The Mysterious And Precious Pearl, A June Birthstone

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As the end of June approaches, let’s enjoy another of the three birthstones for June. They are all rather mysterious and mutable – alexandrite changes colour depending on the light; moonstone is like a misty day, with only partial visibility; and pearls emerge miraculously from a watery and fluid environment.

We’ve looked at alexandrite and its discovery in Russian mines in the 1800s, and now it’s time to see a pearl or two. Often called the Queen of Gems, pearls have been precious gems for longer than recorded history – traces of pearl from hundreds of years BC were found in a Persian sarcophagus, and pearls were presented to Chinese royalty as gifts from as early as 2,300 BC. Pearls are produced from living oranisms. As Åse Anderson in an article in The Jewellery Editor describes:

A pearl is formed when an irritant, such as a parasite or piece of shell, becomes accidentally lodged in an oyster’s soft inner body, causing it to secrete a crystalline substance called nacre, which builds up around the irritant in layers until a pearl is formed. Cultured pearls are formed through the same process, the only difference being that the irritant is implanted in the oyster rather than entering it by chance.

The result of course, is infinitely wonderful – variations in size, shape, colour and lustre mean that pearls can be used to create an infinite variety of jewels. Here are a few examples…

This first example (above) is from Heritage Auctions, sold for not much more than $1,000USD. A lovely bracelet with a golden leaf clasp, it has no particular provenance, no history of exciting owners and no record of who designed it. The pearls are cultured white Akoya pearls in four knotted strands with overtones of rose, enhanced by round-cut rubies weighing a total of approximately 0.90 carat, set in 14K gold spacer bars, completed by a 14K gold clasp accented by round-cut rubies and complemented by a larger, central cultured pearl. 

Two more pieces on the next page…

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