June Birthstone: Pearl

June Birthstone: Pearl

The Queen of Gems


Known as the Queen of Gems, pearls have adorned royalty since the 5th century BC when Romans and Egyptians prized them as symbols of riches and power.  From Cleopatra to Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana, pearls have been a staple in the royal wardrobe for centuries.  It’s no surprise that these luminous beauties are a constant on today’s Red Carpet, and the go-to gem for stars like Kiera Knightly, Hillary Swank, Angelina Jolie, and Emma Watson.

Pearls are the only gems produced by living creatures.  They form when an irritating foreign object, such as a grain of sand, finds its way into the shell of a clam, oyster, or mussel.  The mollusk then secretes concentric layers of crystalline calcium carbonate called nacre, leaving behind a shimmering, softly colored orb.  Depending on the type of mollusk, pearls can be found in salt or fresh water.  One mollusk can produce multiple gems at a time, and the process only takes three years, not the thousands of years it takes for other gemstones to form.  Pearls are therefore a renewable and sustainable gem.  In countries where wild oysters are collected, quota systems regulated by the government ensure that wild oyster stocks are not depleted.

When choosing pearls, luster is the distinguishing factor.  High quality pearls have a brilliant, mirror-like their surface, while chalky-surfaced pearls appear dull and heavy.  Other key factors to consider are color, shape, and surface perfection. A strand of pearls can range from $45 to $45,000, so understanding the four main types of pearls makes it easy to find something for every budget and style.  Akoya pearls are classic white pearls with the highest luster and shine of all cultured pearls. They range from 5 mm to 11 mm and are typically the most affordable type of pearls. Freshwater pearls have the widest range of natural colors, from white to pink to lavender, and have emerged as rivals to Akoya pearls in both quality and value.  They range from 2 mm to 15 mm and can be round, button, or baroque in shape. Black Tahitian pearls are rare dark pearls from French Polynesia. They are highly sought after because of their dark shades, larger size, and brilliant luster.  Black Tahitian pearls are from black-lipped oysters and are black, purple, silver, and deep green.  They range in size between 8 mm and 21 mm in size.  South Sea pearls are the rarest and sought after, known for their incredible size and striking satin luster. They average 13 mm, but can be as large as 20 mm, and are either a silver tone or a dark golden shade.  South Sea pearls have a mirror-like shine and an unmistakable metallic quality to their surface.

Whether you love a traditional strand of Akoya pearls or modern pearls reimagined with mixed metals or gems, come browse the shimmering collection at Carats Fine Jewelry and Watches.  Their subtle glow and iridescence will compliment your everyday wear or provide a majestic addition to your bridal accessories.