by John Brana June 01, 2010 4 Comments
June’s birthstone, the pearl, has been a favorite gemstone since the days of the Roman Empire. They are the only gemstone created by a living creature and the only one that needs no cutting or polishing to enhance its value.
Pearls are formed when an irritant enters the shell of a mollusk. The mollusk coats the irritant with a substance known as ‘nacre’, and a natural pearl is formed. Since naturally forming saltwater pearls are so rare these days natural pearls have largely complemented by cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are pearls that are formed due to a small bead or other substance placed inside of a mollusk by commercial pearl farms, which originated in Japan in the early 1900s. Today, most cultured pearls are grown and harvested around the world although most come from China, Japan, and the South Pacific. Even though natural pearls are the most highly prized, the only way to determine whether a pearl is natural or cultured is to have it x-rayed by a jeweler.
Pearls are graded by color, luster, size and lack of flaws. Pearls that are perfectly round are quite rare, and of course, the larger the pearl, the more valuable. However, pearls of varying shapes are also highly prized. Baroque pearls are pearls that are irregularly shaped. Teardrop pearls are most often used in earrings and pendants. Coin or button pearls and smaller rice or keishi pearls are also popular choices for fashion jewelry.
While white is still the most popular color, cultured pearls are available in several other hues, such as pink, purple, blue, champagne, green and black, with black pearls rapidly gaining in popularity. As these colors are naturally occurring, it can be difficult to obtain enough of the same size and color to form one jewelry piece. White pearls are sometimes bleached and pearls may be dyed to produce new colors or to enhance their original color and luster.
Imitation pearls made from shell or glass are popular due to their affordability and similarity to natural or cultured pearls but they are lighter in weight and not as lustrous as natural or cultured pearls. Pearl wearers should take special care with their jewelry as natural and cultured pearls can be discolored by dyes and solvents. Hairspray and perfumes should be applied before putting on pearl jewelry to avoid dulling the pearl's creamy, lustrous surface. By taking special care of your pearl jewelry, you will ensure a lifetime wear of June's Birthstone - the Pearl.
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