Pearls have long been associated with purity, humility and innocence. This extraordinary birthstone for the month of June simply describes and embodies "sweet simplicity." This is why pearls were traditionally given as a wedding gift.
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WHAT IS PEARL?
Pearls are organic gems that grow inside the tissue of a living saltwater or freshwater mollusk (either an oyster or a mussel). Natural pearls form when the mollusk secretes a substance called nacre around an irritant such as a piece of sand or a parasite that has invaded its shell. Cultured pearls are a product of human intervention. Technicians implant a piece of mantle tissue alone (common for freshwater cultured pearls) or with a mother-of-pearl shell bead (all saltwater) into a host mollusk. The mollusk covers the irritant with nacre, just like a natural pearl.
Cultured pearls are raised in pearl farms – saltwater or freshwater operations where the mollusks are cleaned, protected from predators and eventually harvested. Cultured pearls account for the vast majority of pearl sales today. These cultured pearl birthstones come in a dazzling array of sizes, colors and shapes.
One of the most famous natural pearl is the La Peregrina – The Wanderer, weighing at 50.56 carat (ct). About the size of a pigeon’s egg, the drop shaped pearl was discovered in the 1500s in the Gulf of Panama. It became a prized possession of European royalty. Richard Burton eventually gifted it to Elizabeth Taylor in 1969 and it was one of her most cherished jewellery until her death in 2011. That’s when Christie’s New York auctioned the La Peregrina for $11.8 million in 2011 to an anonymous buyer.
Image source via christies.com
Pearls are 2.5 to 3.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness, so they are a comparatively a soft gem and require special care.
PEARL CARE AND CLEANING
Pearls must be stored separately from any other jewellery, whether gemstones or metal, to prevent scratching. Never store your pearl 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: Gently wipe your pearl jewellery with a soft, damp cloth after each wear.