I took over this e-zine when Gail, its originator was unable to continue it. With Gail's permission, I have added her original Rock's of the Week so that everyone can find the information readily. Please feel free to visit Gail's web site at http://www.davesrockshop.com

June Birthstone

Pearls in shades of pink

Pearls are organic gems grown within oysters and a few other mollusks. Pearls are formed when a foreign object (like a tiny stone) has made its way into the mollusk's shell. The mollusk secretes nacre, a lustrous substance that coats the intruding object. As thousands of layers of nacre coat the intruder, a pearl is formed; this process takes up to seven or eight years (an oyster's useful life span). "Cultured" pearls are those in which man implants the intruding material and the mollusks are cared for in a protective environment ("farm") while it does its coating work (6 months to 4 years, the longer the thicker).

Practically all pearls available today are "cultured" pearls. The oysters that have produced these pearls had man's help in getting the pearl started, and are kept and cared for in commercial pearl farms. Only one out of four cultivated oysters live to make a marketable pearl. Natural (ALL natural) pearls are quite rare and quite valuable. The word "pearl" should be understood as "cultured pearl" unless noted otherwise.

The beauty of cultured pearls is based on their outer layer (or the entire pearl in the case of natural pearls). This outer layer is mainly aragonite (calcium carbonate) and an organic substance called conchiolin. These two substances overlapping alternately at and near the surface create the "orient" of the pearl.

Pearl culturing is done primarily in Japan, the South Seas, the U.S., and China. Cultured pearls are Japan's largest marine export valued at $320 million in 1988. More than 2,800 pearl farms dot Japan employing over 100,000 people. Natural pearls came from Ceylon, Scotland, Norway, and the Persian Gulf.

Pearls may be bleached to improve the whiteness. Heat and chemicals are used to create grays and blacks. Colors can be the result of dyes (all colors) or irradiation (blues and grays), or the mollusk's diet.

Some pearls are made of materials remanufactured from crushed shell material. Some make their "pearl" from fish scales, snail shells, teeth (of the sea cow), and mussels.

Generally, the search is to find evidence of a central bead thus proving it's cultured. Usually looking inside the drill hole with a bit of magnification will spot this - you'll see a dividing line between the external nacre and the internal bead. The nacre is often less than 1.0mm thick. If you see no evidence of a bead this way, then further testing is required. This could go all the way to x-raying to prove there is no bead.

There is also the "rub it on your teeth" test (looking for grittiness which is evidence of nacre), which, if found, could indicate cultured or natural as opposed to imitation. This is not a very reliable test as some imitations have achieved "grittiness." It's rather uncouth, too.

Here are some Pearl terms:
Natural Pearl
A natural pearl (also called a genuine pearl) is a pearl that was produced in an oyster, freshwater mussel or other mollusk as a reaction to a tiny invading object that happened to be caught inside its shell.

Mabe Pearl
Mabe pearls are large, hemispherical cultured pearls that grow attached to the inside shells of oysters. Mabe pearls are used in earrings, pins, and rings.

Blister Pearl
A blister pearl (also called a bouton pearl) is a pearl that developed attached to the inside of a mollusk's shell. This type of pearl must be cut off the shell, and is therefore hemispherical. Because of their shape, blister pearls are mostly used for earrings.

Blister Pearls

Biwa Pearl
Biwa pearls are freshwater pearls from Lake Biwa in Japan. These irregularly shaped pearls are smoother and more lustrous than most other freshwater pearls.

Seed Pearl
Seed pearls are tiny, round pearls that are less than 2 mm in diameter and weigh under 1/4 grain. Seed pearl jewelry was popular from the mid- to late-Victorian era, when the tiny pearls were strung on horsehair to form intricate designs and were also used as accents on other jewelry.

Freshwater Pearl
A freshwater pearl is a pearl that was harvested from a freshwater mussel (a mollusk). These pearls are frequently shaped like crisped rice cereal, and are less valuable than oyster pearls. Biwa pearls are very good quality freshwater pearls.

Baroque Pearls
Baroque pearls are irregularly shaped pearls. Baroque pearls can be natural or artificial.

Cultured Pearl
Cultured pearls are pearls produced by oysters that have been surgically injected (nucleated) with bits of mussel shell. After 5-7 years, the oysters are retrieved and the pearls are harvested. This method of manufacturing pearls was invented in 1893 by Kokichi Mikimoto (see history and lore).

Majorca Pearl 
Majorca pearls are imitation pearls made by dipping glass beads repeatedly in a solution of "pearl essence," a year's supply of which requires the scaling of 100 million fish.

golden and pinkish pearls

Extreme dryness is damaging to pearls, and they are very sensitive to acids, hair spray, cosmetics, and perspiration. Since pearls have such a low hardness, they should be worn and stored in such a way that they do not come in contact with metals or harder stones that may damage them. Make sure that they are not exposed for a long time to direct sunlight, especially ultraviolet rays. The protein in pearls becomes yellow under sunlight. The calcium carbonate in pearls dissolves in human sweat or oil from the skin, and this will diminish the pearl's luster. To prevent this, wipe pearls well with a soft cloth immediately after taking them off and before putting them away. 

Hardness: 2.5 - 4.5 
Chemical composition: CaCO3, Calcium carbonate organic substances and water 

various types of white pearls
According to Pliny the Elder, writing a the end of the first century AD, Cleopatra bet Mark Anthony that she could serve him a dinner so expensive it would never be equaled. The banquet was indeed luxurious but no more so than Cleopatra had served on other occasions. Mark Anthony thought he had won the bet until Cleopatra, who was wearing two huge pearls on her ears valued at $1,300,000 in today's money, removed one and dropped it in her huge cup of wine where it quickly dissolved. She drank it down and the judge of the wager then declared that Anthony had lost the bet.

Cartier & Co. traded two strands of pearls for a magnificent building on New York's Fifth Avenue in 1916.

Commoners were once prohibited from wearing pearls. From the 13th to the 16th centuries, only European royalty could wear pearls.

Christopher Columbus was convinced he had discovered Japan when he found Indians in the New World wearing pearls.

Pearls were favorites of English royalty. Many of their gowns were studded extensively with pearls.

Marie Antoinette designed a coffee cup using pearls. Since pearls are considered to be the most feminine of gems, Marie Antoinette's choice to use pearls is very much in style of a woman who reverently sought femininity.

Mini Bio: 
Mikimoto is a manufacturer of fine cultured pearls (Mikimoto is to pearls what Kleenex is to tissue). Kokichi Mikimoto (1858-1954) became the King of Cultured Pearls from rather humble beginnings. As a teenager he sold noodles and vegetables. As his business developed he added shells and pearls to his offerings. And by 1890, he was raising his own cultured pearls. Mikimoto's battle was up hill. And he climbed that hill by educating the public and jewelers about cultured pearls. He did battle with the French who sued him at one point because he competed with their selling of natural pearls. So what did Mikimoto do? He sued producers of imitation pearls who sold them as cultured or natural. He finally came to terms with the French whom he convinced to tax cultured pearls just as they taxed natural pearls - putting them both on equal footings. As one of his last international tasks, he helped Japan and the U.S. re-establish relations after World War II.

Lavender pearls

The world's largest pearl weighs a whopping 14 pounds, measures 9.5" x 5.5" x 25 around (circumference), and has a 'nuggety" look to it. And they say it's worth $42,000,000! It was discovered in 1934 along the Philippine Islands in a giant Tridacna (mollusk), and is probably about 600 years old. It originally belonged to the tribal chieftain of the area where it was found, who believed it was a sacred gift. He, in turn, gave it as a gift to an archaeologist working in the area who apparently cured the chieftain of some ailment. The archaeologist reportedly sold the pearl to its current owners in 1980 for $200,000. Legend has it that some 2,500 years ago the Chinese philosopher Lao-Tzu ordered that a clam be implanted with three amulets: one for Buddha, one for Confucius, and one for himself - "three good friends." He would have them reimplanted in ever-larger mollusks as they grew, until eventually only one remained (as there was no longer room for more than one). The legend concludes that the remaining gigantic pearl was lost to a typhoon during the Ming Dynasty, and "rediscovered" in 1934 off the shores of the Philippines.

Pearl saying: If diamonds are a girl's best friend, then pearls must be her favorite sister. 

golden pearls
Pearls have been known for centuries, and thus have a long and varied list of "uses." These include cures for eye ailments, heart trouble, fever, bleeding, poisoning, and indigestion. Because of pearls high calcium content, some of these had actual clinical benefit (eg. indigestion).

A pearl water tonic can be made to increase vitality, relieve eye strain, and soothe burning urination: place several small pearls in water overnight and drink the following day. This tonic is a natural antacid and anti-inflammatory.

Pearls were once thought to be the tears of the gods.

The ancient Chinese believed that pearls were conceived in the brains of dragons. In imperial China, the natural black pearl was regarded as a symbol of wisdom. As such, it was guarded between the teeth of a dragon, which had to be slain before the pearl could be taken. 

Some Hindu writers have linked pearls with clouds, elephants, snakes, wild boars, fish and --only sometimes-- with oysters, themselves. The Greeks and Romans thought pearls were born in oysters as a result of a drop of rain or dew having penetrated between the layers. The Persians thought the same, but they believed that if a pearl was imperfect it was due to thunder in the sky. A more colorful version says pearls are born from the meeting of a rainbow with the earth.

In the Orient, pearls are sometimes associated with the tears of angels, mermaids or mythical nymphs in stories mixing pain and suffering with bliss. A Ceylon legend tells how the tears of Adam and Eve created a lake that gave birth to pearls --white or pink pearls from Eve's tears, and more precious and rare gray and black pearls from Adam's tears. Why the difference? Man knows better how to control his emotions, according to the legend. 

According to one Polynesian legend, Oro, the Polynesian god of peace and fertility, came down to earth on a rainbow to offer a special type of pearl oyster to man. Another says that Oro offered the pearl from an oyster to the beautiful princess of Bora Bora as a sign of his love. 

One of the most romantic legends tells how the moon bathes the ocean in its light to attract the oysters to the surface so that it may impregnate them with heavenly dew. Polished by time, this drop of light holds this heavenly radiance within its heart and cloaks itself in a garment with blue, green, pink and golden reflections that shine and blend in harmony.

seed pearl earrings
Pearls are symbols of purity and clarity. 

Associated with the ministry, pearls bring wisdom through experience; they quicken the law of karma, and bring engagements and love relationships.

Pearls are said to keep children safe. They are symbols of innocence; therefore, they are talismans for the innocent. 

Pearls help to attune the chakras. Since it is a soft white, it helps bring soft, healing energy during meditation. 

Pearls, like mother of pearl, are associated with the moon and water. This makes them very feminine in nature, and conducive to connecting with the goddess.

There is some debate as to whether pearls should be used in magic. Since the oyster must be killed to harvest the pearl, some believe that there is heavy debt incurred in using or wearing them. This, as with anything else, is up to each of us individually. I suspect that each situation is different, so pearls can be used positively in some types of magic.

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