Known as the “Queen of gems”, the pearl possesses a distinctly feminine charm and mystique. With a hardness level of four, a pearl glows rather than sparkles, quietly but powerfully seductive, like the soft gleam of moonlight. The pearl was probably the first gem to be universally appreciated by mankind for its beauty and rarity. Although natural pearls are extremely rare, they occur throughout the world, wherever oysters or mussels are found, in both salt and fresh water. Unlike crystalline gemstones, which usually must be cut and polished to be fully appreciated as ornaments, pearls need no help from the hand of man to bring out their allure.
How Pearls are formed
Natural pearls are formed when a piece of sharp debris such as a bit of coral or shell enters a mussel or oyster shell. The oyster or mussel cannot expel such an object once it sticks in its flesh. Instead, it coats the irritant with secreations of calcium carbonate, known as nacre, which over several years forms a pearl. The layers of nacre that cover the irritant is the same substance produced by the oyster to create its shell. A characteristic iridescent luster is produced when light is reflected from these overlapping layers. Pearls formed in freshwater oysters are less valuable than those formed in saltwater oysters.
Pearls have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, or in paint formulations. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or pearl mussels have to be gathered and opened, and thus killed, in order to find even one wild pearl, and for many centuries that was the only way pearls were obtained. This was the main reason why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past.
Different Kinds of Pearls
Pearls come in eight basic shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, and circled. Pearls which adhered to the oyster shell may have a flat surface. Perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable shape. White, and more recently black, saltwater pearls are by far the most popular. The darker the color of the pearl, usually the more expensive it is. Black pearls are considered to be one of the rarest gemstones on earth. Pink, blue, champagne, green and even purple saltwater pearls can be encountered, but to collect enough pearls to form a complete string of the same size and same shade can take years.
Natural pearls are pearls which are formed naturally without human interference, cultured pearls are pearls made when people intentionally inserted a foreign substance into a living oyster. An irregular shapes of pearls are called as baroque pearls. A pearl which grow attached to the inside of the shell is called blister pearls. The name Margarita also means pearls.
It is said that in order to keep the pearls in good condition, you need to wear them. Natural skin oils help to keep them live and lustrous. If pearls are not worn for a long periods of time, its natural sheen can dull and sometimes turns dark red. Although natural skin oils are good for pearls, but perspiration is not as it is acidic. Dont store pearls in an airtight container or plastic bag, as pearls need to breath and respond to natural humidity changes. Pearls are also vulnerable to scratches and keep pearls away from vinegar, hair spray, cosmetics, perfume and acidic substances that could cause spots or blotches (for all jewelry, not just pearls).
It is believed pearls have special properties:
- it brings blessing.
- keep away misfortunes.
- protect women’s dignity.
- Brings good descendant.
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