“The Pearl is the queen of gems, and the gem of queens” - Grace Kelly
We have kick started 'our favourite gemstones list' blog series with the beautiful Pearls! June has just passed by and we could not go without mentioning them. They were the subject of a recent mailing list email, featuring Pearl gemstones as the birthstone for June and the feedback we received was so good we decided to do a more longform piece in this jewellery blog.
One of the primary uses of this stone is to make beautiful Pearl jewellery. The value of Pearls is determined by a combination of the lustre, colour, size, lack of surface flaws and symmetry. It is the lustre however, that is the defining characteristic of these semi precious gemstones. The gentle sheen when a Pearl catches the light, that makes them almost appear to glow. This is caused by the layers and layers of nacre all interacting with the light slightly differently. That is why larger Pearls are more valuable. They possess more layers of nacre giving the deep sheen that people love.
Pearls are the only jewels created by a living animal. Source: National Geographic
Whilst all gemstones are formed by natural processes, Pearls are unique for not being formed underground, but rather underwater. Natural Pearls form when an irritant, a grain of sand or a parasite, gets into the shell of a mollusc. The animal protects itself by coating the irritant in a layer of ‘nacre’, which builds up over a period of years to form the beautiful stones. Until 1893 all Pearls were natural, or ‘wild’ pearls, and thus incredibly rare. However, in this year the discovery was made of how to induce molluscs to start producing the stones. This new variety known as ‘farmed’ Pearls increased the availability of these natural gemstones and enabled the creation of more affordable jewellery, so now everyone can enjoy their undeniable allure.
The stone widely considered to be the world’s most famous pearl is “La Peregrina” which is Spanish for 'the Incomparable'. A pear-shaped Pearl the size of a large grape. It has an ownership history which can be traced back over 500 years including many royal households, before being bought by Richard Burton for his then wife Elizabeth Taylor as a Valentine’s Day gift (no pressure guys!). Taylor had gem design jewelers create a bespoke jewellery piece and place the stone as the highlight of a stunning colourful necklace of Rubies and Diamonds, and was seen in public wearing it several times. Many years later, the piece was sold at an auction house in New York for $10.5m. That showed a very good profit for the $37,000 Burton had originally paid for the stone. If you fancy trying your luck to find a natural wild oyster Pearl, the odds of finding one is reportedly less than one in 10,000!
La Peregrina: bespoke necklace given to Elizabeth Taylor. Source: Christies.com
If you are looking for something more affordable, there are other types of gemstones that possess a similar lustre as Pearls, such as Mother of pearl, which could be just right for you. Formed of nacre in the same way as Pearls but coating the inside of the shell instead of forming as a standalone object, Mother of pearl is an alternative that is commonly used in the jewellery industry.
Its iridescent nature makes it extremely attractive in almost all lights, and because it forms more readily than natural Pearls, it is also more abundant. Like Pearls themselves, this lining mineral is normally white, although other colours do exist. The Paua Shell from New Zealand, also known as Abalone, displays shades of shimmery yellow, blues and greens, which is perfect to make truly beautiful and colourful jewellery pieces.
Nikki earrings: Gold filled and Paua Shell earrings
Among these gemstones healing properties, Pearls are said to enhance personal integrity and improve focus. They symbolise purity and serenity, which has led to them being used as components of elegant wear for decades.
The attraction for this beautiful natural stone will likely always remain. They certainly make the ‘perfect gift for her’ – the woman in your life being that mum, a friend, a partner or a treat for yourself. As jewellery makers, when your raw materials are this fascinating, the job of designing gorgeous pieces becomes a real dream. And that is why we love what we do – designing unusual bracelets, necklaces and earrings and selling these semi precious stone jewellery online.
Would you like to learn more about the most common gemstones? Click here to see a list of semi precious gemstones and meanings.