The Jewelry Insider

June 8, 2010

June is Pearl month, jewelry lovers, and aside from offering unbeatable
prices on all our pearl offerings, Jewelry.com has all the information you ever wanted to
know about the opulent gem. There’s a reason Michelle Obama wears them more than
any other jewelry style.

Pearl Jewelry 101:

Pearl is among the most timeless, classic and treasured of all gems.
Throughout history,
pearls
have been associated with wisdom, wealth, purity, romance and mystery. The
Greeks prized them for their beauty and association with love and marriage.
Medieval knights wore them in battle as a talisman against injury. And during
the Renaissance, some European countries banned all but nobility from the right
to wear them.

It’s hard to believe that such a luscious, beautiful gem comes from such
humble origins. A natural pearl starts out as a grain of sand or microscopic worm that works its way
into an oyster and cannot be expelled. To protect its soft body from this
irritant, the oyster secretes a smooth, hard crystalline substance called nacre.
Layer upon layer of nacre coats the foreign object and hardens, ultimately
forming a pearl. In general, the thicker the nacre, the richer the ‘glow’ of the
pearl – which can greatly enhance its value.

Although early pearl gathering depended on divers braving the oceans’ depths
to retrieve these treasures, the vast majority of pearls today are grown, or
cultured, on pearl farms by surgically inserting a small shell bead, or nucleus,
into the mantle of an oyster.

Even though pearls are harvested en masse on pearl farms, producing a
quality pearl is an extremely rare event. It is estimated that half of all nucleated
oysters do not survive – and of those that do, only 20% bear marketable pearls.

When shopping for pearls, the five factors that determine value are luster
(surface brilliance); surface cleanliness (absence of spots, bumps or cracks);
shape (generally, the rounder the pearl, the higher its value); color (pearls
come in virtually every hue of the rainbow, and a few others, too); and size
(the average pearl sold is 7-7.5 millimeters, but these gems can be as small as
1 millimeter or as large as 20 millimeters).

Because pearls are soft, ranking only 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs scale for hardness, they require
special care. Natural oils from the skin, as well as hair spray, lotions and
cosmetics, can dull their luster. Like other jewelry, they should be cleaned
with a soft damp cloth and stored in cloth or cotton away from other jewelry to
prevent scratching.

Also, avoid allowing your pearl to come in contact with harsh chemicals,
which can erode its surface. And if worn frequently, pearl necklaces should be
brought to a jeweler once a year for re-stringing to prevent strand breakage.

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