The only gem born of a living creature, the June birthstone pearl has been valued since antiquity. It’s easy to understand the fascination people have always felt for this most elegant of gemstones originating in the humblest of places. As many know, the pearl is found in the shells of mollusks but you may not know that pearls begin in an even lowlier state–when an irritant (such as a small parasite or fish), lodges inside the flesh of an oyster, the oyster forms a protective substance called “nacre” over it. Over the years, layers and layers of nacre form over the interloper creating the transclucent pearl. Unlike other gemstones, pearls require no faceting or polishing to reveal their beauty.
Retro platinum, pearl and diamond ring. Size: 8-1/4″ One Jewelers.
The natural occurrence of pearls is rare but the demand for pearls has always been great so a process was developed in the 1900s to stimulate the production of nacre by forcing a piece of shell inside living mollusks. Since the 1920s, almost all the pearls found in the market have been cultured this way. While the most common color of pearl is white, “pearls also come in delicate shades of black, cream, gray, blue, yellow” and beyond.The very popular cream-colored “Orientals” are found in the Persian Gulf and Sri Lanka. Japan is particularly famous for its cultured pearls–the best-known name being Mikimoto pearls, named after Kokichi Mikimoto who began the cultured pearl industry.
This Georgian foiled cushion-cut paste stone is mounted in 14K gold with a border of gray pearls. English, late Georgian, circa 1835. Ring size: 4 1/2 Melody Rodgers
Before the cultured pearl industry, the pearl was beloved of royalty; it was used to indicate high social standing in ancient Rome and “later in Tudor England, the 1500s were known as the pearl age.” The largest known pearl in the world (three inches long and two inches across) is known as the Pearl of Asia and was a gift from the famed Indian king Shah Jahan to his favorite wife for whom he built the Taj Mahal. It was said that the indomitable queen Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in a cup of wine to seduce Marc Antony. Tales such as these have led to the pearl’s deep association with love and marriage. Queen Elizabeth II wore them to her wedding as did Jacqueline Kennedy.
Art Nouveau necklace, open back heart with pin back, 14K gold and pearls, circa 1915. 1/2″ x 1/2″. Melody Rodgers
The ancient Greeks even believed pearls promoted marital harmony, an association probably originating with the Greek myth that “pearls were the hardened tears of joy that the goddess of love shook from her eyes as she was born from the sea.” A long-standing symbol of refinement inspired by their royal history and natural delicacy, pearls are often given at marriages and births of children, a lovely coincidence in this season of June brides and abounding weddings. The pearl is the traditional stone of the 30th wedding anniversary. You can see more of our pearl jewelry below and here.
Platinum, 18K gold, mother of pearl and diamond cufflinks. One Jewelers.
Cabochon pink tourmaline & pearl drop earrings, 18K yellow gold with shephersrds hook closures, American, 1960s. Josie at Place
Amusing coral, diamond and pearl brooch by Nardi, Italy, circa 1950. Samuel Saidian & Sons.
Pearl and grey crystal multi-strand necklace, 18k white gold, USA, 1970″s. Sooky Goodfriend
Very unusual antique Islamic/Indian/Moghul gold pin, set with natural pearls and rubies with the Arabic inscription: “Ya Ali Mohammed.” 18th/19th century. Alexander’s Antiques