Women have been adorning themselves in pearls for thousands of years.
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer
Pearls are an organic material formed by molluscs. A grain of sand or other irritant gets into the mantle of a mollusc which causes stress for the animal. The mollusc then slowly deposits nacre over the irritant and eventually a pearl is formed.
Pearls can be from saltwater or freshwater. Saltwater pearls are produced by oysters and mussels and are usually of high quality and are more expensive than freshwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are produced by molluscs in rivers, lakes and ponds and are more irregular and varied in shape than saltwater pearls.
Some pearls are natural and some are cultured. Today natural pearls have limited availability because constant demand led to overfishing of pearl beds and many pearl beds were lost forever. As a result, natural pearls have become very expensive.
The shortage of natural pearls has led to the cultivation of pearls. Pearls are cultured by cutting open the membrane of a mollusc and implanting between 1 and 20 round mother-of-pearl beads. The beads serve as the stressor to the animal, which then deposits the nacre layer over the beads, creating the pearl. Most often large beads are implanted to speed up the cultivating process as it takes 3 years for just 1 mm of nacre to form.
If it is not indicated if a pearl is natural or cultured, it is safe to assume that it is a cultured pearl.
The cultivation of pearls has led to an abundance of affordable pearls on the market which means that many women can now afford to indulge in their love for pearls.
Pearl is the birthstone for June.
Featuring artisan handmade creations by the Etsy Starving Artists jewelry team. SATeam members create handcrafted jewelry and beads. More information about our team and its current Etsy shop owner members can be found at SATEAM.etsy.com.