June’s birthstone Pearl and Alexandrite. The second of June’s birthstones is an organic gemstone—a description that applies to gemstones produced by a living organism rather than forming in the earth.
June’s birthstone: Pearl
Associated with purity and beauty, pearls are a traditional gift for a bride on her wedding day. They appear in myth and folklore the world over, often (and unsurprisingly) associated with the moon. The ancient Chinese believed that pearls formed in a dragon’s head and the ancient Greeks that they were the tears of the gods. In Roman times, Egyptian queen Cleopatra once flirtingly placed a bet with Roman general Mark Antony that she could consume the wealth of a nation in just one dinner. She won her bet by dissolving a huge pearl of enormous worth in a glass of wine and drinking it straight down.
Pearls are formed inside the bodies of fresh and saltwater molluscs such as oysters, clams and mussels, when a small speck of sand or grit finds its way in through the creature’s shell.
To protect itself, the mollusc first creates a layer of cells around the speck and then secretes a substance called nacre, which builds up and hardens in layers around it, eventually forming a beautiful, iridescent pearl.
Occurring naturally in different shades and shapes, pearls are affected by the type of mollusc and the conditions under which they form. Pearl farmers can further attempt to influence a pearl’s colour by changing these conditions, but ultimately each pearl is unique. This makes a string of natural, perfectly spherical, colour and size matched pearls a very, very expensive thing indeed! The majority of pearls in a necklace or matching pair of earrings are dyed to achieve a colour match.
There are four main types of pearl. Freshwater pearls are the most affordable and is often sold as baroque beads. Akoya pearls are the ‘classic’ round white variety and are grown off the coast of Japan. Tahitian pearls are large, naturally dark pearls and come from French Polynesia. South Sea pearls are among the world’s largest and most valuable, sometimes costing tens of thousands of dollars per pearl.
From the Somewhere In the Rainbow Collection, this piece of jewellery is called “Who are you” . It is an AGTA Spectrum winner from the mind of Llyn Strelau of Canada. Created in platinum and 19kt gold, the hooks smoking caterpillar is filled with pearl details. Baroque, American freshwater, Tahitian and south sea seed pearls. The piece converts from an object of art to a whimsical lapel pin and is always a fan favourite.
If you would like more of my ‘pearls of wisdom’ on gemstones, be sure to check out the books in my Gemstone Detective series!
Kim Rix, GG (GIA)
Be sure. Be smart. Buy with confidence