned the necklace to the jeweler while a pair of matching earrings was created. Her untimely death prevented the final suite from being purchased. The English couple later put the completed Swan Lake Suite up for auction, donating a significant portion of the sale to the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.
Pearls have been represented in famous paintings, sewn into royal clothing, given as meaningful gifts. The ancient Greeks believed pearls to be the tear drops of the Gods.
Johannes Vermeer’s’ painting “Girl With a Pearl Earring” captures not only the fragile innocence of a young woman but also highlights a single Pearl earring with its hypnotic luster… a focal point of the painting.
In the 17th Century pearls were a status symbol and many became famous pearls of history. The La Peregrina Pearl (see our blog story titled “The Price of Provenance”) once belonged to Spanish Royalty as well as Elizabeth Taylor.
Famous poets from Persia and Shelley have written of their dazzling beauty. Thomas Moore writes “And precious the tear as that rain from the sky, Which turns into pearls as it falls in the sea”.
Fine pearls are indeed one of the greatest lasting treasures of this earth. Their fragile beauty and elegance somehow enhance our experience to more than that of ownership.