“Pearl” is derived from the Latin word “pirum”, meaning pear, which is the shape that many pearls take on naturally when they grow.
For centuries, pearls have been the symbols of beauty, modesty, purity, and innocence. Pearls are viewed as a sign of refinement and good taste. Pearls have been used as an adornment for centuries.
At one time, Royalty was the only one who could wear jewelry with pearls. In earlier times, pearls were more valuable than diamonds. They were sought after by powerful rulers and emperors around the world.
The oldest recorded reference to pearls in history is the 7500-year-old "Umm Al Quwain Pearl", which was found in a grave at a place known as the UAE.` Many ancient civilizations have told a variety of stories about the birth of the pearl.
The Greeks believed that they were tears of joy that had been hardened when they were shaken from the eyes of the goddess of love when she was born in the sea. Arabs believed that they were formed when oysters were lured by the light of the moon from the depths of the seas. The moon would leave dewdrops of its light, which would be swallowed by the oysters and taken back with them to their deep oceanic homes. Ancient Japanese folktales told that pearls were created from the tears of mythical creatures like mermaids and nymphs. Early Chinese civilizations believed that dragons carried pearls between their teeth, which symbolized wisdom.
Pearls are organic gemstones that are formed by shelled mollusks; mainly oysters and mussels. Oysters create pearls by depositing layers of calcium carbonate around microscopic irritants that get lodged in their shells. They are very soft and sensitive to extreme heat and acidity whereas they do not require polishing or faceting like most gems. Pearls are one of few gems not measured by carats and they can range in size from 3mm to 13mm. Luster is the most important aspect of choosing a pearl. The finest pearls have a reflective luster, making them appear creamy white with an iridescent sheen that casts many colorful hues. Some pearls exhibit iridescence, which is known as orient.
Saltwater pearls include the Akoya cultured pearls and are usually white or cream in color and round in shape. Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines produce the South Sea pearl – the largest of all the pearls which can be naturally white, cream, or golden in color. Tahitian pearls which are grown in several of the islands of French Polynesia, including Tahiti are collectively called black pearls, but their colors include gray, blue, green, and purple. Natural sea pearls are found in Australia, Japan, Central America, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Manaar (between India and Sri Lanka), the coast of Madagascar, Burma (Myanmar), the Philippines, the South Pacific Islands (including Tahiti and Fiji) and South America.
Cultured seawater pearl sources include Southeast Asia (such as Indonesia and the Philippines), Australia, China, French Polynesia, Japan, South Pacific Islands (including Tahiti and Fiji), and the Philippines.
Freshwater pearls are grown in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds, predominately in China. Although many are white and resemble the Akoya cultured pearls in shape and size, they can also be produced in various shapes and in an array of pastel colors. Natural river pearls are found in Asia, Europe, and North America. Cultured freshwater pearl sources include China and Japan.
Pearls can be identified by their pearly luster which depends on the quality of the nacre. Pearls should have the characteristic shiny pearly luster and their surface should show sharp and bright reflections. The surfaces of good quality pearls are smooth and blemish-free with a suitable layer of nacre to increase durability. Pearls can be round, oval, pear-shaped or misshapen (baroque pearls).
Pearl is one of the three birthstones for the month of June. It is also the accepted anniversary gemstone for the 30th wedding anniversary.