Jun 10, 2010

Stone of the Month: Pearl

Creamrose Pearl and Crystal Bracelet by Little Bear's Mom
Creamrose Bracelet
by Little Bear's Mom

The official birthstone of June is the beautiful, classy oyster pearl. These natural baubles have been valued for centuries not only for their loveliness, but for their rarity as well. Before the creation of the cultured or farmed pearl, hundreds of oysters and clams would be killed and shucked to produce a single perfect gem. Pearls are not only used in jewelry, but also for embellishing clothing, accessories, and decorative home décor items.

The eleven other common birthstones are earthbound minerals, which makes the pearl very unique. These aquatic treasures are commonly associated with rare beauty or value, and make a wonderful metaphor for “one in a million” virtues. Their very nature is quite poetic.

Terra Stones and Pearls Necklace by Joanniel Creations
Terra Necklace
by Joanniel Creations

It is a common misconception that pearls are formed when a grain of sand becomes trapped within the shell of a living mollusk. In fact, the most common cause of pearl production is a parasite or other microscopic impurity. In an attempt to neutralize any threat from the intruder, the mollusk will form a ‘pearl sac’ around the object. The secretion is made up of a calcium carbonate and conchiolin combination called nacre. This substance also makes up mother of pearl - the inner layer of a shell - which also makes many appearances in jewelry.

Cultured or man-made pearls are formed by introducing a small piece of mantle tissue from another mollusk as the catalyst. Salt water cultured pearls are usually made with the help of a small bead of polished shell, inserted into the gonad. The freshwater variety are generally created without the help of beads, and many pearls can grow at a time within the fleshy mantle of the mollusk. These pearls have a freer, more natural shape. The process can take anywhere from 1 to 7 years, depending on the variety of pearl. The majority of the world’s cultured pearls are created in China.

Magenta Keishe Biwa Pearl Necklace by Splurge
Magenta Biwa Pearl Necklace
by Splurge

The popularity and prominence of pearl jewelry can be credited with the naming of necklace lengths, used today to describe jewelry of all types. The terms choker, princess length and opera length were introduced to describe the sizes of common pearl necklace types. Today, the phrase “Not your grandmother’s pearls” is commonly heard in the handmade community. With the availability of cultured pearls in so many sizes, shapes and colors, designers have an endless source of inspiration from classic to aquatic.

Copyright 2010 Oh Canada Team
Text by Mortira


Littlebearsmom said...

What a great spotlight on pearls! They really have changed since my grandmothers' time. Thanks so much for featuring my bracelet :)

joanniel creations said...

What a wonderful feature. I didn't even know that pearls had a month. That bracelet is stunning, and the magenta biwa pearl necklace is so bright and lustrous. Great article. Loved learning about how pearls come to be.

Liz-AnnasOnTheLake said...

Interesting piece, Mortira, and great jewelry choices to illustrate it.

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