Pearls may be known for their beautiful simplicity, but exactly where they come from and how they are made is quite fascinating. Here are the top seven most interesting aspects of these precious gems.
- The pearl has been considered precious for a very long time. The first report of the pearl as a precious commodity dates back to anywhere between 2300 and 5500 BC. Mesopotamia was the site for this discovery. In fact, archaeologists were excited to find a two thousand year old pearl in Australia only recently. The oldest pearl ever found is more than 7500 years old.
- One of the oldest most precious pearls in the world is the Spanish La Peregrina, worn by such luminaries including Elizabeth Taylor and Napoléon. Other celebrities who are known to enjoy pearls are former First Ladies, Jacqueline Kennedy and Michelle Obama, Coco Chanel, who was almost never seen without pearls adorning her neck, the ethereal beauty, Audrey Hepburn, and the very modern Sarah Jessica Parker. Young celebrities like Rita Ora and Katy Perry are also fans of pearls.
- A pearl is the only jewel known to mankind that comes from a living being. While they are called a gemstone, they differ in this significant way from other gemstones. The others are all formed in the earth’s crust after a massive heat and pressure process, upon cooling down.
- The idea that a living being must give up its life for beauty does upset many people. A happy solution is the cultured pearl derived through periculture or pearl farming. These relatively inexpensive options are taken from a mollusc that is not killed for pearls. The oyster is then re-filled. The pearl takes at least six months to be formed in this process. About 95% of all the pearls sold in the world are freshwater pearls.
- Kokichi Mikimoto the name synonymous with the artificial pearl. He did this way back in 1896. He made it possible for everyone to wear pearls. This is a huge jump from ancient Rome where only the ruling class was permitted to wear pearls and other fine jewellery.
- Pearls are four types. Freshwater pearls, cultivated by pearl farmers are available in any number of colours. South Sea pearls have unbelievable colours and are quite large in size. They are lustrous and often considered the luxury pearl choice, going by how rare they are. Tahitian pearls are found off the coast of islands in French Polynesia. They have the most spectacular colours and are perfectly spherical in shape. The Akoya pearls are the ones we recall to the mind when we think of the word. White, shiny and round, this pearl is the quintessential choice for a classical design.
- The oyster is not a mere receptacle in the process. The meat is a delicacy and the shell, known as mother of pearl is also used in jewellery and artefacts. That said, oyster farming didn’t start off as being easy. There were attacks on divers by various aquatic creatures, including sharks. Things are much better now with regulation. Diving for oysters is hard work- each saltwater oyster yields only a single pearl at a time. This makes these pearls truly a collector’s item.
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