June 2016

The June Birthstone: Pearl

The ultimate in timeless elegance, the pearl one of three birthstones for June. A long standing symbol of purity, the ancient Greeks believed pearls to be the hardened tears of joy from Aphrodite, the goddess of love.

Flattering on all skin tones, the pearl is an incredibly versatile accessory. It lends itself to all styles of jewellery, from the simple pearl stud earring to the showstopper pearl statement necklace, and for that reason is often considered the perfect day-to-evening gemstone.

As gemstones, pearls are fairly unique in that they are ‘jewellery-ready’ in their natural state. They do not have to be cut, shaped and polished unlike other mineral stones. The creation of a pearl in itself is something of a phenomenon as natural pearls start as a foreign object that lodges itself into the inner body of an oyster. A cultured pearl is formed in very much the same way as a natural one, but human intervention allows for a more controlled process with a much higher yield. Cultured pearls are often formed from a round bead to guarantee uniformity in production, and are normally left for between eight months to three years before harvested.

With its traditional pure white colour, the pearl has often been associated with loyalty and chastity. From Aphrodite’s tears of joy to the famous and equally infamous ‘La Peregrina’ pearl, folklore and the power of pearls has been a long standing theme.

At 11.2 grams La Peregrina (‘the pilgrim’) was, at the time of its discovery in the sixteenth-century, the largest pearl ever found, and to this day remains one of the largest, perfectly symmetrical pear-shaped pearls in the world. Found by an African slave in the Gulf of Panama, the pearl was given to Philip II of Spain, who in turn gifted it to Mary I of England to whom he was betrothed to marry. Upon Mary’s death the pearl remained as part of the Spanish crown jewels for the next 250 years before being passed from Emperors to royalty, nobility and finally purchased by Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. Included as part of Elizabeth Taylor’s estate sale at Christie’s in 2011, the pearl sold for a record price of £7.1 million.

 

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