The June Birthstone: Pearl
The June Birthstone: Pearl
Prized and collected for over 4000 years, pearls are officially the world's oldest gemstone and the birthstone for the month of June.
Formed as a mollusk's response to an irritating object inside their shells, pearls can occur either naturally (in the case of a parasite bite or grain of sand - resulting in a natural pearl) or synthetically (in which an irritation such as a piece of shell is surgically placed into the mollusk - resulting in a cultured pearl). As a defense mechanism to this irritation, the mollusk secretes nacre to coat the irritant which builds up in layers until a lustrous pearl is formed.
Regardless of the method used to acquire the pearl, the process usually takes several years to grow just one individual pearl. Mussels must reach a mature age which can take up to 3 years, and then be implanted with or naturally receive an irritant. Once the irritant is in place, it can take up to another 3 years for the pearl to reach its full size, however, often the irritant may be rejected, the pearl will be terrifically misshapen, or the oyster may simply die from disease or other complications. At the end of this 5-10 year cycle, only 50% of the oysters will have survived, with then only approximately 5% being substantial enough quality for jewellery makers.
As each species of a plant would grow different flowers, each species of mollusk grows a different pearl. This variation gives a huge choice of size, colour, shape, shine and price point to choose from.
- Freshwater Pearls: Formed in lakes, rivers, ponds and reservoirs, Freshwater pearls are available in a range of colours including white, peach, pink and purple, and generally more affordable than saltwater pearls as they are much easier to grow.
- Akoya Pearls: The original cultured pearl, Akoya pearls tend to have the most brilliant shine and are available in a beautiful array of white, blue, grey and golden hues. The most frequently round of all pearl types, Akoya pearls can be found growing across South East Asia, although it is widely acknowledged that the best quality Akoya pearls still come from Japan.
- Tahitian Pearls: Shining in the most incredible combination of colours from peacock and pistachio, to orange and yellow, Tahitian pearls are the newest type of pearl as they came to market in the mid 1970's. Farmed in Thailand, Indonesia and Fiji, Tahitian pearls are grown in what can only be described as paradise, as oysters are extremely sensitive to pollution.
- South Sea Pearls: The biggest of all pearl types, South Sea pearls are produced by the Pinctada Maxima oysters which is the largest of all pearl growing oysters. It's larger size allows pearl farmers to nucleate the oyster with a bigger bead, therefore helping to yield a larger pearl and consequently producing a more expensive pearl with the addition of their beautiful colour and lustre.
Pearls can last for generations, but only if they are looked after properly. Compared to other gems, pearls are relatively soft and can be irreparably damaged without proper care. One of the best ways to care for your pearls is to simply wear them. Absorbing natural oils from the skin tops up the moisture levels of the pearl which allows them to retain their bright colour and lustre. But be aware that chemicals including perfume, hairspray and cleaning products can damage the nacre of the pearls.
At W.Bruford, we stock of stunning selection of pearl jewellery, crafted from both cultured and freshwater pearls. To view a selection of our pearl jewellery from our Jersey Pearl collection, click HERE, or visit us in store at our Cornfield Road premises for our full offering.