June is the pearl birthstone month and is also associated with the 3rd, 12th and 30th wedding anniversaries. Pearls were considered tears of the Gods in ancient times because they were rare. Anyone lucky enough to possess one was granted magical properties of protection, love and abundance.
Oysters are the main producers of pearl birthstones and are created inside the shell over a period of years.
The process begins when a small foreign object such as a large grain of sand, finds its way into the shell and acts as an irritant. The oyster begins to cover the object with a protective secretion called nacre (a chemical compound) in layers and the result is the pearl as we know it.
Since natural pearls are such a rare occurrence, pearl birthstones today are cultivated by man. A little bead is slipped into the shell of an oyster and returned to the water. The pearl will be ready for harvesting in about three years. This is done on a mass scale, mostly in the South Pacific, China and Japan.
The value of a pearl birthstone is taken from the shape, size and color. The most valuable pearl will have a smooth surface without indentations or marks and possess an iridescent sheen, preferably with a rosy tint. To determine if a pearl is genuine – rub it against your tooth and if it is smooth, you know it is a fake. Real pearls will feel gritty like fine sandpaper.
Pearls are found in any type of jewelry from women’s earrings to men’s cufflinks. Larger pearls are often used as pendants with a single crystal gem such as a ruby or sapphire sitting above to offset it. A typical pearl ring is set with a 3-stone arrangement with the pearl in the middle flanked by 2 smaller gems. Either gold or silver can be used as the base, but many people prefer silver as the best to compliment the softer look of the pearl.
Pearls have a low hardness rating and can be marked up easily when stored with other hard pieces of jewelry. It’s a good idea to store pearls separately in a cloth bag. They also tend to absorb perfume and hairspray which stains the surface, so keep pearls off until finished getting dressed. Pearls can be cleaned by wiping carefully with a soft cloth.