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What do you know about Pearl – The June Birthstone?

PEARL- THE JUNE BIRTHSTONE

The  gemstone which takes birth from a living organism is indeed precious! Pearls, the timeless wardrobe staple that is beloved by women of all ages. 

This June Birthstone isn’t really a ‘stone’ but it beats every other stone when it comes to history, lore, symbolism, use and uniqueness. 

It’s one of the oldest gemstones that existed over 7500 years ago in the Neolithic era which is also known as the New Stone Age. Now that’s pretty old, isn’t it?

Historically, this gemstone was only adorned by the upper class, Aristocrats and Royals, who could afford something so precious. 

Cleopatra’s bet with Mark Antony where she was determined to host the most expensive dinner in history led to her dissolving the world’s largest pearls (she used as earrings) into potent vinegar and gulped it down. Seems like the Queen of Egypt took bets VERY seriously!

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Time to bust a myth: Pearls do not dissolve in vinegar. At least, not instantly. 

Also, did you know that each pearl has its own ‘fingerprint’? 

Which means, every pearl is unique. Its uniqueness lies in its distinguishing features ie. bumps, blemishes, and miniscule flaws. No two pearls can ever be the same!

At the dinner table, Pierre Cartier offered a proposal to Morton Plant who loved his much younger second wife, Maisie Plant (who was extolling the beauty of Cartier’s Pearl necklace), and ensured that she would have everything that she ever wanted. Consequently, a pearl necklace was exchanged for the keys which held Cartier’s iconic New York store. 

A pearl necklace bought a mansion! 

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Formation and Chemical Composition of Pearls:

Contrary to the historic beliefs about the origin of this June Birthstone, such as, ‘they are teardrops fallen from heaven’, or the ‘Chinese fantasy – Pearls came from the brain of a dragon’, Pearls are actually organic gems that grow inside the tissue of a living saltwater or freshwater mollusk- either an oyster or a mussel. 

When an irritant such as a piece of sand or a parasite invades the shell of the mollusk, it secretes a substance called nacre. And that is how natural pearls are formed! Nature has such an unusual way of surprising us. 

Whereas cultured pearls are created when humans intervene in the process.  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. And just like a natural pearl, the mollusk covers the irritant with nacre. 

Cultured pearls are raised in pearl farms – saltwater or freshwater operations where the mollusks are cleaned, protected from predators and eventually harvested. Thousands of years of pearl fishing have decimated the natural pearl beds, so cultured pearls account for the vast majority of pearl sales today.

Pearls have long been associated with purity, humility and innocence. The June birthstone could be called ‘royalty in simplicity’. Fortunately today, pearls are not restricted to royals and have become the most loved piece in a woman’s closet.

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Learn more about the fascinating world of gems and gemology at JK

Types of Pearls- Variety:

Beliefs:

Pearls are representative of the wisdom that is gained through experience. That is probably why the phrase “pearls of wisdom” still exists. 

Oh the amount of myths that surround this gorgeous stone! One of them is a belief that pearls are a symbol of good fortune and wealth. The wearer attracts both- good luck and wealth.

During Ancient Greek days, the myth was that pearls were the gods’ tears. It was also believed that if a woman wore pearls on her wedding day, it would stop her from crying.

Healing with Pearls:

It is believed that pearls enhance personal integrity and help to provide a focus to one’s attention.  Pearl symbolises purity and is known as a “stone of sincerity”.  It brings truth to situations and loyalty to a “cause”.  Its possession inhibits boisterous behaviour.

Pearl treats digestive disorders and the soft organs of the body.  It relieves conditions of bloating and biliousness. Pearl is believed to increase fertility and eases childbirth.

Physical & Optical Properties:

Physical Properties
Chemical Composition
CaCO3 (aragonite and/or calcite) 91.6%
H2O 4.0%
Organic matter 4.0%
Loss .4%
Total 100%
Crystallographic Character An aggregate composed largely of minute orthorhombic crystals of aragonite and sometimes hexagonal calcite crystals. Conchiolin, the cementing material, is non crystalline.
Hardness 2½ to 4
Toughness Usually, good, but variable. Many pearls are quite tough, but toughness is not constant and care must be exercised in handling them. The outer surface layers may be fractured or scratched very easily. Toughness may also be affected by age, dehydration, or excessive bleaching when processed for the market.
Cleavage None
Fracture Uneven
Specific Gravity Oriental salt water natural pearls average between 2.66 and 2.76.  Some Australian pearls are as high as 2.78.  Gulf of Mexico pearls vary from 2.61 to 2 .69. Fresh-water natural pearls have a density of about 2.66 to 2.78, but few are over 2.74.  Inferior pearls are often much lighter.  The S.G. of “conch pearls” is near 2.85.
Streak White.
Optical Properties
Degree of Transparency Translucent to opaque
Luster Various from dull to almost metallic, depending on the nature of the layers and their degree of transparency. Fracture surfaces are pearly to dull.
Refractive Index 1.53 – 1.69. Because of the curved surfaces of pearls, approximate R.I. and birefringence can be detected only by the spot method.
Optic Character Doubly refractive
Dispersion None
Phenomena Orient. Varies from none to very pronounced.
X-Ray, Fluorescence Salt-water natural pearls are inert, with the exception of some very white pearls from Australian waters which fluoresce faintly. The majority of fresh-water natural pearls fluorescence a moderate to strong yellowish white.
Transparency to X-Rays Semitransparent
Ultraviolet Fluorescence None to strong light blue, yellowish, greenish or pinkish under both short and long wavelengths . Natural color black natural pearls show a fluorescence ranging from light pink to cherry to brick red under long-wave.

Treatment of Pearls:

Surface cracks or the subsurface layers may be filled with a colored solution; this is most often used to produce dyed black pearls. Also, slight surface or under skin cracks often can be temporarily “healed” by the use of Canada balsam. Only the most skillful experts can repair the broken outer skins. 

Off-shaped pearls may be made round by removing objectionable portions, but such pearls are seldom higher  in value.

How do you take care of these precious pearls?

What isn’t good for your pearls: Heat, perfume, excessive perspiration, face powder, hair sprays, skin oils, or constant contact with hard, rough-textured fabrics.

Wearing pearls so they come in contact with other jewelry will cause them to become scratched and worn. 

Although many pearls retain their beauty in full measure for centuries, they are subject to a gradual loss of water from the organic conchiolin binding agent. The greater the amount of conchiolin in a pearl, the more rapidly it will show evidence of deterioration through dehydration. It may take generations for yellowing, surface cracking or other signs to become evident, however. If properly cared for, natural pearls should last for many lifetimes. Constant contact with perfume or acid skin secretions is much more damaging than the ravages of time. 

Pearls should be cleaned by immersion in a mild non—detergent soapy solution, nothing stronger. Do not clean pearl jewelry in ultrasonic cleaners. The lightly acid solution used in these cleaners may attack the nacre and the vibrations may cause further damage to pearls with internal or external cracks.

The June birthstone is indeed magnificent, so if you own them-take good care of them!

Learn more about the fascinating world of gems and gemology at JK

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