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Pearl



Name:

From the English word pearl for the concretions formed in the shells of some mollusks. Like other gemstone names, it has been used as a given name in the English-speaking world since the 19th century.

Description:

The pearl is the oldest known gem, and for many centuries it was considered the most valuable. Unlike all gems, the pearl is organic matter derived from a living creature - oysters and molluscs.

Valuable pearls occur in the wild, but they are very rare. Cultured or farmed pearls make up the majority of those that are currently sold. Pearls from the sea are valued more highly than freshwater pearls. Imitation or fake pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewellery, but the quality of the iridescence is usually very poor, and generally speaking, fake pearls are usually quite easy to distinguish from the real thing. Pearls have been harvested, or more recently cultivated, primarily for use in jewellery, but in the past they were also stitched onto lavish clothing, as worn, for example, by royalty. Pearls have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, or in paint formulations.

Over time, the pearl has become the symbol of purity and innocence and it is often sewn into bridal gowns, or worn as jewellery by the bride.

Gemmological Characteristics:

The unique lustre of pearls depends upon the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the translucent layers. The thinner and more numerous the layers in the pearl, the finer the lustre. The iridescence that pearls display is caused by the overlapping of successive layers, which breaks up light falling on the surface.
Gem Folklore:

The pearl is an astral stone for the signs Gemini and Cancer, and astrologers link it to the moon. It was said in some early cultures that the pearl was born when a single drop of rain fell from the heavens and became the heart of the oyster. Pearls have been called the 'teardrops of the moon'. Some believe that pearls were formed by the passage of angels through the clouds of heaven.

There is much folklore and tradition about the pearl. In fact so much history accompanies this stone that five months claim it as a birthstone - February, April, June (traditional), July and November.

Sourcing:

Freshwater and saltwater pearls may sometimes look quite similar, but they come from different sources.

Natural freshwater pearls form in various species of freshwater mussels, family Unionidae, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. These freshwater pearl mussels occur not only in hotter climates, but also in colder more temperate areas such as Scotland: see the freshwater pearl mussel. However, most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China.

Saltwater pearls grow within pearl oysters, family Pteriidae, which live in oceans. Saltwater pearl oysters are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls.

Previously natural pearls were found in many parts of the world. Present day natural pearling is confined mostly to seas off Bahrain. Australia also has one of the world's last remaining fleets of pearl diving ships. Australian pearl divers dive for south sea pearl oysters to be used in the cultured south sea pearl industry. The catch of pearl oysters is similar to the numbers of oysters taken during the natural pearl days. Hence significant numbers of natural pearls are still found in the Australian Indian Ocean waters from wild oysters. X-Ray examination is required to positively verify natural pearls found today.

Zodiac & Birthstone:

Zodiac: Gemini & Cancer
Month: June