All About Pearls: What Makes Pearls Special?

All About Pearls: What Makes Pearls Special?

Pearls are June's birthstone, but you can (and should) enjoy them no matter when you were born! Pearls are actually not gemstones; they're a natural material that comes from either freshwater or saltwater mollusks. While natural pearls are extremely rare, cultured pearls are more plentiful and come in many sizes, shapes, and colors. Keep reading this blog post to learn more about what makes pearls special and why I love pearls (you should too)!

Wide Variety of Colors and Shapes

One thing that makes pearls special is that they're available in a wide range of colors, something for everyone! Most people are familiar with white or off-white pearls, but they can also be found in other exciting options like gold, peach, purple, and black. 

Pearls can be round or baroque, which is a name used to describe any pearl that's not spherical. Baroque pearls can be drops, ovoids, and other imperfect and irregular shapes. If you can imagine the classic pearl strand necklace, you'd be thinking of round pearls, chosen for their uniform shape and size. But if you're seeking pearl jewelry that's modern and non-traditional, then you may opt for baroque pearls.

What Are Pearls Made Of? Freshwater vs. Saltwater Pearls

Many years ago, before natural pearls became so scarce, pearl divers would risk their lives diving in deep ocean water in an effort to find large, valuable pearls. That practice no longer exists. Today, a consumer can purchase one of two kinds of cultured pearls: freshwater and saltwater. Neither is inherently better than the other; what you choose will depend on your budget and the look you're hoping to achieve.

So what are pearls made of, and how are they formed? Freshwater pearls are created by several different species of freshwater mussels. They're available in warm hues. Generally, they're less glossy and lustrous than their saltwater counterparts, but with freshwater pearls, you'll find a wider variety of shapes.

Saltwater pearls are created by mollusks in the Pteriidae family, the pearl oysters. They're usually round, which is the most in-demand shape, and can be as large as a grape when harvested. Saltwater pearls generally feature a sleek, lustrous appearance and can exhibit white, golden, platinum, and dark orient, which is actually quite a rare occurrence in pearls.

In addition, any pearl can be dyed and still retain its luster. Dye is very commonly used with lower quality freshwater pearls, which results in uniquely colorful pieces of jewelry. If you're looking for color, then dyed pearls may be a great choice for you!

Pearls Are Versatile and Stylish

It's important to know that pearls aren't just for necklaces! They can be used for rings, earrings, and more. One of my favorite ways to set a pearl is on the Subtle Curve Ring. Pictured on this page, you'll see a large chocolate pearl nestled in the sophisticated, polished band.

As you can imagine, the sky's the limit with pearl jewelry! Maybe you want your pearls strung with silk and a traditional gold clasp. Or perhaps you'd like a pearl as the centerpiece of a sterling silver ring. Or you might prefer drop pearls dangling from a set of earrings. Within the jewelry realm, there's truly a plethora of options for these versatile treasures. Let's talk!

Throughout the years and across many different cultures, pearls have also been incorporated into a variety of other crafts. They've adorned clothing, been used as inlay on furniture and décor, created unique textures for accessories, and even used for their healing and cosmetic properties. The possibilities with pearls are endless, especially when imperfect cultured pearls weigh in at such an affordable price point.

Pearls Are Eco-Friendly

The pearl industry is sustainable. In general, oysters need to be happy to make pearls, so pearl cultivators are incentivized to provide them with a healthy ecosystem! After harvest, the Mother of Pearl oyster shells can also be used in a variety of ways: cut for table inlay, buttons, jewelry, and other artisan craft. Thankfully, harvesting pearls doesn't result in the same environmental damage and societal issues that mining can cause. All in all, pearls are a beautiful and sustainable choice!

Pearl Care

One of the most important things you should know about caring for pearls is actually that pearls should be worn regularly! Many people treat their pearls as “special occasion” jewelry and choose to store their pearl jewelry for years, without wearing them often. That's actually one of the worst things you can do for pearls, since they can get dried out and damaged if not worn or stored properly! 

It's important to know that pearls are not hard like diamonds; in fact, pearls are very soft. So if you do plan to wear a pearl as a ring, then you need to take care with how you use your hands. I wouldn't recommend doing vigorous activity or manual labor while wearing pearls! Sunscreen, perfume, and lotion are not friendly to pearls. 

Additionally, if you own a strand of pearls on silk thread, it's important to have a professional jeweler check your strand regularly to ensure it's not at risk of breaking and that your pearls are in good shape.

Are you ready to add pearls to your jewelry collection? If you have a June birthday, then a pearl is a must! But really anyone can love and look great wearing pearls. Visit this page to shop all my pearl jewelry options. If you have something special in mind, let's design something custom!


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