Some believe pearls to be the tears of the gods. Others thought them dewdrops filled with moonlight that fell into the ocean and were swallowed by oysters. Many people think of wild oysters ingesting a grain of sand as the foreign body which stimulates nacre production – this is a myth. Living in the sea, oysters are constantly ingesting and expelling sand and irritants.
Only when something becomes lodged – like a piece of shell, bone, coral or parasite does the oyster start nacre production
Nacre is made of crystals of calcium carbonate aligned with each other so that light passing along the axis of one, is reflected and refracted by the other to produce a rainbow of light and colour.
A pearl is a natural gem created by a living organism. When a foreign object is introduced into a mussel or oyster the animal coats the irritant with a substance called nacre, the same material with which it makes it’s shell. Layers of nacre build up to make a pearl.
Most wild, natural pearl producing oyster beds have vanished due to over-fishing, oil drilling and pollution. Today, the world’s most beautiful pearls are cultured.
Cultured pearls share the same properties as wild pearls. The difference is that a technician opens the shell and inserts the irritant which stimulates nacre production.
Pearls come in a variety of colours. Natural colours are mainly down to to the breed of mollusc. Other influences include diet, water temperature and pollutants. No-one can predict or control what colour pearls will be produced in any hatchery.
Black Pearls are rarely jet black but blue, green, silver, grey, aubergine, copper, peacock and more. Green is the predominant colour. Naturally coloured black pearls come from the pearl farms of French Polynesia (Tahitian pearls) as well as Indonesia and the Philipines.
Harvesting pearls is a time-consuming business. Of the millions of oysters and mussels seeded each year, only a proportion (maybe just 50%) will survive to bear pearls. Of these, many will not produce pearls of a marketable quality.
Each pearl must be sorted by size, shape, colour, lustre and blemish.
Then they need to be drilled and matched for stringing – a skilled and laborious task. To find 50 perfectly matched high-quality pearls for a 16 inch necklace a pearl processor may have to sort 10,000 pearls.
The Pearl Market
Pearl types can generally be divided into two major categories: those produced in fresh water and those grown in salt water. Freshwater pearls are commonly grown inside the Hyriopsis cumingii mollusc, also known as the “triangle mussel” in rivers, lakes or ponds. The history of freshwater pearl cultivation can be traced back to the 13th century when the earliest blister pearls were cultured in China. However, it wasn’t until the mid 1990s that the Chinese started producing higher quality pearls. Most of the freshwater pearls seen today are cultured in China although a very small percentage of them are also grown in Japan and the US. The most common pearl-growth period for freshwater pearls is three to five years, although some may take up to seven years to grow.
Freshwater cultured pearls, unlike saltwater cultured pearls, do not normally contain bead nuclei and therefore most of them are made of entirely solid nacre. This distinction makes freshwater pearls more durable than saltwater pearls. In addition, freshwater pearls rarely come in perfect round shapes. In fact, only about 2% of all freshwater pearls are round or near-round. Most of them are in irregular shapes, known as baroque or semi-baroque shapes. This interesting feature makes freshwater pearl jewellery very exciting and fun to wear.
Freshwater pearls also come in a wide variety of natural colours. They include white, cream, orange, pink, and lavender. Freshwater pearls are also known to display strong orient. Orient is an iridescent rainbow effect caused by light diffraction just beneath the pearl surface.
It’s important to note, however, freshwater pearls with lower quality are often dyed in intensive colours. Colours such as black and chocolate-brown shades in freshwater pearls are not natural and are the result of colour treatment.
With the advancement of the cultivation techniques over the last decade, Chinese pearl farmers have been able to produce large, round freshwater pearls with mirror-like lustre that can rival the finest Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Yet, these top quality gems make up less than 1% of total production.
Akoya pearls are the traditional pearls that people usually think of. Typically, they are perfectly round, white and highly lustrous. They were the first round cultured pearls marketed to the world by Mikimoto at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Akoya pearls, named after the mollusc species in which they grow, are saltwater cultured pearls. Its scientific name is Pinctada fucata martensii. While famously indigenous to the Japanese waters, the akoyas also grow in China, Southeast Asia and the Persian Gulf.Most Akoya pearls are round or near-round, ranging from 6 to 8mm in diameter on average. Although most people picture Akoya pearls as a white strand, they do come in a variety of natural colours. Their body colours include white, cream, and pink, often accompanied with a rose or ivory overtone.The most distinctive feature that makes Akoya pearls stand out from the other pearl types is its high lustre. A top quality Akoya pearl typically exhibits a lustrous surface with a mirror-like reflection. Nacre quality is one of the important factors that determine a pearl’s lustre.
Due to the cooler water temperature, the layers of aragonite platelets in Japanese Akoya pearls are normally formed tighter than those formed in warm-water pearls. As a result, top quality Japanese Akoya pearls often display a very high lustre.It is important to bear in mind, however, that the health of the mollusc and its environment, is also crucial to produce a pearl with beautiful lustre and shine. Any change in the weather, nutrient level in the water and pollutions will inevitably affect pearl cultivation.With their beautiful shine and timeless elegance, Akoya pearls continue to be a long-term favourite among brides and designers. From a well-matched strand to a pair of earrings, Akoya pearls are the perfect accessories for weddings, or any occasions to achieve a classic and elegant look.
Tahitian pearls, renowned for their exotic look, have changed our traditional image of pearls since they were first introduced to the market in the mid-1970. They grow in the black-lipped mollusc called Pinctada margaritifera cumingii, and are native to French Polynesia.
Tahitian pearls are often known as the “black pearls” but this name is misleading. Tahitian pearls are not entirely black. In fact, they offer the widest range of natural colours ever seen in the market. They come in shades of grey, black, or brown and they can have blue to green, purple, yellowish-green or pink overtones. In the pearl industry, the term “pistachio”, “aubergine”, or “peacock” is often used to vividly describe the Tahitian pearl colour.While around 40% of Tahitian cultured pearls are spherical, many are circled or baroque shaped. Most Tahitian pearls measure between 9 and 14mm but the average size is around 9.5mm.Treasured for their rarity and their intriguing beauty, fine quality Tahitian pearls display excellent lustre. Sometimes, the lustre can be so high that it almost reaches a metallic sheen. This unique feature, together with their fascinating colours, makes Tahitian pearls very valuable and exciting to wear.
A natural black pearl is more expensive and mysterious than its classic off-white cousins. And for good reason: Although manufacturers can dye pearls black, it takes extremely rare conditions to form pearls that have that dark, eerily iridescent glow.
Black pearls that are not cultured that is, ones that are not grown under tightly controlled conditions by pearl farmers begin forming much like any other pearl. When an irritant, such as a grain of sand, gets stuck inside the oyster’s body, the animal tries to ease its discomfort by coating the speck in calcium carbonate, which hardens to form a pearl. The pearl is made up of the same luminous, iridescent substance that the oyster lines the inside of its shell with.
Black pearls are formed when that piece of sand gets stuck in the body of a very specific type of oyster, the Tahitian black-lipped Pinctada margaritifera. The interior shell, called the nacre, of most oysters is usually a glossy white or silver but the Tahitian black-lipped oyster features a thick band of black. If the pearl forms near that band, it will suck up that coloring.
Tahitian black-lipped pearls can be darker if they develop closer to the lips, and can also be a silvery gray color if they get wedged in a lighter portion of the oyster. If an oyster that typically produces white pearls has an unusual black coloring in its nacre, it too can create a blackish pearl. This, however, is rare; it occurs in only one in 10,000 pearls.
South Sea pearls, among all other pearl types, are the largest and most valuable cultured pearls in the market. They grow in Pinctada maxima, the saltwater mollusc that is indigenous to the warm waters of northern Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Burma.
Compared to the molluscs that produce Akoya and Tahitian pearls, P. maxima is significantly larger and can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. There are two different types of P. maxima, the silver-lipped and the gold lipped. The silver-lipped type is abundant off the coast of North Western Australia, mainly yielding white to silver South Sea pearls. The gold-lipped type produces mostly yellow to golden coloured pearls, and is found in the Philippines and Indonesia.
In general, South Sea pearls measure between 8 to 20mm in diameter, with an average size being 13mm. Unlike Akoya and Tahitian pearls, South Sea pearls have a satiny lustre that is softer. Due to the warm waters and longer growth period, they also have exceptionally thick nacre, resulting in a unique lustrous glow.Interestingly, South Sea pearls are not all white or golden. In fact, they exhibit a wide range of colours including cream, silver, yellow, and golden. In addition, they display various overtones including pink, green and blue.Known for their extraordinary beauty and large sizes, South Sea pearls are considered by many the most luxurious of all pearls.
All of the different pearl types described above are produced by bivalves, the type of molluscs that has two shells joined by a hinge. Univalve molluscs such as Conches and Melo Melo snails have one shell and no hinge. Although the pearls they produce don’t display the pearly lustre of true pearls, both conch and Melo melo pearls are extremely rare and valuable. Natural pearls are found in these univalves when they’re harvested for food.
Conch pearls are found at the Caribbean Sea and a small adjacent area of the Atlantic Ocean. They are usually small and rarely round. Their colours range from pink, brown, yellow to white. Pink conch pearls with flame structure usually command an extraordinarily high price.
Melo melo pearls (or melo pearls) are produced by the same name sea-snail that is indigenous to the waters of Southern Asia. The shape of its shell is like a scroll. Melo pearls are often spherical and they can be very large. The size of 20 to 30mm in diameter is not uncommon among these rare gems. The shades of Melo pearls include light tan and brown with the most prized colour being orange.
As spiritual tokens, pearls are said to assist in calming and centering, as well as nurture your faith, loyalty, integrity and purity. They are also strong symbols of femininity, helping women connect with their “inner goddesses” and obtain the ultimate “feminine energy.” Perhaps most importantly, it is said that pearls have specific frequencies of energy vibrations which can re-balance deficiencies in the human body when they are worn, just like gemstones. Different gemstones are used for healing different parts of the body to create balance and provide relief, as pearls do.
In the realm of physical healing, pearls have been used throughout history to help treat the digestive tract, muscular systems and skin. Pearl powder is held to be one of the top tonic herbs for beauty. In fact, Asian royalty have used it for centuries to prevent the development of melanin, which causes dark skin pigmentation due to age and sun exposure. Pearl powder stimulates something called SOD activity, which utilizes powerful SOD antioxidants to help fade colored blemishes, reduce wrinkling and scarring, and even eliminate the occasional pimple. It’s for these reasons and more that the Chinese have relied on the healing properties of the pearl for centuries in treating everything from simple eye ailments to serious heart problems, bleeding, fever and indigestion. To this day, the Chinese still use pearl powder as a skin whitener and a cosmetic, as do many other people around the world. In fact, the pearl is widely considered to be effective in controlling the skin conditions rosacea and acne.
The fame of the pearl as an incredible wellness tool has even spread to hardcore health addicts. “Pearl powder will not only put you en route to flawless skin on the outside, but it will also build precious mineral reserves on the inside. Rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, silica and amino acids, pearl powder can help maintain strong bones and teeth and even help prevent osteoporosis. Pearl powder can zen you out. Known as a powerful Shen (spirit) stabilizer, it supports mood stability with its soothing and calming nature. Its spirit-building capabilities can help to relieve the uneasiness, nervousness, anxiety and tension associated with occasional stress, leaving you cool, calm and collected.” It’s no wonder that the pearl has gotten a name for itself as “the matrix of life itself” because of these amazing natural properties, elegance and beauty, and body rhythm-balancing abilities. If you’re looking to follow the more health-oriented rather than the metaphysical route, you don’t have to grab your heirloom pearls. You can get high-quality pearl powder as a dietary supplement and add it to your daily intake. However, if you want to use your pearls akin to the usage of crystals and stones, you will need to decide which kind you’d like.
Mother Of Pearl:
Mother of Pearl, receiving its name from the fact that it is the lining of the shell where pearls can grow, has both traditional and New Age metaphysical and healing lore. In mystical tradition, it’s been used to heighten intuition, psychic sensitivity, and imagination. It is held to attract prosperity, protect from negative influence, and transmute negative energy. It is also very protective and a particularly potent stone of protection for children, just like its namesake suggests. Additionally, a traditional lore use of Mother of Pearl is to purify environments. In the metaphysical tradition, Mother of Pearl is used to access primordial and racial memories. Crystal healing and folklore say that Mother of Pearl is helpful for high blood pressure, dizziness, improving vision, cataracts, and wound healing.
Freshwater & Saltwater Pearls:
Although all pearls have this property, these pearls in particular are credited with a very strong absorbing nature; if a happy person wears these pearls, the pearls will be imbued with happiness. The opposite is also the case, however, in which negative emotions may soak into the pearls. This is why if you feel excessively negative while wearing a pearl, it might have that kind of energy and need to be cleansed.
If used properly, lessen stress and its resulting maladies: hypertension, headaches, and exhaustion. It also may help to prevent heart attacks and strokes, assist in digestion and reduce the chance of developing ulcers. There are all kinds of ways to use pearls alongside your powerful gemstones, so you can pair their energy together.
Unsurprisingly, pink pearls work especially well with the Heart. Wear them close to your heart, as part of your Heart meditation, and in conjunction with other Heart crystals for incredible results.
Abalone pearls are also known as abalone shells, and are beautiful colors that encourage feelings of love, beauty, gentleness, caring, comfort, peacefulness, delight and solace. It is comforting to hold it, and many rub the it as you would a worry stone. People are instantly soothed by its beautiful colors. It’s also very soothing for the body. Abalone shells are used for patterns of liver heat with such symptoms as headache, dizziness, spasms of the limbs, and various conditions of the eyes. Abalone strengthens the structure of the body and the functions of the Heart Chakra. They are also useful for athletes to help build and protect muscle tissue, strengthening the heart, and helping with digestion. Nicknamed the “sea ears,” the Abalone’s flattened, oval shape with iridescent interior was used by the Native Northwest American Indians as a natural vessel for cleansing, offerings and prayers. Use it accordingly.
Element – Water
According to a legend, Pearls are formed from dew which is itself tears of the goddess of Love. Another legend says: once the god of subterranean empire has ordered to his citizens to bring him all known stones of different colors. He crushed them one-by-one, mixed them all together as he said: “Let’s combine the beauty of all the stones together, to make a new stone – pure and invincible “. And so the diamond was born, – pure, as a dew, a stone of indestructible hardness, which contained all colors hidden in the sun rays. “It is the greatest stone of this Word, – said god – but for my queen I’ll create the greatest stone of the sea!” – and so he has created pearls. Pearl brings happiness, wisdom, wealth, promotes prosperity, saves from misfortune, protects youth, beauty and health, recuperates and heals a lot of diseases. It is a stone of Moon.
Talismans & amulets
Pearl is a talisman of arts, inspiration and spiritual perfection. It is also a feminine talisman.
It was believed that Pearl boosts sexual energy, strengthens visual acuity and heals ears diseases. It is beneficial for heart, lungs (against tuberculosis, asthma, chronic bronchitis), kidneys, urinary system and liver. Pearl possesses sedative and also laxative effect, neutralizes poison, lowers acidity, Pearl also raises sensuality. Pearl was believed to be the main ingredient of “immortality elixir”.
Pearl grants to its wearer extraordinary foresight, protects him from risky commercial transactions and from evil eye. Pearl’s magical properties depend on its color: White Pearl brings freedom, Brown – wisdom, Yellow – wealth, Green – happiness.
Black Pearl– Animals: Black pearls are not suitable for use with animals.
Children: It will help children heal from grief and is also useful for children who have had their first bad experience with the world.
Finance & Prosperity: Black pearls are abundance, luck and prosperity charms.
Health & Healing: It will help to control mood swings both during and after menopause. It helps clear infections of the chest and lungs.
Home: It will help bring abundance into your home.
Protection: It is protective against accidents for business owners.
Psychic: It is good for women wishing to astral travel, channel wisdom or scry by candlelight.
The Stone Of Ritual: Use black pearls to channel the Crone’s wisdom.
Work: It will help your business to prosper.