For thousands of years, pearls have been admired for their beauty and rarity all over the globe. Some ancient cultures believed that pearls were a symbol of the moon and had magical powers. During the Dark Ages, knights wore pearls onto the battlefield believing the pearls' magic would protect them. Many famous rulers were also fond of pearls including Julius Caesar and Cleopatra.
Hundreds of years ago, island divers would retrieve oyster shells from the ocean floor hoping to find a pearl inside. This was not an easy task considering that a natural pearl is found only once in 10,000 mollusks!
Today, almost all pearls used in jewelry are cultured pearls, meaning they have been created with the help of man. A tiny bead or piece of mantle tissue is placed inside an oyster shell. After many, many months, gradual layers of nacre form to create the pearl. The culturing process was developed in Japan in the early 1900s and China adopted it soon after. The United States began farming freshwater pearls in the 1960s.
There are many different types of cultured pearls including akoya pearls, South Sea pearls and mabe pearls, which are discussed separately on this web site. Freshwater pearls are grown in non-saline waters; while South Sea andTahitians are cultured in salt waters.
Pearls have long been a symbol of purity and innocence. Some believe that wearing a pearl helps one to be honest, pure and wise.
CULTURED PEARLS: Likened to the moon, pearls have been valued for their luminous glow and natural beauty for thousands of years. Today, high-quality cultured freshwater pearls make pearl jewelry affordable to all. Pearl is the traditional birthstone for the month of June.
Much of the pearl's beauty lies in its color. Cultured pearls come in white, black and every soft shade in between, plus pink, light purple, peach, silver and gold. Some cultured pearls also have a subtle iridescence, called "orient". This shimmering effect creates a rainbow of colors on the pearl's surface.
Pearls are on the softer side (2.5-4.5 on the Mohs scale) and require some special care. Avoid getting perfume, hair spray, cosmetics or any beauty products on your pearls as these items could damage the pearls' luster. To clean your pearl jewelry, wipe with a soft cloth after each wearing. You can use mild soapy water once in awhile for a deeper cleaning. Make sure your pearl rings, necklaces, bracelets and pearl earrings are dry before wearing. Store your pearl jewelry separately in box.