Outside of diamonds, pearls are the most popular and timeless type of gemstone. Pearl jewelry has been a staple form of jewelry for women for centuries. They are often associated with wisdom and with water and have been seen as a symbol of power, class and sophistication.
Pearls also have a vast array of myths associated with them. For example, many people believed that when an oyster would rise to the surface of the water at dawn, it would collect dew drops in its opened shell, which would later turn into a pearl. From the 15th to 17th century, it was believed that pearls were only the oysters’ eggs. Crazy, huh?
Whether you love pearl jewelry or you thrive on a good trivia challenge, here are a few fun and interesting facts about pearls.
How Pearls are Really Created
From dew drops to sand, there have been several myths as to how a pearl is created, but the fact is, pearls are actually an organic material.
They are formed by a living organism known as a mollusk, which creates a pearl when a tiny particle or seed is implanted in the shell. In fact, the pearl is the only gemstone to be extracted from living animals.
A pearl can be created by any mollusk that has a shell, but pearls are typically created by mollusks with two shells. Depending on the type of mollusk and the water conditions, it can take anywhere from a couple of months to several years for a pearl to develop.
And if you’ve ever wondered what the difference between saltwater and freshwater pearls is, it simply lies in their creators. Saltwater pearls, also known as Akoya pearls, are extracted from oysters while freshwater pearls are collected from mussels.
Many people think all pearls are white in color, but they can actually be found in a range of colors, including white, gold, purple, pink, black and ivory. The pearl gets its color from the inner element of the mollusk shell. Every pearl is unique with its own distinctive characteristics and they all have imperfections, regardless of how perfect they seem to us.
Fame and History
The oldest piece of pearl jewelry was discovered in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess that dated back to 520 BC. Pearls were symbolized as tears during the Georgian and Victorian eras when they were used as mourning jewelry. They have also been thought to symbolize friendship, fertility and loyalty.
Two of the most famous pearls include:
- La Peregrina, which is one of the most famous pearls to ever be found. The La Peregrina is pear shaped and as large as a pigeon’s egg. The La Peregina was discovered in America and has had several owners, including Philip II of Spain, Mary Tudor of England, Napoleon III and Elizabeth Taylor.
- In 1916, Jacques Cartier traded a necklace made of a double strand of pearls, which was valued at $1.2 million, for a mansion on 5th Avenue in New York City. The mansion was where he would eventually open the Cartier store and headquarters.
Contact Snow’s Jewelers for assistance choosing your unique piece of pearl jewelry from one of our amazing collections of pearls.