A pearl is a hard mass that’s created inside the soft tissue of living bivalve mollusk. It’s made of concentric layers of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form. Pearls can be made by any shelled mollusk, but the majority of these pearls are not valued as gemstones.
Nacreous pearls are the best-known, most-commercially significant pearls. The pearl’s outer coating is made from layers of nacre, an organic-inorganic composite material that also makes the inner shell layer. Pearls made by other types of mollusks typically have no luster or iridescence; they are also less durable. (Nacre is also known as mother of pearl.)
There are two types of nacreous pearl bivalves:
- the pearl oysters that lives in the sea,
- and the river mussels that live in fresh water.
Though pearls come in many shapes, the prized pearl is a perfect sphere. Irregular shaped pearls are referred to as baroque pearls. “Natural” or “wild” pearls occur in nature without any human help. Cultured pearls are made in pearls farms with the assistance of humans.
Pearls come in many colors too, such as white, cream, pink, silver, brown, green, blue, yellow, grey, purple, and black.
The English word pearl comes from the French perle, which comes from the Latin perna meaning leg, after the ham- or mutton leg-shaped bivalve.
Why is a pearl considered a gemstone when it’s not a mineral?
It’s because they have been used since ancient times in jewelry, crowns, and thrones.
The pearl is often referred to as the Queen of Gems or Queens Gem.
History and Lore
- Ancient Greeks believed that wearing pearls promoted marital bliss and that wearing pearls on your wedding day prevented tears in the marriage.
- During the Crusades, knights gave their ladies pearls.
- A 4,000-year-old pearl necklace, known as the Susa Pearls, found in a Persian Achaemenid queen’s sarcophagus can be seen in the Louvre. (Here is a site with pictures of it.)
- Pearls were thought to be the tears of gods.
- The Queen of Sheba wore pearl jewelry.
- Supposedly, Cleopatra drank wine with ground pearls in it to protect herself from poisoning.
- Ancient Asian Emperors drank ground pearls for longevity and beauty.
- An old legend, as told by Pliny, suggested that oysters rose to the surface of the sea beneath the moons rays, opened their shells, and were fertilized by drops of dew creating pearls.
- “Roman pearls” were hollowed out glass beads. The interior surfaces coated with an iridescent derivative of fish scales. Then, they were filled with wax. (The process was actually credited by a Frenchman.)
- The Ancient Chinese believed pearls were either created in the brains of dragons or from dragons spit.
- Eastern dragons often suspended a pearl around their necks. It symbolize the sun and held their power.
- In addition, almost all religions reference pearls — and always in a positive light.
- Abernathy Pearl: perfect freshwater pearl found in the River Tay, Scotland.
- Big Pink Pearl: a 470-carat iridescent pink baroque abalone pearl.
- Hope Pearl: 450-carat drop-shaped saltwater pearl with grading from a dark bronze to white, thought to be a blister pearl, once by Henry Philip Hope (also owned the Hope Diamond); mounted to the smaller end with an arched crown of red enameled gold set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds.
- Imperial Hong Kong Pearl | Miracle of the Sea: the largest nacreous, silvery-white, baroque pearls ever discovered; believed to have been owned by Empress Dowager Tz’u-Hsi (Cixi).
- Jomon Pearl: a 5,500-year-old pearl, one of the oldest pearls.
- La Peregrina Pearl: the largest perfectly symmetrical pearls with bright white coloration; found by African slaves off The Pearl Islands of Panama 500 years ago; owned by kings, queens, and most recently Elizabeth Taylor
Magical and Mystical Properties include
- aiding with digestive discomfort
- aiding with achy muscles
- aiding in fertility
- easing childbirth
- enhancing personal integrity
- helping to clear one’s mind
- promoting calmness and emotional stability
- promoting faith
- promoting loyalty
- promoting success
- amplifying focus and meditation
Always wear pearls against your skin! Don’t let them come in contact with perfume or makeup.
Discharging & Recharging
Discharge pearls overnight in sea water for ocean pearls and fresh water for freshwater pearls. To recharge pearls, place them is an oyster shell. (In stone therapy, when using stones to heal, their energy is used up, requiring the stones to be recharged.)
images: Pearls in Shell courtesy of Hannes Grobe/AWI, Wikicommons, pearls strands by Jennifergaglione, Wikicommons
series logo image by wikimedia.org, awesome colorization by me!