Pearls are organic gems created when an oyster covers a foreign body with layers of “nacre”. They are characterized by their translucence and lustre, and by a delicate surface colour called “orient”.
The majority of pearls these days are cultivated (cultured). A cultured pearl is natural and produced after the introduction of a foreign body inside the shell. Cultured pearls are produced in many colours, shapes and sizes, and mostly produced in Japan and China. Cultured pearls now account for over 95% of the world’s production.
Traditional legends, folklore and healing properties of Pearls
Pearls have been prized and collected for over 4000 years. To the ancient Romans and Greeks they were a symbol of prestige, wealth and love. It is said that Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in wine and drank it to prove her love to Marc Antony. The ancient Greeks used them at weddings, where they were said to bring love.
The Arab cultures also placed a high value on pearls, described in the Koran as one of the greatest treasures provided in Paradise. The Persian Gulf was one of the main sources of Pearls, as was Panama and Venezuela – where they were discovered by Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Balboa on their travels.
In the early 1900s the Japanese discovered the secret of culturing pearls. Before this discovery they were only available to royalty and the very rich, but with the advent of culturing the price of them decreased and made them more widely available.
Pearls are considered a romantic gemstone and are also symbolic of purity, faith, charity, innocence, integrity, focus, wisdom, spirituality, sincerity and fertility. They are also believed to grant wearers extraordinary foresight from risky commercial transactions!
For centuries they have been used for their medicinal value, and are still used in the pharmaceutical industry. Pearls of inferior quality which cannot be used in jewellery are ground into a fine powder and used to make pharmaceutical calcium.
They are also believed to boost sexual energy and raise sensuality, but they do possess a sedative and laxative effect! They are also said to neutralise poison, lower acidity, and be beneficial for heart and lungs, kidneys, urinary system and liver.
Some also believe that they possess magical properties which depend on colour: white Pearls are said to bring freedom, brownish Pearls – wisdom, yellowish – wealth and greenish – happiness.
Pearl is the birthstone for June and the gemstone for thirty years of marriage.