You people who are born in June are very lucky. You have not one, not two but three birthstones to choose from, alexandrite, moonstone and pearl. Amazing as alexandrite and moonstone are, we are going to stick with our favourite and that’s the classic, timeless pearl. This exquisite gem is the only one that comes from a living organism.
We all know that pearls come from oysters. Its natural life begins as a foreign object. Something like a small parasite or a piece of shell finds its way into the oyster. There it gets lodged in the soft inner body and the oyster is unable to expel it. The oyster’s defense mechanism kicks into gear and takes action. It begins to secrete a smooth but hard crystalline material around the foreign object as a way of protection.
This crystalline secretion is called nacre. The oyster will keep producing the nacre as long as the foreign object remains in the shell. In time it becomes completely surrounded by the smooth nacre and ultimately the result is the classic natural pearl.
This natural process is unpredictable and we humans are an impatient breed so the majority of pearls in the market these days are cultured pearls. This means that a farmer will carefully implant the foreign object into the oyster rather than leaving it up to luck. Once this implantation takes place then nature is left to do the rest.
When it comes to harvesting the pearls the farmer does so with care making sure not to harm the oyster. Removing the pearl doesn’t kill the oyster it’s merely removing a parasite and the oyster can continue to thrive. In fact older oysters are said to create better pearls so farmers are very careful to maintain the health of their oysters.
Out of the millions of oysters only a small amount will produce a pearl that will make the grade. Less than 5 percent will result in pearls of the ideal lustre, colour and shape to be considered usable. The ones that reach that level are then cleaned, soaked and sorted. The process to find similar pearls to match is painstaking and can take workers months.
The finished result is worth it. Traditionally chosen by a bride on her wedding day, pearl jewellery will never date. The lustre and iridescence works with every skin tone and are a staple in jewellery boxes everywhere. The next time you want to treat yourself consider some pearls, they are a worthy investment.