A Matter of Brilliance is a professional jewelry appraisal company based in Newton, MA, founded by Aimee Berrent, Graduate Gemologist. Our appraisals can be used to:
“A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls.” –Coco Chanel
From Coco Chanel to contemporary designers, pearls have a special place in gemstone jewelry. And for you lucky June babies, it’s your birthstone. A pearl’s shimmering iridescence, with tones from white to cream to pink, is flattering to every skin tone. Another reason June is an important month for pearls: they’re a must-have accompaniment for brides, signifying love, purity, and eternity.
Natural vs. Cultured
You’ll often see pearls classified as natural or cultured. Here, according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), is the definition of each:
- Natural pearls form in the bodies, or mantle tissue, of certain mollusks, usually around a microscopic irritant, and always without human help of any kind. The shell, irritated by the sand, creates layer after layer of calcium carbonate in the form of mother-of-pearl or nacre. It is fairly rare in nature.
- Cultured pearls are the result of the deliberate insertion of a bead or piece of tissue that the mollusk coats with nacre. The growth of cultured pearls requires human intervention and care.
Since natural pearls are so rare, most pearls sold today are cultured, a process that was introduced in Japan in the early 1900s. The pearls grow in farms from 6 months to 3 years. Still, the creation of a pearl is still determined by Mother Nature.
There are four major kinds of cultured pearls:
- Ayoka: from Japan and China. These pearls are white with overtones of cream and silver.
- South Sea White and Golden: from Australia (generally satiny white), the Philippines (creamy golden), and Indonesia (from white and cream to silver, pink, and gold).
- Tahitian: famous pearls ranking from light to dark gray with overtones of purple and blue.
- Freshwater: cultivated in freshwater lakes and ponds in China, Japan, and the U.S. These pearls grow in many shapes and colors, from white, pink, mauve, and pink.
Caring for your pearls
According to the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), while pearls are resilient, they’re also delicate. The layers of nacre that form the pearl are absorbent. That means that cosmetics, hairspray, perfume, and ammonia can harm your pearls’ condition. AGTA suggests that you put your pearl jewelry on just before you head out—and take it off first thing when you get back home.
To clean your pearls, use a soft dry or damp cloth, not ultrasonic cleaners. A protective pouch can keep them from getting scratched. And, it’s important to restring them every few years.
June birthday boys and girls, as well as June brides, enjoy your celebratory month. May it be as iridescent and lovely as the pearl that is yours. If I can help you appraise your new or heirloom jewelry, let me know.