Blog / Gemstones

Birthstone pearl: Guide to pearls

Friday May 27, 2022
Stephen
Stephen Sutton

As the start of the summer season, June is a special month in itself. But for those celebrating a birthday, it’s even more highly anticipated. There are many ways you can celebrate your birthday, but a common option is to wear jewellery featuring your birthstone. For those with birthdays in June, this is the beautiful pearl.

What are pearls?

Pearls are smooth, hard layers of nacre which have an elegant, lustrous appearance and are commonly used for jewellery. They’re made by a mollusc when an irritant, such as sand or a piece of food comes into contact with it within the oyster shell. The mollusc secretes nacre to protect itself and as these layers build up, a pearl is formed.

While we think of pearls as being round, they can actually form in a variety of shapes, from oval and pear to semi-round or drops. Pearls are also most commonly white and black, but some can have other colours within them such as green, lilac or pink. Pearls are a symbol of elegance and sophistication, and they’ve long been used to create stunning jewellery such as bracelets, pendants and earrings.

Pearls as a birthstone

Pearls are a time-honoured and classic birthstone, with a feminine and romantic feel that adds elegance to any outfit. In its mythological past, pearls were believed to be made from the tears of mermaids or even parts of the moon that had fallen into the sea. Pearls have always been associated with luxury and tradition, and they’ve retained their classic feel even in today’s modern world. A string of iridescent white pearls or a delicate pair of pearl earrings instantly elevates an outfit to make it look more refined.

Types of pearls

Pearls come in two varieties – natural and cultured. Both are stunning options for fine jewellery and it’s the way that they are produced that separates them. A natural pearl can be formed in saltwater or freshwater, and the mollusc that forms it comes from an organism in the water. This type of pearl is incredibly rare, as most natural pearls have already been harvested which makes them very expensive and hard to find. For this reason, most people buying pearl jewellery will be buying cultured pearls, unless they’re buying vintage jewellery.

To create cultured pearls, the irritant (usually a tiny bead) is inserted into the oyster shell manually by a pearl farmer. These, too, can be created in saltwater or freshwater – most freshwater pearls are created in China while saltwater pearls are produced in Asia and Australia. Generally, saltwater pearls are considered more valuable than freshwater pearls.

Varieties of cultured pearls

There are three types of saltwater pearls – Tahitian pearls, Akoya pearls and South Sea pearls.

Tahitian pearls aren’t actually exclusively cultivated in Tahiti but can be farmed in several French Polynesian islands and come from the Pinctada margaritifera oyster. They’re usually black or deep grey in colour and often have a secondary hue as well, such as blue or purple. Tahitian pearls can range from 8 to 18mm in size and are usually round although they can also be found in baroque or circle styles.

Akoya pearls are cultured in the Pinctada Fucata oyster and are primarily harvested off the coast of Japan. These pearls have a beautiful lustre and are smaller than South Seas or Tahitian pearls. Akoya pearls tend to range from 3 to 9mm in size, but they’re prized for their perfectly round shape and incredible colour, making them ideally suited to jewellery.

Lastly, South Seas pearls come from the Pinctada maxima oyster and are produced in the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Myanmar. They have a round shape and are larger than the average pearl, measuring from 10 to even 20mm in size. They are a high quality pearl that has a white or golden hue, and a higher level of lustre. Because of their incredible quality and larger size, they are the more expensive option when it comes to cultured pearls.

Choosing pearl jewellery

When it comes to buying pearl jewellery, whether you’re buying a birthstone gift for a loved one to wear each year or it’s an item you’re buying for yourself, there are several options. A bracelet serves as a subtle nod to your birthstone and birth month, while earrings are ideal for everyday wear and will match to all types of outfits. If you want something more classic, why not choose a necklace that shows off the pearls in all their splendour and makes for a wonderful focal point to an outfit.

There are several factors to consider when buying pearl jewellery. Firstly, gauge the level of lustre or reflection the pearl has – the shinier the surface of the pearl, the more appealing it is but also this can mean it’s more expensive too. Secondly, look at the surface quality of the item.
Are there imperfections or blemishes to the surface? The clearer the complexion of the pearl, the more valuable and therefore more expensive it is. Shape and size also need to be taken into account. Pearls that are perfectly round are usually worth more than pearls with an oval or off-round shape. But a different shape may be something you’re looking for, such as in the case of baroque pearls.

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Final thoughts

The style of pearl you choose is up to you, based on the look you’re going for, the budget you have to work with and the type of jewellery you want to buy. You may want a smaller pearl in an oval shape, for example, for a subtler look, or you might want to splash out on a larger pearl pendant for something eye-catching and timeless. Whatever you choose, pearls are a beautiful way to celebrate your birth month and make for a wonderful, memorable birthday gift for someone special.

At Cry for the Moon, we offer a broad selection of beautiful pearl jewellery, from vintage pieces to bridal jewellery. Contact us today or browse our jewellery online.

Stephen

Stephen SuttonManager

Stephen has managed Cry for the Moon since 2011, and in his own words has ‘One of the best jobs going’. With over 30 years’ experience in the industry, having started at H Samuel and later Goldsmith Group, AE Halfhides in Wimbledon and GC Collins & Sons – Stephen had managed four different jewellery shops before Cry for the Moon. Stephen has multiple industry-qualifications including a Retail Jewellers’ Diploma and a Certificate of Gemmology from the Gemmological Society of Great Britain.