Every month we feature a precious birthstone, but in June we get to feature something different. While the pearl is considered a precious jewel, it is actually the only birthstone that was created by a living animal.
As you may know, pearls are organic gems that actually grow inside the tissue of a living mollusk — like an oyster or a mussel. Pearls can be harvested from both fresh and saltwater mollusks in oceans, lakes and rivers all over the world, leaving cultures everywhere enchanted by their beauty for millennia.
A World of Pearl Lovers
It was the ancient Greeks who told the tale of Aphrodite dripping in pearls instead of water droplets when she emerged from the sea. Chinese folklore proclaimed the moon held the power to create pearls. You may have heard the ancient story of Cleopatra dissolving a pearl from one of her earrings into a glass of wine, all in an effort to prove to Mark Anthony that she could consume the wealth and riches of an entire population in a single meal.
And as Persian legend has it, pearls were created when a rainbow met the earth after a storm. They explained the imperfections in a pearl as a result of the thunder and lightning that occurred during a storm. The Tahitians have a myth of their own, saying the god of peace and fertility, Oro, came to earth on a rainbow with a magical oyster. Inside the oyster was a precious black pearl which he gave to the princess of Bora bora as a symbol of his love. Today, Tahiti cultures some of the world’s most beautiful and precious saltwater pearls.
The Japanese have also famously adored the pearl, their ancient stories telling of mythical beings like nymphs and mermaids crying them as tears. Like Tahiti, the Japanese are some of the world’s finest producers of saltwater pearls in the world — renowned for their Akoya pearls.
Across cultures, the pearl was always seen as a mythical, god-like jewel. But, it also tends to be a symbol of purity, one that still holds true for its meaning today, which is why brides often wear it for their wedding day. The pearl also has deep-rooted connections to love, like that of the Tahitian tale, making it an age-old gift for lovers.
A Natural Phenomenon & Beloved Jewel
The pearl is an incredible phenomenon of our world — so rare and so beautiful that for thousands of years, the only explanation was magical or out of this world. Today, we understand that a pearl is formed when the tight shell of a mollusk mistakenly gets a foreign material inside, like a spec of sand. To protect itself, the mollusk will secrete a substance called a nacre around the irritant— which eventually hardens and forms into a pearl. The natural occurrence of a pearl is so rare that only one in 10-thousand oysters will create a natural pearl. Of that small percentage, an even smaller number of those pearls will actually be gem quality.
So to bypass the unique and special process once only mastered by mother nature, humans began cultivating their own pearls to satisfy their cravings. To do this, pearl technicians will actually implant a piece of mantle tissue into freshwater mollusks or mother-of-pearl shell into a saltwater mollusk to make the animal create a pearl. Today, this is how a vast majority of the world’s pearls are produced.
Besides how they came into existence, there is no difference between a natural and a cultured pearl. But today, most of the pearls you will buy have been cultivated. You can find cultured pearls in a variety of dazzling shapes, sizes and colors — from white to cream, rose pink, lilac, green, gold gray and even black. Saltwater pearls tend to be more valuable simply because saltwater mollusks can produce only one pearl at a time, making the cultivation process a lot more labor intensive. For comparison, a freshwater mollusk can produce up to thirty at once.
As we touched on above, Japanese, or Akoya pearls, are some of the most popular cultivated saltwater pearls in the world thanks to their rich heritage in the practice. But, saltwater pearl cultivation in the South Sea and Tahiti are also incredibly sought after for their beauty. However, most of the world’s salt and freshwater cultured pearls come from China. In the end, what is so special about a pearl is that each pearl is so incredibly unique — everything from the color to the location where it was found or cultivated playing a beautiful role in its pure form and individuality.
At Gurhan, we love working with the unique quality of pearls and pairing them alongside our rich, 24k gold. Browse our selection today to give someone in your life born in June — or yourself — a beautiful gift to mark the occasion.
While we can cultivate pearls today, the mythical, pure and natural beauty of a pearl still enchants us. The pearl is also an incredible reminder that from a misfortune, something beautiful can still emerge.
So as we enter the month of June, think of those who showcase enduring beauty. Think of the ones you love. Think of those who bring pure joy to this world. And of course, think of those who were born this month and help them mark the occasion with a pearl or two, or string of them.
Shop the GURHAN Pearl collection HERE