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Fresh water pearls with silver clasp.
Because of its perfection and the incredible odds of its existence, and also the peculiar way in which it comes into being, the pearl is revered as a gem amongst gems; perhaps the gem of gems.
The pearl is one of three June birthstones and it is in perfect company: The moonstone calls attention to the skies, the Alexandrite hails from the mountains, and finally the pearl represents treasures from the ocean. The pearl is also is also a symbol of purity and innocence, hence its traditional use in a bride’s jewelry.
Any mollusk with a shell has the ability to produce pearls. In essence, the phenomenon is merely an immune reaction to an impurity, typically sand, having lodged itself within the shell. Nevertheless, pearls occur naturally in only one out of 10,000 mollusks.
Pearls can be found in saltwater and in freshwater. There is often confusion between freshwater and cultured pearls. Freshwater pearls are found in mollusks living in fresh water lakes, ponds and rivers. Cultured pearls are produced in controlled environments, either in freshwater or saltwater.
Saltwater pearls are generally white, off-white or cream in color and tend to have the typical, nearly perfectly spherical shape we imagine when we think about pearls. While freshwater pearls can be white also, they more frequently occur in an array of colors, ranging from grays to various shades of earth tones and all the way to pastels. Freshwater pearls are rarely perfectly round. The perfect spherical shape is created intentionally, mainly for the jewelry trade.
Misshapen pearls are also known as “baroque pearls.” They can be pear-shaped, oval and even quite oddly shaped. These lend themselves to unique jewelry creations and they are just as prized as perfectly round pearls. Each type finds its place to fulfill the jeweler’s vision and to appeal to every taste and mood.
The pearl is the only known gem to be created by an animal and as such it is the only gem that can be farmed and reproduced intentionally. Whether cultured or natural, saltwater pearls require between 5 and 20 years to form. Freshwater pearls form in 1 to 6 years. The longer a pearl stays in a shell, the larger it becomes.