Gemstone of the Month: June

Gemstone of the Month: June

Welcome to June’s Gemstone of the Month. 

June is associated with several gemstones, the main ones being Pearl, Moonstone and Alexandrite. 

Most people have heard of, seen and even own a moonstone which is a beautiful gemstone with its remarkable and mysterious play of colour deep within its heart.

“Emerald by day, ruby by night,” Alexandrite is the ‘new kid on the block’ referred to in the modern June gemstone list and it is well known for displaying one of the most remarkable colour changes in the gem world — green in sunlight and red in incandescent light.  However, as it is quite rare and expensive, few people have seen a natural alexandrite or know that it is associated with June.    

I have therefore chosen to tell you more about the third member of June’s trio of gemstones: the Pearl.

 

Natural Sea or Freshwater,  Mother of,  Shell  -  with a history going back millennia… …  

Pearls have been sought after and prized for thousands of years.  The English word ‘pearl’ comes from the French Perle, originally from the Latin perna meaning leg, named after the ham- or mutton leg-shaped bivalve in which they are mainly found growing.  A pearl is a hard glistening object produced within the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusc (most commonly an oyster or freshwater mussel).  Just like the shell of a mollusc, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in layers (known as nacre).  This is secreted to mask discomfort when the mollusc accidentally picks up a particle of grit which then becomes an irritant to the poor creature. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes, known as baroque pearls, can occur.  Freshwater pearls are known and prized for the variety of their markings.  The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries.  Because of this, the pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, admirable and valuable.  (We’ve all heard the expression “pearls of wisdom”).

The most valuable pearls (natural) occur spontaneously in the wild but are extremely rare.  Cultured pearls from pearl oysters and freshwater mussels make up the majority of those available today.  Pearls have been harvested and cultivated primarily for use in jewellery and to adorn clothing but they have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines and paint.  

Whether wild or cultured, gem-quality pearls are almost always nacreous and iridescent, like the interior of the shell that produces them. 

One family of nacreous pearl bivalves – the pearl oyster – lives in the sea, while the other – a very different group of bivalves – lives in freshwater; these are the river mussels such as the freshwater pearl mussel.  The unique lustre of pearls depends upon the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the translucent layers.  In addition, pearls (especially cultured freshwater pearls) can be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, or black. The very best pearls have a metallic mirror-like lustre.

Most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China.  Primarily saltwater cultured pearls are grown with beads.  Tradenames of cultured pearls are Akoya, white or golden South Sea, and black Tahitian. 

Shell pearls are simply made of mother-of-pearl, coral or conch shell and accordingly more easily available; they are produced in many sizes for costume jewellery and can be dyed in many colours.

Before the days of cultured pearls, true black pearls were rare and highly valued for the simple reason that white pearl oysters rarely produced naturally black pearls, and black pearl oysters rarely produced any natural pearls at all.  Mary Queen of Scots was painted wearing a long string of natural black pearls (they seem to have been ‘taken into safe custody’ by Elizabeth I following Mary’s demise!) Black pearls are very rarely actually black: they are usually shades of green, purple, aubergine, blue, grey, silver or peacock (a mix of several shades, like a peacock's feather).

For those who believe, pearls enhance the calm flow of energy, balance emotions, reduce feelings of anxiety and frustration and even help self-understanding.

In modern times, pearls are a staple of the bridal occasion and Kristaval has an extensive range of bridal jewellery, although pearls are beautiful to wear at any time and for any occasion. 

Look out for Kristaval’s pearl jewellery as you browse the website

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