The Luminescent Pearl – June’s Elegant Birthstone

For this journey, we’re going under the sea. While all of the other birth-month gemstones come from somewhere on land, a living organism produces this favored birthstone. Still not sure which one we’re talking about? We’re diving to the bottom of the sea to explore pearls, the only gemstone to originate from something in the water, making this birthstone unlike any other.

Beautiful And Beloved

The pearl is June’s birthstone, and is also a beloved gift for the third and thirteenth wedding anniversaries. Both traditional and modern, the pearl gemstone is a symbol of beauty and purity. In addition to being a luxurious wedding jewelry staple, pearls are a common jewelry favorite on the Hollywood red carpet, and favored by fashion influencers and everyone in-between. The pearl gemstone has been a classic jewelry piece for decades, as was made even more famous by style icons such as Audrey Hepburn, CoCo Chanel, Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy.

One Of Nature’s True Miracles

The pearl birthstone is a natural beauty, and is the only birthstone made by a living being. Pearls are mainly created by oysters and mussels, but don’t expect a pearl to be hiding in one the next time you order a half dozen at your favorite restaurant. Natural pearls are extremely rare, expensive and usually very small. This is where cultured pearls come into play.

A natural pearl gemstone is formed when an intruder, such as a grain of sand, slips between one of the two shells of an oyster and the protective layer that covers their organs. In order to protect itself from irritation, the oyster will quickly begin covering the grain of sand or other intruder with layers of nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, forming the pearl gemstone we know and love. Cultured pearls are created in a similar way, except instead of a natural intruder, a mother-of-pearl bead is inserted into the oyster to facilitate the same process. The appearance of cultured pearls and natural pearls are essentially the same. They can be found in a variety of shapes including round pearls, oval pearls, pear-shaped pearls and misshapen pearls, called baroque pearls.

The Perfect Pearl: Find Your Type

There are four common types of cultured pearls: freshwater pearls, Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls. Freshwater pearls are typically the least expensive. They are mainly grown in China, and many are white. They appear similar to Akoya cultured pearls in shape and size. The remaining three types – Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea – are all saltwater pearls.

Akoya pearls are what you think of when you picture a perfect strand of shimmering white pearls. Typically grown in Japan and China, they are usually white or cream in color and are perfectly round in shape. Tahitian pearls are colored pearls and are the only pearl to have gained their color naturally. They’re mostly dark and range in hue from black to gray, blue, green, purple and more. South Sea pearls come from areas such as Australia and Indonesia, and their color ranges from white and cream to a golden hue. They are the largest of all the pearls and are some of the most rare and valued.

An Impressive (And Expensive) History

If the pearl gemstone hasn’t already impressed you enough, June’s birthstone has a rich history to match all of its fascinating qualities and has been referenced many times in various different cultures. Originally, it was believed that people searching for food along the seashore discovered the first natural pearls. Many of these natural pearls were found in the Persian Gulf region. Before the creation of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, pearls were so rare that only royalty and the very wealthy could afford them.

A lover of various gems and jewels, Cleopatra is associated with pearls for an interesting reason. According to legend, Cleopatra crushed a pearl into a glass of wine and drank it to prove to Marc Anthony that she could give the most expensive dinner in history. Now, whether or not that tasted good, I can’t say, but considering how rare and expensive pearls were at the time, even Marc Anthony had to agree that she won.

The Romans and the Greeks also held pearls in high esteem and considered them to be the ultimate symbol of wealth, social standing and beauty. Another legend has it that a Roman general, Vitellius, covered the expenses of a military campaign with a single, natural pearl. This just goes to show how truly valuable natural pearls were at the time, and still are today.

Popular Then, Even More Popular Now

Just like it’s impressive history, meanings and superstitions surrounding the pearl birthstone date back many years ago. In ancient China, people believed that pearls gave one protection from fire and dragons. Other folklore believed that those who slept with a pearl under their pillow would be blessed with children. Pearl folklore and superstitions vary, but overall, pearls are said to facilitate good health and wealth.

Pearls have been popular for decades and have stood the test of time. Whether you’re looking to channel your inner CoCo Chanel or complement your best formal wear, pearls add an air of elegance and sophistication to any look. Shop Pearl Jewelry >