Historically, pearls have been used as an adornment for centuries. They were one of the favorite gem materials of the Roman Empire; later in Tudor England, the 1500s were known as the pearl age. Pearls are unique as they are the only gems from living sea creatures and require no faceting or polishing to reveal their natural beauty. In the early 1900s, the first successful commercial culturing of round saltwater pearls began. Since the 1920s, cultured pearls have almost completely replaced natural pearls in the market.
Pearls are one of the earliest gemstones found by prehistoric man, most likely along the coastline of India. They've been used for personal adornment and coveted by peoples throughout the globe for thousands of years. Ancient myths tell of pearls being formed when oysters opened their shells, rose to the water's surface and were seeded by the early morning rays of sunlight and drops of dew.
Pearls are soft and should be treated delicately. Never use ultrasonic cleaners or steamers. Wipe gently with a soft cloth after each wearing or, for more thorough cleanings, use mild soap and water. If knotted, make sure cord is completely dry before wearing.
Some healers use pearls to help balance body rhythms and hormone levels with lunar cycles, and to harmonize human beings with the natural world. The inner glow (orient) of pearls is thought to tap inner-wisdom and nurture love. Pearls are also believed to signify innocence and faith.
Most pearls today are cultured. Marine and freshwater mollusks (oysters and mussels) are collected and a small shell bead placed inside. The mollusks are then returned to the water where they make the pearl. Layers of calcium carbonate are secreted, coating the piece of shell, to form a spherical, oblong, or irregular-shaped pearl. It takes roughly 3 to 7 years for mollusks to produce a single pearl. The color of the pearl varies depending on the type of mollusk. (The oysters and mussels that make the pearls are not related to the edible varieties of oysters and mussels.)
Most natural and cultured freshwater pearls are found in the waters of Japan, China and the South Seas, however many are harvested along the coasts of Australia and the rivers of Austria, France, Scotland and Ireland. Cultured freshwater pearls are also grown along the Mississippi River in the United States.
Chemical Composition: Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3), organic substances, water
Appearance: White, pink, silver, cream, gold, green, blue, black; translucent to opaque
Hardness: 2-1/2 - 4 (Moh's)
Specific Gravity: 2.61 - 2.85 (saltwater)
Refractive Index: 1.52 - 1.66
Cause of Color: Varies depending on type of mollusk
A relatively modern gem, Alexandrite, was first discovered in Russia in 1831 during the reign of its namesake, Czar Alexander II, and is an extremely rare chrysoberyl with chameleon-like qualities. Its color is a lovely green in both daylight and fluorescent light; it changes color to a purplish red in incandescent light. Due to its rarity, some jewelers stock synthetic versions of this enchanting gemstone. (Synthetic gemstones are man-made alternatives to the natural material, possessing the same physical, optical, and chemical properties as the natural gemstone.)
The third birthstone for June is the Moonstone. It was given its name by the Roman natural historian Pliny, who wrote that moonstone's appearance altered with the phases of the moon — a belief that held until well after the sixteenth century. A phenomenal gemstone, moonstones show a floating play of light (called adularescence) and sometimes show either a multirayed star or a cat's eye. Considered a sacred stone in India, moonstones often are displayed on a background of yellow (a sacred color) and are believed to encapsulate within the stone a spirit whose purpose is to bring good fortune. Part of the family of minerals called feldspar, moonstone occurs in many igneous and metamorphic rocks and comes in a variety of colors such as green, blue, peach, and champagne. The most prized moonstones are from Sri Lanka; India, Australia, the United States, Mayanmar, and Madagascar are also sources.
Moonstone is often called the visionary's stone. It helps us see things more clearly. Rainbow moonstone, in particular, offers us visions of things that aren't immediately obvious. Because it helps us avoid tunnel vision, we are able to see other possibilities. It's like a flash of inspiration that comes when we are open and quiet. When we wear rainbow moonstone, life-changing inspirations can happen more and more often.
Mineral Information: Potassium feldspar
Chemical Composition: K(AlSi3O8)
Color: Creamy, translucent white with flashes of blue
Hardness: 6 - 6-1/2
Specific Gravity: 2.56-2.58
Refractive Index: 1.520-1.525
**Please note that all metaphysical or healing properties listed are collected from various sources. This information is offered as a service and not meant to treat medical conditions.