Pearl is the birthstone of June and the only gemstone formed by a living organism. Pearls are formed within the mantle of oysters or mussels. Microscopic irritants lodged in certain molluscs’ shell cause the deposition of concentric layers of calcium carbonate, forming a round pearl.
The colour of pearls is usually white or cream, however they can be found in variety of other hues such as pink, grey, green or blue. Pearls are quite soft, having a Moh’s hardness value of 3 (Diamonds are 10!). Ideally a pearl is smooth and round in shape, however many other shapes naturally occur including baroque, drop and keshi.
Freshwater pearls account for 95% of global pearl production and are mainly sourced from Chinese Pearl Farms, where 30 – 50 pearls are grown at once. Salt water cultured pearls account for 5% of global production. There are 3 types of salt water pearls, Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea. These usually produce only one pearl at a time. The South Sea pearl is the rarest type, with 10 times more weight in diamonds being produced each year in comparison with an Australian South Sea pearl.
Did you know?
- In 1917 Pierre Cartier traded a double stranded pearl necklace worth $1 million for a mansion on Fifth Avenue, New York City. To this day the 5th Avenue Cartier Mansion is still the largest Cartier boutique in the world.
- The most famous pearl in the world would have to be the Le Peregrina. Spanish for “The Pilgrim,” the Le Peregrina has certainly lived up to its name, changing hands and travelling across the world numerous time in its 550 year old history. The pearl, which is the size of a quail egg, has previously been owned by a former King of Spain, Ferdinand V, The British Queen Mary I (a.k.a. Bloody Mary), Napoleon Bonaparte and Elizabeth Taylor.
- The earliest recorded date of pearls are artefacts from around 2300 B.C. in Mesopotamia. A recent archaeological dig in the Kimberly region of WA uncovered a 2000 year old pearl.
- In the early days of pearl cultivation, divers faced the risk of shark attacks and the bends with mortality rates were as high as 50%. Nowadays there are strict protocols to ensure occupational safety.
Universally adored, the beautiful soft glow of pearls are associated with purity, admiration and innocence. Pearls are said to symbolise success, happiness and love. Pearl is one of few gems to be valued for lustre rather than carat!