Pearls, the Gem from the Seas
Whether you buy it for yourself or get it from somebody else, there's no better gift than jewelry. Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, colored stones like sapphire and emerald are stunning, but pearls have a quiet beauty all their own.
A pearl, according to Wikipedia, "is a hard object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk." What a dull, dreary description of one of the most popular gems known to human history! Pearls are mentioned in the Bible, the Koran, and the Garuda Purana. History records pearls adorning kings, queens, millionaires, and Hollywood stars.
Pearls are technically not gemstones. Rather than being minerals like amethysts or rubies, they are formed by a living creature. When an oyster or other mollusk gets an irritation (a grain of sand, a bit of coral, a parasite, etc.), it forms a hard shell of calcium carbonate to protect itself. The rarest, most valuable pearls are formed naturally. Cultured pearls are real, not artificial, but an irritant is deliberately put in the oyster to create a pearl.
While round, white pearls are the most prized, pearls come in a variety of shapes and colors. Teardrop pearls, for example, are popular in necklaces as a pendent. The value of pearls is determined by luster, size, color, and lack of surface flaws. If several pearls are being combined in a necklace or bracelet, symmetry is important. Pearls are usually off-white, but can be white, pink, yellow, orange, blue, green, brown, and black. First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy received a gift of a necklace of yellow pearls from President Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela during a state visit. Mary, Queen of Scots, had a necklace of black pearls. Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, had a tiara with 212 white and cream-colored pearls.
There are many superstitions associated with pearls.
Black pearls are considered a symbol of wisdom in China. Other cultures regard black pearls as a symbol of wealth and prosperity, perhaps because they are so rare and expensive.
Pink pearls are considered an emblem of good fortune.
Blue pearls are alleged to help the wearer find true love.
Brown pearls represent harmony and dependability.
Green pearls symbolize peace and generosity.
Orange pearls stand for success.
White pearls represent innocence, beauty, and purity. In Regency England, it was considered improper for debutantes to wear extravagant gemstones until they were married. Pearls or coral beads were considered more demure and thus more suitable for young ladies.
Chinese mythology said that "pearls fell from the sky when dragons fought amongst the clouds." Chinese art often portrays dragons with pearls. Persian mythology said pearls were the tears of the gods. Pearls are also alleged to cure madness, snake bites, insect bites, jaundice, depression in women (but not men), act as an aphrodisiac, and help childless couples conceive.
Some people once believed that pearls, like knives, should never be given as a gift. The superstition, now largely forgotten, said that it was bad luck unless the pearls were purchased, so a small token payment would be made to transform the gift into a financial transaction. Most people in the 21st century find pearls a perfectly acceptable gift, whether in a lady's necklace or a gentleman's cuff links.
Pearls, along with moonstone and alexandrite, are one of the birthstones for people born in the month of June. This makes pearl rings, brooches, necklaces, stickpins, etc., especially suitable as gifts for people with June birthdays.
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