June's Birthstone: The Pearl

Pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June as adopted by the American National Association of Jewelers in 1912. It is also the birthstone for the Sun Signs of Gemini and Cancer.  Fresh water pearls are given on the 1st wedding anniversary. Pearls are also given on the 3rd, 12th and 30th anniversaries.

Pearls are formed inside mollusks such as oysters and mussels. They are formed when an irritant such as a tiny stone or bit of sand gets inside the mollusk's shell. A lustrous substance, called nacre, is secreted around the object to protect the soft internal surface of the mollusk. Layers of nacre coat the irritant, and a  pearl is formed. Light that is reflected from these overlapping layers produces a characteristic iridescent luster. This process can take up to seven or eight years.

The most valuable pearls are perfectly symmetrical, relatively large and naturally produced. They have a shimmering iridescence which is called orient luster. The principal oyster beds lay in the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of India and Sri Lanka, and in the Red Sea. Chinese pearls come mainly from freshwater rivers and ponds, whereas Japanese pearls are found near the coast in salt water.

There are many types of pearls:natural pearls (made without human interference), 
cultured pearls
 (made when a foreign substance is intentionally inserted into a living oyster. This method was first used in 1893), baroque pearls (pearls that have irregular shapes),
Biwa pearls (an irregular shaped pearl which forms in the freshwater of Lake Biwa, Japan), blister pearls (pearls which grow attached to the inside of the shell), black pearls (gray to black pearls), freshwater pearls (pearls which form in fresh water mollusks and resemble puffed rice),Mabe pearls (cultivated blister pearls ),seed pearls (small, tiny pearls used in Victorian jewelry and sewn on clothing).

Pearls vary in color from white to those with a hint of color, often pink, to brown or black. Each coloration will depend on the type of mollusk and the water where the mollusk lived. Because the nacre is organic, pearls are very sensitive to extreme heat, acids, dryness, and humidity. They should be stored carefully.
Pearls are quite "soft" and should be protected from extreme wear.
Natural pearls have been harvested from the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Manaar (Indian Ocean), and the Red Sea for thousands of years. The coasts of Polynesia and Australia produce mainly cultured pearls. Both freshwater and saltwater pearls are cultivated in Japan and China. Freshwater pearls are found in the rivers of Scotland, Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, and the USA (Mississippi)

Cultured or freshwater pearls are considered to offer the power of love, money, protection, and luck. Pearls are thought to give wisdom through experience, to quicken the laws of karma and to cement engagements and love relationships. They are thought to keep children safe. 
Chinese myths tell of pearls falling from the sky when dragons fought. Ancient legend says pearls were thought to be the tears of the gods and the Greeks believed that wearing pearls would promote a happy marriage and prevent newlywed women from crying.


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