Why Everyone Should Wear Pearls

There are many ways to wear pearls: in your hair within a headband or pin, on your ears with earrings or ear cuffs, around your neck through necklaces and pendants, against your chest on a brooch or scarf, wrapped on your hands with bracelets and rings, along the waist with a belt or buttons, and in accessories with a purse or keychain. The options are endless, as the gem or its representation has been present throughout history. The pearl, with its celestial glow and mystery, has always has been a symbol of wealth and sophistication.  We usually don't equate timeless with trendy, but pearls truly are a timeless trend. 

Why pearls? 

Origins

The birth of a pearl is a miraculous event. Pearls are grown in live oysters far below the surface of the sea, making them the only gem not needing man's hand in transformation. Gemstones must be cut and polished to bring out their beauty, but pearls need no such treatment to reveal their special qualities. They are born complete with a shimmering iridescence, luster, and soft inner glow unlike any other gem on Earth.

Wild pearls formed without human intervention are rare. Pearls can be made in either freshwater or saltwater environments. Freshwater pearls can take between 1-6 years to form, whereas saltwater pearls may take between 5-20 years. The longer a pearl stays in the shell, the more nacre forms and the larger the pearl. 

Most pearls today are cultured. Cultured pearls share the same properties as natural pearls. They are farmed with the aid of natural processes. The only difference is that a person carefully implants an irritant in the oyster that triggers the pearl creation process, rather than leaving it to chance. Then they step aside to let nature create its miracle.

The process of culturing pearls revolutionized the pearl industry. It meant that pearl farmers could control the cultivation of large numbers of consistently high quality pearls. This allows farmers to produce millions of pearls at a time, which reduces the pearl’s market value to a level that is accessible to everyone. Another big benefit of cultured pearls is consistency. While some colored pearls can be achieved naturally, some freshwater pearls are treated to produce a particular color. Now man and Mother Nature can create the pearl gem.

Pearls throughout history

Pearls are the earliest known gem. Ancient Chinese legend tells us that the moon holds the power to create pearls, Arabic legend says that the precious gems were formed when dewdrops filled with moonlight fell into the ocean and were swallowed by oysters, and Ancient Egyptians associated pearls with Isis, the goddess of healing and life. Legend has it that Cleopatra drank a crushed pearl powder in her wine to show her great wealth. The oldest known pearl jewelry, a Persian Princess’ necklace from 500 BC, is displayed in the Louvre in Paris.

They appear in the ancient religious texts including scriptures of Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. A pearl is a perfect simile because a fine pearl is a valuable treasure that needs no polishing or cutting by man. It comes to us complete and lustrous created by God through nature, as is the kingdom of heaven, which only God could create and perfect. Jesus compared the Kingdom of Heaven to a pearl of great price, and according to the King James Bible, the Gates of Heaven are made of pearl.

The Roman general Vitellius is said to have financed his entire military campaign with the sale of a single natural pearl. Tribal Indians also believed that pearls were the tears of their gods. Some historical accounts stated, Native Americans accepted strings of beads in exchange for the island of Manhattan. A few centuries later, in 1916, renowned French jeweler Jacques Cartier acquired land there for his first American store. The price? A strand of natural pearls. This long and storied past only adds to the appeal of the incomparable pearl, cherished today as a traditional wedding gift, a birthstone, and in jewelry that reflects taste and refinement.

The history of faux pearls is almost just as ancient. Some of the first were made from a mixture of powdered glass, snail slime, and egg white. Eventually bead makers began incorporating the pearlescent luster of fish scales.

Pearls through the decades

There are many more references to the pearl in works of literature, and the lustrous jewels are often seen in famous paintings. Pearls are considered semi precious stones because of their organic nature. Until fairly recently, pearls were worn exclusively by royalty and wealthy nobility, as they were far too expensive for anyone else to afford. Pearls have rightfully earned the nickname "The Queen of Gems and The Gem of Queens" for their unique properties. They represent a symbol of love, beauty, and confidence, which you can obtain with any kind of pearl. 

Pearls in modern times

In the early 20th century, three Japanese men began perfecting the process of implanting mollusks, and by 1921 the first round cultured pearls appeared on the market.  Decades later, Jackie O. and her triple-strand pearl necklace would become a fashion icon, followed by Princess Diana, and Barbara Bush.

Meaning

Pearl in Latin is Margarita. In Western culture, it also is the birthstone for June and is the 30th wedding anniversary gem. Since it comes from the sea, it is associated to the moon and water.

They are the gem of gems. The pearl’s humble origin, development, and end product is considered divine. Even with human intervention, they still depend on nature to do its part. Pearls signify attractiveness, elegance, and refinement. Every First Lady and Queen owns a pearl necklace.

No other gem has captivated fascination and admiration like the pearl. Diamonds may be forever, but pearls have been recognized as prized jewels for centuries longer than any cut stone. Pearls are beautiful as they are straight out of the mollusk. Pearls have become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable, and valuable.

Facts

  • No two pearls are ever exactly alike.

  • Oysters change gender regularly, as some oysters ‘swap’ others will do so too in order to keep the balance of male/female even.

  • Pearls serve as an early-warning sign of pollution problems, this explains why pearl farming is performed in remote islands.

  • Harvesting a pearl does NOT kill the oyster, which makes pearl farming a ‘sustainable’ practice. The longer an oyster lives the better and bigger the pearls its produced.

  • Whiter pearls are not necessarily better.

  • A pearl’s surface is closer to sandpaper than silk.

  • There's no such thing as a ‘round pearl’, the word comes from "pirum" means "pear," which is their most common shape.

  • Although clams and mussels can also produce pearls, they don't do so very often. Most pearls are made by oysters, and they can be made in either freshwater or saltwater environments.

  • As oysters grow, an internal organ called the mantle uses minerals from the oyster's food to produce a substance called nacre.

  • Freshwater pearls are typically the least expensive and are cultured using a small piece of mantle tissue.

  • Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea pearls are all saltwater pearls grown by implanting a round shell bead and allowing the mollusk to secrete layers of nacre around the bead. As an example, to find 47 pearls for a perfectly matched 16-inch necklace, a pearl processor must cull through more than 10,000 pearls.

  • A perfect pearl is truly a rare event; less than five percent of nucleated oysters yield pearls of such perfect shape, lustre and color as to be considered fine gem quality.

  • It can take an oyster 5 years to form a tiny 3mm pearl in the wild where as a 7mm cultured pearl can be created from a 6.5mm nucleus in just 3-5 years.

  • When it comes to purchasing pearls you can be sure that they will be of the cultured variety which means that they are real pearls made by oysters and are not artificial as many people think.

  • One interesting piece of freshwater pearl trivia: a single freshwater pearl mussel is capable of producing up to 50 pearls at a time (although current production limits each shell to 24-32 pearls).

  • The color of a pearl is determined or influenced by the mother oyster’s ‘lip’, the outer part of the shell. Another way pearls get their color is from microscopic pigments inside the conchiolin layer. Conchiolin is the organic “glue” that holds the crystalline aragonite layers together. Conchiolin cements these platelets together (think of the structure of a pearl as something like a brick wall, and the conchiolin is the cement). Factors contributing to the pearl’s color include the kind of oyster, the number and thickness of nacre layers, and potentially trace elements within the oyster’s aquatic environment.

  • Pearl manufacturers also may influence the pearl’s color to some level by presenting tissue from an additional oyster into the host oyster alongside the shell nucleus. The pearl’s color is decided by a mixture of factors: iridescence, overtone, and the base color. Also, cultured pearls are occasionally dyed. Pearls (cultured and wild) are quite soft, with a hardness of 2.5 on the Mohs scale – among the world's softest gems.

  • Cultured pearls are still actual pearls, sharing the same properties of wild pearls and growing organically inside of oysters in the same fashion. The only difference is a person carefully implants the irritant, a small piece of polished shell, in the oyster, rather than leaving it to chance. However, it's still up to nature to create the miraculous beauty of a pearl.

  • Because pearls are made primarily of calcium carbonate, they can be dissolved in vinegar.

  • Most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China.

  • Most saltwater cultured pearls are grown with beads.

  • Tradenames of saltwater cultured pearls are Akoya, white or golden are South Sea, and black are Tahitian.

  • Most beadless cultured pearls are mantle-grown in freshwater shells in China, and are known as freshwater cultured pearls.

Types of Pearls

There are two basic varieties of cultured pearls: freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater pearls are grown primarily in man-made lakes and reservoirs in China. Saltwater pearls, which include Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea, are grown in bays, inlets, and atolls in many places around the world.

Freshwater Cultured Pearls: The Fashion-Forward Pearl

The most affordable pearls sold today, freshwater pearls, are known for baroque shapes, white and pastel body colors, and softer luster than saltwater pearls. With natural pastel colors and shapes that range from perfectly round to free-form baroque, freshwater pearls offer a wide range of options. Common sizes range from 5 mm to 12 mm, but recent advances have led to the development of round and baroque pearls as large as 20 mm. If you are looking for an affordable piece or something more fashion-forward with unique combinations of colors and shapes, shop freshwater pearls.

Although freshwater pearls are the most commonly produced pearls, their unique shapes and wide range of colors combined with their attractive prices and charming character, have made them a favorite among jewelry designers, shoppers, and pearl connoisseurs alike. Best known for their whimsical shapes and wide variety of sizes and colors, the character of a freshwater pearl is found in its distinctive surface texture and the warmth of its luster. Their affordability makes them a popular choice when searching for your next jewelry purchase. There are no two identical pearls and they're mostly oddly shaped, which makes any piece one of a kind. Also, when you find similarly shaped ones, they are generally affordable, giving most people the opportunity to own a natural pearl piece of jewelry and getting all the benefits that comes with it.

Akoya Pearls: The Classic Pearl

For nearly 100 years Akoya pearls, grown off the coast of Japan, have been the classic pearl of choice. Akoya pearls are truly the perfect choice and most popular if you are considering a pair of pearl earrings or an elegant strand of pearls. Cultured in the Akoya oyster, they are lustrous and are generally white or cream colored with overtones of rose, silver, or cream. Although Akoya pearls may seem surprisingly similar in appearance to freshwater pearls they are smoother and rounder when compared side by side. Akoya pearls range in size from about 4mm- 10mm. If you are looking for a classic strand of white and round pearls, you are looking for a strand of Akoya pearls.

Tahitian Pearl: The Dark Exotic Pearl

Enchanting and mysterious, Tahitian pearls are unique due to their natural dark colors from metallic silver to graphite. Within this range of colors, they can have bluish, purplish, or greenish overtones. Found in the waters off of the islands of French Polynesia, the natural black color of Tahitian pearls comes from the color of the oyster's black lips. They are much larger than average oysters and are extremely sensitive to the cultivation process. This makes the large pearls they produce extremely valuable and sought after.

Tahitian pearls are the only naturally dark pearls. Although often referred to as black, Tahitian pearls come in a rainbow of exotic colors. Round Tahitian pearls are rare, but other fun shapes like drops, baroques, and ovals are still considered very valuable. When measured perpendicular to the drill hole, most Tahitians range in size from 8mm-15mm regardless of shape. If you are looking for a naturally dark pearls that go well with almost any style, Tahitian pearls are your best choice.

South Sea Pearl: The Rolls Royce of Pearls

South Sea pearls, grown primarily in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia, are the rarest of pearls and have a unique satiny luster as well as an array of colors considered unusual in other types of pearls. They are typically white, silver, or golden. Cultivated in the white-lipped oyster, larger than the oysters used to produce Akoyas and freshwater pearls, the size of pearl they produce is considerably larger and reach sizes as large as 15mm. White-lipped oysters are rare, sensitive, and difficult to cultivate, which makes the pearls they produce more expensive and highly desirable. Perfectly round South Sea pearls are quite rare. Other more common shapes are drops, baroques and ovals and all are considered very valuable. While South Sea pearls range in size from 8 mm to 18 mm, the most common sizes range from 10 mm to 14 mm. If you looking for the statement piece of jewelry with large pearls, South Sea are the way to go.

Blister and Keshi Pearls

Blister and Keshi pearls are accidental creations of nature— beautiful ones at that! A blister pearl is a pearl that grew attached to the shell of the mollusk. Since a blister pearl needs to be cut off the shell in order to be used, pieces of the shell are often left attached in a free-form shape. Blister pearls make intriguing pendants and earrings, especially when set in a bezeled frame.

A Keshi pearl is an irregular-shaped byproduct of a pearl cultivation, composed entirely of nacre and containing no nucleus. When an oyster rejects the pearl cultivation process, a beautiful and unique Keshi is born. Keshi pearls come in myriad of colors and tend to be high in luster because the implanted nucleus of the pearl has been expelled by the oyster and results in a pearl that’s 100 percent nacre, which gives it a shimmering surface quality. Even though Keshi pearls are solid nacre, they are not considered natural pearls because they are a byproduct of the culturing process, not a natural occurrence.

The word Keshi means poppy seed in Japanese, and these pearls are often referred to as poppy seed pearls.  Keshi may form in either saltwater or freshwater pearls and they are generally small in size with widely varying shapes because there is no nucleus to guide the process.
Both blister pearls and Keshi pearls have an irregular shape and no two are alike. For this reason, we can guarantee that each piece of blister pearl and Keshi pearl jewelry will be interesting, special, and one of a kind. You'll find abstract and artisanal designs full of imagination, and the look they create is organic and whimsical. 

Imitation pearls

Imitation of pearls are man-made objects, often beads, that are designed to resemble real pearls. A variety of methods are used to create them from materials that include glass, plastic, and actual mollusk shell. These do not carry all the benefits of using natural pearls, but they do achieved the same emotional response.

Wearing Pearls 

Benefits

Pearls were rumored to cure hundreds of ailments. Natural pearls also add health benefits. Besides been the symbol of beauty and good luck, they are gemstones that stand for purity, charm, and love. Known for their calming effect, pearls can balance one's karma, strengthen relationships, and keep children safe. The pearl is also said to symbolize generosity, integrity, and loyalty of its wearer. They can increase a woman's beauty and facial luster, besides adding glow to any basic outfit. It shows your confidence and individuality by shining your inner qualities, like the pearl’s luster.

As a symbol of purity bringing truth and loyalty to situations, wearing them can develop good harmony. Wearing pearls can reduce anxiety and the feeling of exhaustion, promote better sleep, and help you achieve inner peace. They bring a calming influence and increase the feeling of love to those mentally weak and pessimistic. People who wear pearls are said to be blessed by wealth and good fortune.

Pearls also have a healing properties, as they contain a great amount of calcium, amino acids, and minerals. They regulates female-related conditions such as menstruation and menopause. They also treat chronic sore throat. Pearl powder, when absorbed by skin cells, increases their vitality, which promotes and increase in metabolism and prompts the growth of collagen.

The benefits of the pearl gemstone are quite impressive. It is a great gem that worth owning. If you do not use or wear pearls, you can start using pieces with pearls and as you start noticing their beauty, elegance, and uniqueness, then you might get the urge to own a faux pearl item, and eventually embrace your own one of a kind Dama natural pearl creation. 

Pearl Care

Pearls are the world’s only organic gemstone, and therefore, tend to be quite delicate. Proper care of your pearl jewelry is essential to ensure your investment will last a lifetime. Personal care products, such as perfume or hairspray, can severely damage the luster and beauty of a pearl. It is best to put your pearls on at least 30 minutes after applying any personal care products, and take your pearls off before getting ready for bed. A good rule of thumb to remember is that pearls should be the last thing to put on and the first to take off. Wiping the pearls with a damp, soft cloth after you wear them will ensure that they remain free of harmful build-up of compounds that may damage the nacre of your pearls.

Pearls are best kept in a soft-cloth pouch or a soft-lined jewelry box separate from other jewelry. If you wear your pearl necklace often, it should be strung about once a year to prevent strand breakage. The thread, which is traditionally silk, should be knotted between each pearl to prevent all the pearls in a strand from falling off should a break occur, as well as preventing possible damage from the pearls rubbing against each other. Restringing the pearls is also preferred over attempting to wash the thread, as cleaning may weaken the knots and some soaps can damage your pearls. 

Value

When people first started wearing pearls centuries ago, they wore them as a statement of beauty, wealth, and power.  The beauty hasn’t changed, but now your pearls can be a statement of compassion, inclusiveness, and global consciousness because their production helps people in remote places make a living and have a purpose. Pearls are a meaningful and tasteful way to express your style.

The value of the pearls in jewelry is determined by a combination of the luster, color, size, lack of surface flaws, and symmetry appropriate for the type of pearl under consideration. According to jewelers, luster is the most important differentiator of pearl quality.

When you own a piece of jewelry that is frequently admired it becomes valuable, especially if it’s a treasure that’s been passed down several generations. Once worn, you add value to them by putting all the mentioned factors together. Pearls have become some of the most precious pieces of jewelry to own, because they’ve been celebrated by women throughout history, and that is priceless. Wear natural pearls and the people around you will see a more gracious, balanced, and beautiful you.

 

Agnes HaddadDAMA