Pearls are the gemstone for the month of June, therefore this month's blog will contain some fascinating facts about pearls, including where they come from and their history, as well as their colours, shapes and how to look after your pearls, in a three-part blog.
Pearls in History: Beautiful gifts from the sea, pearls have been loved throughout history and are still adored today. These lustrous treasures are associated with purity, innocence and charity and are thought to inhibit boisterous behaviour, focus the attention, relieve digestive disorders, increase fertility and aid childbirth. Known as the queen of gems, pearls are said to be the world’s oldest gem and were most probably found by our ancestors as they searched the shores for food.
For thousands of years they have been prized and collected; loved by the Romans, favoured by royalty, the fashion industry and the rich and famous. Pearls have been loved and appreciated for their beauty and intrinsic value throughout the world for decades.
Where Do Pearls Come From? Pearls are formed when a small piece of grit enters an oyster shell. The oyster senses this as an irritant and secretes a protective layer of nacre around its soft tissue. Subsequent layers are built up over months until eventually a pearl is formed. It's the translucent layers that give the pearl its shimmer. Centuries ago pearls were found in the rivers and lakes of China, salt water areas in Japan, the Persian Gulf, India and the Red Sea.
Adventurous travellers can even dive for their own! Although a number of oyster beds close to shore have been damaged or destroyed by oil spillage and land reclamation, more than 1,000sq km of fertile oyster beds still flourish in the warm waters further afield.For centuries pearls were rare, often dangerous to find and therefore extremely expensive and exclusive to the wealthy. Research was undertaken to find ways for man to cultivate and farm pearls so that they could become available to anyone. Scientists were able to simulate the natural process by introducing a small piece of pearl or mantle tissue into the mollusc. The process meant that pearls could now be cultivated in their thousands rather than gathered individually by divers.
Next week: Part two of Gemstone of the Month - Pearls (colours, shapes and facts)
And, if you love pearls as much as I do, why not take a little peek at the pearl jewellery I have made. I hope you enjoy wearing them as much as I have enjoyed making them.
Enjoy your pearls
Emerald is the gemstone for May (and my birthstone) so I’m planning to indulge myself and make a piece of silver jewellery with velvety emeralds. Not quite sure what yet, so watch this space.
Apparently the name comes from the Greek “Smaragdos”, meaning green stone. It is part of the beryl family and ranges in colour from light to a deep green depending on how much chromium oxide and vanadium it contains. Most stones contain inclusions which occur naturally during their growth as crystals. Throughout history, the emerald’s green colour is said to have “entranced humankind.” Its colour is a symbol of new life and the promise of spring, which is why it is the birthstone of May.
The Ancient Romans dedicated the emerald to the goddess of love, Venus thinking it represented the reproductive forces of nature. Early Christians used it as a symbol of the resurrection of Christ and in the Middle Ages it was thought to have the power to foretell the future. Throughout the ages it has been used as a cure for epilepsy, to stop bleeding, protect from panic, as a treatment for dysentery and to protect seafarers from drowning. I’m not sure about any of the above, I just know that I love its colour and sparkle! Records show that the stone was known and sold in markets in Babylon as early as 4000 BC and today a fine emerald may be two to three times as valuable as a diamond.
Spanish Flamenco dancer Anita Delgado, who became Princess in Kapurthala, owned a beautiful necklace with emeralds and diamonds, previously an adornment for the Maharaja’s favourite elephant and was valued at £100,000. Emeralds have a hardness of 7.5 – 8 on the Mohs scale (based on the relative ease or difficulty with which one mineral can be scratched by another) which means that it is a fairly hard stone and is suitable for setting in rings. Not only is emerald the birthstone for May it is also the anniversary gemstone for 20 years (sadly I’d forgotten that a few years ago!)
For my top tips on caring for your Emerald jewellery, simply click here, or for all my tips, click "Jewellery Care" in the Category section (right) of this blog page.
Kate Buchanan-Dunne is an artist, designer and silversmith based in Shropshire.