Pearls are simply and purely organic. This enchanting June birthstone originates from oceans, lakes and rivers around the world. They are the only gems found within living creatures. However, most pearls on the market today are cultivated or cultured, since they now occur extremely rarely in nature. While pearls require special care, they have an enduring appeal for jewelry, particularly as the traditional June birthstone symbolized in Europe, modesty, chastity, and purity. Expressing "sweet simplicity" pearls were traditionally given as a wedding gift, religious event like communion or baptism.
𝑩𝒆𝒍𝒊𝒆𝒇 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝑴𝒚𝒕𝒉𝒔
The pearl birthstone was also thought to have beneficial properties. In the ancient Sanskrit text the Atharvaveda, pearls were said to bestow long life and prosperity. In Asia, pearls were believed to help alleviate indigestion and hemorrhages. Some 19th century Arab physicians maintained that pearl powder improved eyesight, quieted nervous tremors and eased depression. Some Culture associate pearls with the divine, believing that pearls were tears shed from heaven, while others placed pearls in the graves of their loved ones. Ancient Chinese lore claims that pearls represent wisdom and power and are carried by dragons. Pearls have long been associated with purity, humility and innocence.
Baroque pearl forms the body of a Triton in this jewel. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
𝑾𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒆 𝒕𝒐 𝒇𝒊𝒏𝒅 𝒑𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒍𝒔?
Saltwater cultured pearls are grown in many areas around the world. Akoya cultured pearl farms are primarily found in Japan and China, especially along the southern coasts of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. South Sea cultured pearls are farmed from the northern coast of Australia through Indonesia to the southern coast of Southeast Asia, with large operations in the Philippines as well. The Gambier Islands and the Tuamotu Archipelago, both part of French Polynesia, are two locales where the rich black Tahitian pearls are cultured.
China is the dominant source of freshwater cultured pearls. Natural pearls have been found in the Arabian Gulf (Persian Gulf) for at least 5,000 years.
𝑷𝒆𝒂𝒓𝒍 𝒕𝒂𝒌𝒊𝒏𝒈 𝒄𝒂𝒓𝒆
Pearls are 2.5 to 3.0 on the Mohs Scale of hardness, so they are a comparatively soft gem and require special care. Store them separately from other gemstones and metal jewelry to prevent scratching. Never store your pearl birthstones in a plastic bag — plastic can emit a chemical that will damage their surface. Always apply perfume, hair products and cosmetics before putting on your pearl jewelry. The best way to clean your June birthstone: Use a soft, damp cloth, ideally after each time the pearls are worn.
Cartier set Elizabeth Taylor’s historic 50.56 ct La Peregrina pearl as part of the pendant to this two-strand pearl, ruby and diamond necklace. Courtesy: Christie's