Pearls have been treasured for thousands of years, and they are still one of the most unique and valued gems. In ancient Chinese civilisation, pearls were worn to protect the owner from dragons and fire. Other cultures have linked pearls with modesty and chastity. If you look at paintings from Victorian England, you will see seed pearls in funeral jewellery. These pearls were used to signify tears.
In the 13th century, Marco Polo presented Mongolian emperor Kubilai Khan with a pearl that weighed 575 carats and at least three inches long. This priceless pearl was sold in an Abu Dhabi auction in 2007, but it has disappeared.
In more modern times, pearls were considered fine jewellery and worn by movie stars and the elite. It was stated by patrons of fashion that no outfit was complete without a string of pearls. If you look at Queen Elizabeth's photos, you will rarely see her without her exclusive jewellery – a pearl necklace.
How Are Pearls Made?
Natural pearls form around an irritant inside an oyster, mussel, or clam. Generally, the irritant is a parasite, but it can be as small as a grain of sand or a broken piece of shell. The oyster, mussel, or clam secretes a fluid to coat the irritant. Layers of this coating, or nacre, are deposited around the irritant until a pearl is formed. It takes a great deal of time, at least three years, for a nacre to be deposited and a gem-quality pearl to be made.
Pearls come from freshwater or saltwater sources. Saltwater pearls are much rounder and have a better nacre than pearls made in freshwater. Freshwater pearls are irregular and an almost puffed rice appearance. Modern technology has given freshwater pearls, however, better roundness and luster.
About 5% of natural pearls are of such quality that they can be used for exclusive jewellery. However, it costs a pearl farmer about $100 per oyster farmed even if the oyster does not produce a gem-quality pearl.
The art of making a pearl necklace is astounding. It takes about 10,000 oysters to find one natural, perfect pearl. About 99% of the world’s real pearls are cultured, but less than five oysters will produce a quality pearl.
It takes a great deal of time to harvest a pearl, and once the perfect pearls are harvested, the pearls are strung on strong silk thread. Small knots are tied between each pearl to make sure if you lose one pearl, you will not lose all of them.
A clasp is used at the end of the strand, which helps you close the necklace. Do not drape a pearl necklace over your head – you could break the strand, and the oils and chemicals in your hair will cause damage.
Make sure you take care of your pearl strands properly. Proper care will keep your pearl necklaces lasting for a long time.
How to Take Care of Pearls
Pearls need to be taken care of in specific ways to keep them lustrous. Pearls are incredibly soft, so do not toss them in your jewellery box on top of other jewellery pieces. Store your pearls in a jewellery pouch or their cotton-lined box.
When you wear a strand of pearls, they come in contact with your skin and gradually absorb your skin’s acid. This acid slowly eats into the gemstones. The acid from your skin will not cause the pearl to lose its luster; however, it will not change the shape.
When you take off your pearls, lit is a good idea to clean them. Use a chamois or soft cloth. Cleaning each pearl with a soft cloth prevents dirt from accumulating. A soft cloth also removes acid perspiration from dissolving the nacre. You can put a small drop of olive oil on your cleaning cloth to make sure you gather all the dirt that has accumulated on your exclusive jewellery.
Quick cleaning tips:
- Never grab the pearls themselves. Use your soft cloth.
- Clean pearl jewellery with a cleaner labeled “safe for pearls.
- Do not steam clean or use ultrasonic cleaners on your pearls.
- Do not use detergents, ammonia-based chemicals, baking soda, or powered cleansers, or bleach.
- Do not use scouring pads or toothbrushes to clean your pearls.
- Avoid wearing your pearls if the string is wet.
- If your pearls are wet, lay them flat on a dry towel.
- Remove your pearl jewellery when swimming or showering.
- Take off your pearl jewellery when using lotions, perfumes, hair spray, or cosmetics.
Storing your Real Pearls
Simply placing your pearl jewellery in with other gemstones may cause scratches and dents. To avoid your pearl jewellery from getting scratches and tangles, fasten the necklaces, brooches, and bracelets. Then, lay out each piece of pearl jewellery in a jewellery box that has compartments.
Store your gems in a jewellery pouch when carrying your accessories. Never store pearls in security boxes for a long time. Security boxes lack humidity and can cause pearls to become dehydrated.
Having a pearl necklace will give you an exclusive piece of fine jewellery. You can choose a necklace in classic white, deep black, gold, or pastels. The pearl necklace is stable in your wardrobe and the ultimate accessory to any wardrobe. A pearl necklace will provide timeless beauty and elegance.