As we approach the month of June, let’s welcome the next monthly birthstone: Pearl. Pearls are rare and classic gemstones, loved by royalty and religion. Pearls are loved in jewellery, rivalling the beauty and popularity of diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Here’s everything to know about pearls, fun facts and our top picks for pearl jewellery.
What is pearl?
Pearls are one of the rarest gemstones, due to their production and where they are found. Pearls are hard, glistening objects that are made within the soft tissue of a shelled mollusk, like an oyster or a mussel. They are made when a irritant like a stone or sand gets inside the mollusk’s shell. This causes the mollusk to produce a substance known as nacre, that wraps around the object to protect the internal surface of the mollusk. Multiple nacre layers coat the object and this forms a pearl. These pearls are referred to as wild or natural pearls and they are normally smooth and perfectly round.
Other than natural pearls, there are many other types of pearls in existence. Cultured pearls or farmed pearls are made by pearl oysters and mussels with human intervention. Imitation pearls are commonly known as fake pearls, which are used in some jewellery. Blister pearls are made by the mollusk but end up stuck to the inside of the shell, giving it an odd shape. The most popular pearls are baroque pearls and tahitian pearls. Baroque is when pearls are not in the traditional round sphere shape but instead have ridges and curves. Tahitian pearls are made from a black lip oyster. While they can be white, they are mostly in a black colour.
It is easy to tell whether a pearl is fake or real, which is through its iridescence and its reflection, refraction and diffraction of light. Pearls tend to have a white or cream colour but they can be dyed. The most popular dyed pearls are in black and pink colours. Pearls are extremely soft and can even be dissolved in vinegar. This is why it is discouraged to clean pearls with any home remedies or harsh chemicals, as the pearl will wear away, lose its shine and in some cases, break and crack.
Angelina Jolie, Dita von Teese & Elizabeth Taylor in pearls
Facts about pearls
Oysters are referred to as the ‘canaries of the sea’, as they are the first to suffer when their water isn’t how it should be. Pearl growing oysters are very sensitive to their environment, so pearl farmers go to great lengths to ensure the water they are in is clean. They work hard to prevent and dispose of any pollution in the water and stop cyanide and dynamite fishing in pearl farming areas.
Pearl is the birthstone for June and for the star signs Gemini and Cancer. Pearls are also given to mark wedding anniversaries. Pearls are given on the 1st wedding anniversary, as well as the 3rd, 12th and 30th.
Pearls are very symbolic and meaningful. They are said to offer protection to its wearer, strengthen relationships, bring good luck and wealth, as well as having calming effects.
Pearls are surrounded by ancient myths, with many cultures speculating about their magical origins. According to ancient Japanese legend, pearls were created from the tears of mythical creatures like angels and mermaids. The ancient Persians said that they were created after a storm, when a rainbow met the earth, with lightning and thunder being the reasons for a pearl’s imperfections. An ancient Chinese legend said pearls were formed inside the head of a dragon. When the pearl was fully grown, the dragon would carry it in its teeth, and the only way to obtain this pearl was to kill the dragon.
One of the most famous anecdotes for pearls is from Cleopatra. She removed a pearl from one of her earrings, dissolved it in liquid and swallowed it whole. She did this to show Mark Anthony how an entire nation’s wealth can disappear in one gulp.
Marilyn Monroe, Sandra Bullock & Princess Diana in pearls
Here are the top picks for pearl jewellery. Give any of these wonderful pieces to the people in your life with June birthdays! Alternatively, treat yourself to classic pearl jewellery for an injection of glamour into your jewellery repertoire.
The subtle colour and beautiful shine of a pearl makes it the perfect gemstone to be featured in a necklace. The most popular type of pearl necklace is a choker or a string of pearls. These type of necklaces are favoured by royalty, like Queen Elizabeth II. Wear a classic pearl necklace, for a look that oozes vintage glamour.
Pearls are very versatile, due to their neutral colour. Pearls work well with cooler tones like silver or bright warmer colours like yellow gold and rose gold. With gemstones, pearls work beautifully with other neutral colours. For a pop of colour, pick gemstones that compliment pearls, like black or natural diamonds or blush pink gemstones, like morganite or rose quartz. Pearl bracelets are a great opportunity for you to try out these colour combinations.
Pearls symbolise faith, loyalty and harmony and are perfect for engagement or wedding rings. In the past, pearl engagement rings were very popular but they are less common today. Despite this, pearl rings are extremely fashionable and look beautiful next to a rose gold base.
We couldn’t talk about pearl earrings without referencing one of the most famous pearls in the world - the one featured in The Girl With The Pearl Earring painting by Johannes Vermeer. The mystery surrounding the painting made pearl earrings more exciting and desired. Pearl earrings are staple items in any jewellery box. Their increasingly popularity has never wavered - they were worn by royal figures centuries ago, but are still popular today, having been most recently worn by Harry Styles at the Met Gala 2019. Treat yourself to a pair of pearl earrings for a classic look that goes with any outfit.