Created naturally over many years, pearls are categorized as organic gem material and are amongst the oldest of precious gems. Every pearl is unique and the finest quality pearls have been greatly valued as gemstones for many centuries. Spontaneously occurring natural pearls are extremely rare but cultured pearls from oysters and freshwater mussels are commonly sold in the marketplace today.
Hardness: Pearls are rated a 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs Scale of Hardness.
Color: Whether wild or cultured, quality pearls are usually iridescent. Most are a shade of white or cream, and more recently, black has become a popular color. Saltwater pearls are by far the most popular and they come in pink, blue, champagne, green, black and purple.
Birthstone: The pearl is the birthstone for those born in June and the pearl is an astral stone for the signs Gemini and Cancer.
Scarcity: Quality natural pearls are very rare jewels and cultured pearls are abundant.
Value: The value of a natural pearl is determined in the same way as other precious gems. These factors include size, shape, and color, quality of surface, orient and luster. Among those attributes, luster is the most important determinate of a pearl’s value according to jewelers. Cultured pearls are relatively inexpensive in comparison.
Most Common Cuts: Pearls come in many shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, and baroque. Perfectly round pearls are extremely rare and hold the most value.
Chemical Formula: The chemical formula for a natural pearl is CaCO3.
Synthetic Varieties: The difference between wild and cultured pearls is determined by whether the pearl was created spontaneously by nature or with human aid. Cultured and natural pearls can be easily distinguished from imitation pearls because their iridescence is usually very poor. To be sure if you possess a natural or synthetic variety, all you must do is use a microscope. Imitation pearls are widely sold in inexpensive jewelry and are simply made from mother-of-pearl, coral or conch shells, or glass. They are coated with a solution containing fish scales.
History: Pearls have been a passion and even an obsession of people throughout the ages. These gems have adorned crowns, clothing, and buildings. Starting in the Han Dynasty, (206 BC-220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for saltwater pearls. A fragment of the oldest known pearl jewelry, found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess who died in 520 BC, is currently displayed in the Louvre in Paris. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, pearl jewelry became extremely fashionable in Europe, as did clothing that was adorned with them. In the Americas, both the Inca and Aztec tribes prized pearls for their beauty and magical powers. During the European expansion into the New World, the discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe. Before the creation of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved almost entirely for the nobles.
For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers in areas around the Indian Ocean. Today, natural pearling is confined also exclusively to seas off Bahrain and in Australia.
Rumored Healing Properties: Pearls have long been thought to possess healing powers and bestow good fortune on those who could afford to wear them. Pearls have been thought to increase quality sleep and cure insomnia. They have been said to bestow the wearer with a good memory, cure uterine disorders, heart trouble, eye diseases, hysteria and increase sexual strength.
Cultured or freshwater pearls are considered to offer the power of love, money, protection, and luck. Pearls are thought to give wisdom through experience, to quicken the laws of karma and to cement engagements and love relationships. They are thought to keep children safe.