All about pearls, June’s delicate birthstone

Ah, June…the month of brides, summer, and the pearl birthstone. Actually, June has three birthstones (it’s an over-achieving month): besides pearls, there are also moonstones and alexandrite, but let’s focus on the oh-so-classy pearl, so perfect in a necklace, earring, ring, or brooch. They’re treasured for their delicate hues, and for being the only gem created in a living organism. Some pearls are found naturally in ocean or freshwater mollusks; however, many pearls today are raised in oyster farms.

Shapes and sizes

Pearls come in eight shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, and circled. And in this season of layering jewelry, every length of a peal necklace has a name (shortest to longest): choker (about 16”), princess (about 18”), matinee (about 22”), opera (30”-32”), and rope.

Taking care of your pearls

The delicate translucence of pearls can be dulled by makeup and chemicals such as hairspray, so put on your pearls last. And when you take them off, be sure to rub a soft cloth over them to get rid of any perspiration. Don’t use ultrasonic cleaners. On the other hand, pearls can dry out, so be sure to wear them often—and enjoy them!

Ask the Appraiser

Here are some of the questions I’m often asked about pearls:

  • What’s a cultured pearl? “Cultured” pearls are helped by humans (as opposed to occurring naturally). They begin as a tiny piece of shell that’s placed inside the mollusk. The shell layers grow around it and in about four years, there’s a pearl.
  • What are “chocolate pearls”? More expensive chocolate pearls are Tahitian cultured pearls bleached to a brown color, according to the GIA. However, many companies are now marketing dyed brown pearls.
  • Why are pearl necklaces generally knotted? There are two main reasons: first, the knots keep pearls from rubbing against one another; and second, if your necklace breaks, the knots will keep all of the pearls from scattering.
  • Where do pearl colors come from? Pearls get their various colors—pink, white, ivory, black—from the inner elements—called nacre— that’s produced by a mollusk as a result of an injury or irritation of shell.

Happy June birthdays! Enjoy your luminous birthstone, the classic, classy pearl. And don’t forget to call me if I can help you appraise your pearls or necklaces that you’ve inherited. A well-maintained strand of pearls can be a wonderful heirloom passed from mother to daughter.

Luminescently yours, Aimee

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