Valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for centuries, the pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, exceptional, exquisite and precious. Since ancient times, the pearl has been seen as the symbol of unblemished perfection, purity, and innocence, of wisdom acquired through experience. It’s even been said that the pearl expresses the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of both the giver and the wearer. Regardless of meaning, the reverence for the pearl is as strong today as it has been throughout history.
Fine gem-quality pearls from both freshwater and saltwater sources occur completely naturally but are also extremely unusual. Natural freshwater pearls are formed in various species of freshwater mussels found in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of freshwater. Natural saltwater pearls grow within pearl oysters which live in oceans.
Tahitian pearls, often thought of as black pearls, are an even rarer find. Appearing in a range of colors, such as eggplant, peacock green, and dove grey, natural black pearls have gained the reputation as the “Queen of Pearls.” Usually larger than the typical white cultured pearl, black pearls come in many different shapes. Cultured black pearls are different in that they come from the black pearl oyster found in the waters of the Pacific Islands.
Today, nearly all pearls are cultured. Cultured pearls are from oysters and mussels that have been surgically implanted with a small piece of mollusk shell or tissue. Depending on the type of pearl being matured, a quality pearl can take from one to seven years to form. Over the past one hundred years, cultured pearls have become more viable and developed as new techniques in pearl culturing were discovered and implemented. Artisans desirous of giving a fresh, original look to pearl jewelry, have an array of choices. High-grade pearls are available to designers in various shapes, sizes, and colors.
Exciting new designs featuring pearls are continually being created by Sorrel Sky Gallery jewelry artists. Whether mixing pearl shapes and hues, wearing multiple strands of different lengths or pairing earrings with bracelets, pearls are a timeless addition to any jewelry collection.
The golden rule of pearl care is, “Last thing to put on and the first thing to take off.” Wearing pearls often is the best way to care for them as the body’s natural oils help to keep them lustrous. However, cosmetics, sunblock, perfume, and hairspray all contain chemicals that can dramatically dull the luster of a pearl. It is best to put pearls on at least 30 minutes after applying any personal care products. Gently wipe the pearls with a soft cloth before putting them away.