Pearl is the traditional birthstone for June. Symbolising fertility and love, pearls have been associated with weddings for thousands of years. Kings, Queens and Maharajas adorned themselves with pearls to symbolise their prestige.
Although never out of fashion, they have enjoyed something of a renaissance recently with many celebrities spotted wearing them on the red carpet. Always elegant and classy, classic single rows, studs and pendants are never out of place, but today’s modern designs can make pearls fun and more wearable than ever.
What is a pearl?
A natural pearl is formed when an irritant such as a grain of sand penetrates the shell of an oyster and embeds itself in the mantle tissue. As protection, the oyster covers it with a pearly substance known as nacre and a pearl is formed. Such pearls, often referred to as orientals, are rarely seen nowadays and if of any size and quality are very costly.
Most pearls in jewellery shops are cultured, or assisted by man. Akoya or cultured pearls are formed by putting a mother of pearl bead into the tissue of a host oyster which is then returned to the sea for a several years. The oyster will cover it with nacre as before (the pearly bit) and the result is a spherical, or near spherical, pearl. The quality and price will depend on how thick & lustrous the nacre layer is.
There are various types of cultured pearl depending on the mollusc and where they come from. South Sea pearls are much bigger than the usual Akoyas and are often found in beautiful colours – lilac, green, grey, golden etc. Those from Tahiti, also large, vary from a pale grey through to almost black, some with spectacular peacock hues. More recently, cultured freshwater pearls have become available. These come from yet another mollusc, but the process is much the same although most do not have a bead inserted first. Generally speaking, they are less expensive than Akoyas, but the lustre is not always as good.
Pearls can be imitated by many synthetic materials, but if you rub a natural pearl against your teeth, it will feel gritty whereas an imitation one will feel smooth.
How to choose your pearls.
Pearls flatter everyone, but pearls vary enormously in colour and it’s important to choose pearls the right colour to flatter your skin tone. If you have olive toned skin, go for a creamy colour. A very pale skin would suit a slightly rose or white pearl. Try them on and see the difference!
Some Do’s and Don’ts:
- Pearls are organic and delicate and therefore it is important to treat them very carefully.
- When wearing pearls, always ensure that you use hairspray and perfume before you put them on as these or any harsh chemical can destroy the lustre which makes pearls so special.
- Pearls scratch easily and should never be stored with other jewellery as they are soft whereas other gemstones, particularly diamonds are much harder. Keep your precious pearls separately.
- Pearls can be cleaned by wiping them with a damp cloth or a mild soapy solution – never detergent. Alternatively, you can buy a specific pearl cleaner from you jeweller or they can be professionally cleaned when they are being restrung.
Our Pearl Collection
We have a beautiful range of pearl jewellery at Gatwards from traditional pieces through to edgier, more modern designs.