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3 Unique Facts About Pearls, June’s Birthstone

Dana Seng

Posted on June 07 2021

Pearls are among the most celebrated and popular gemstones, and continue to fascinate as they’ve done for thousands of years. Whether you love pairing pearls with white gold bangles, simple diamond rings, other accessories, or rocking them alone, many unique facts surround the gems. Take a moment to learn a little more about the “Queen of Jewels.” 

Pearls Are the Only Gems From Living Creatures

Rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and other precious and semi-precious gems form in the Earth’s crust. Pearls are subsequently in a class by themselves since they are produced exclusively by living creatures. Any mollusk with a shell can create a pearl, including oysters, mussels, and conchs. The gemstones form when an irritant, such as sand or food, becomes trapped within the mollusk, which protects itself by generating mineral and protein substances called aragonite and conchiolin, respectively. The substances layer themselves over the irritant, eventually creating pearls. 

They Are Among the Rarest Gemstones

While all mollusks are capable of producing pearls, they are nevertheless rare gems. Only one wild oyster out of every 10,000 creates a pearl, and overfishing has severely depleted the mollusk population. Cultured pearls, or pearls made and harvested by oyster and mussel farmers in controlled environments, have helped this issue somewhat. The first artificial pearl was made in 1878 by a man named Kokichi Mikimoto, who is credited with helping appease the demand for pearls worldwide. Some 99% of the pearls on the market today are cultured. 

Le Peregrina is the Most Famous Pearl in the World

The pearl known as “Le Peregrina,” or Spanish for “the incomparable,” is widely regarded as the world’s most famous gemstone of its kind. It is a pear-shaped jewel the size of a small egg with a history spanning some 550 years. Originally found by an African slave working on the Pearl Islands in 1579, La Peregrina was a favorite of Spanish queens, including Margaret of Austria who was married to Philip II of Spain. The wives of Philip IV,  Elisabeth of France and Mariana of Austria, also wore the jewel. 

More recently, the sizable gem was purchased for $37,000 at a Sotheby's auction by actor Richard Burton, who gave it as a Valentine’s Day present to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. The famous actress wrote about the gem in her book Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry, noting that one time she thought it was lost, only to find it unscratched in the mouth of her puppy. 

Purchase birthstone jewelry made with pearls today created by Dana Seng, your Los Angeles jewelry designer.

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