Pearls. It seems like they’re everywhere these days. The popularity of vintage style weddings has boomed over the last few years and with it a new obsession with all things pearl. Take a look at almost any wedding inspiration blog or Instagram these days and you’re sure to find more than a few pictures featuring pearls in some way. Jewellery, bouquet wraps, shoes, and even tables are scattered with iridescent little beads of light and suddenly it seems the world has a new found appreciation for the jewellery that can be found at the bottom of their mother’s and grandmother’s jewellery boxes.
But what are pearls? Where do they come from? How are they formed? What are their meaning and significance? And, perhaps most importantly if you are thinking of investing in somew, how do you care for them so that they will live long enough to become heirloom pieces for your daughters or granddaughters?
What Are Pearls?
Put simply, pearls are the result of a mollusc such as an Oyster defending itself against some kind of irritant that gets lodged inside it. (And retrieving them is not nearly as glamorous as that picture suggests!) Quite often this irritant is a tiny piece of food that gets stuck somewhere inside the shell and since tooth picks aren’t an option when you don’t have hands they begin to lay down layers of Aragonite and Conchiolin which are the same material that the mollusc builds it’s shell out of.
The mollusc lays down alternating layers of the two materials to create the pearls and the longer the mollusc is left undisturbed the larger the pearl becomes. Aragonite is usually laid down in layers of six sided crystals while Conchiolin, which is a form of protein, is laid down in much thinner membrane like layers. This protein is more often referred to as Nacre by jewellers but is most commonly known as Mother Of Pearl and it is the way this layer reflects light that gives pearls their high lustre finish. The higher the lustre the more nacre is in the layers that make up the pearl.
Where Do They Come From?
Pearls can form in both salt and freshwater but the majority of pearls on the market today are cultured in freshwater pearl farms. Salt water pearls can take anywhere between 5-20 years to form whereas freshwater pearls only take between 1-6. This also has a huge impact on price, freshwater cultured pearls tend to be a lot more affordable than natural salt water ones. The shape and size of the pearl also impacts the price with larger more perfectly round pearls being worth a lot more than smaller ones that are ‘rice’ or ‘potato’ shaped.
What Is Their Meaning And Significance?
Pearls, like most gemstones, have a number of meanings. Some call them ‘Teardrops of the Moon’ and some believe that they are created by the passage of angels through the clouds of heaven. They are believed to attract luck and wealth and to offer protection particularly to children. They are thought to balance ones karma and some believe that they help strengthen relationships.
Perhaps the most common belief about pearls is that they symbolise the purity, generosity, loyalty, and integrity of the wearer and it is these beliefs that have made them the perfect wedding gemstone for generations.
How Do I look After My Pearls?
You only have to take a look in the window of any antique jewellery shop or, if you’re lucky, in the jewellery box of an older relative to see that pearls can last for generations of they are properly cared for. Pearls are incredibly delicate but by taking a few easy precautions you can make your pearls last just as long.
- Only touch your pearls with clean hands that are free of hand cream, moisturiser, or soaps.
- If you are wearing moisturiser or perfume then don’t apply it while wearing your pearls and leave at least 15 mins after application before you put your pearls on. The chemicals in products like this can strip the layers of Mother of Pearl from your pearls and cause them to look dull.
- Don’t use any kind of chemical jewellery cleaner on your pearls, you can wipe them off with a soft cloth though if they get anything on them.
- If your pearls are strung on silk as a lot of pearl necklaces are then over time the silk will begin to stretch a little this is totally normal. Take care not to pull or tug on them too much and if you begin to notice them stretching too much you may want to take them to a jewellers to be restrung so that they don’t snap.
So, there we have it, the absolute must know facts about pearls so now why not check out the wedding jewellery page or my Etsy shop to see some of the classic and vintage inspired pearl jewellery there.
Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you so get in touch in the comments!