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Pearls hold an aura of sophistication and have a history dating back to Ancient Rome. The birthstone of June, pearls have always been symbolic of perfection and incorruptibility. But for such a beautiful gem, pearls have a humble beginning.
Unlike other gems which come from the earth, pearls are the only gem to come from a living organism – a muscle, oyster, or clam. When an irritant is introduced to the organism it produces a special substance called ‘nacre’ to coat the irritant and protect the organism. Eventually, layers of nacre build up and harden, creating the pearl.
There are different types of pearls. South Sea pearls are created off the coast of Indonesia, The Philippines and Australia. South Sea pearls are the most sought after, due to their size and rarity. They are found in a range of colours, including white, silver, pale gold and even black.
Freshwater pearls originate from Lake Biwa in Japan but today most are produced in mainland China. Freshwater pearls are notable for their variety of shapes, sizes, and colours. Other varieties of pearls include Akoya, Keshi, Tahitian, and Mabe, among others.
Perfectly round pearls are the most coveted. Baroque or semi-baroque shape pearls are slightly or very irregularly shaped and are generally less expensive. The size of a pearl is measured in millimetres and like any gem, size plays a large role in value. A pearl is only considered high quality if it is blemish-free. There is no universal grading system for pearls. However, many jewellers will use the Mikimoto grading system, as Mikimoto is the most recognised name in pearls.
Pearls are a beautiful and timeless gem, whether they’re worn as a strand, pendant, earrings or bracelet.