What are Pearls and How Do You Style Them?


A pearl, once known as the “Queen of Jewels” has a timeless quality and is still an everyday staple for many jewellery lovers all over the world.


Until the 19th century, access to pearls was mainly held by nobility, aristocracy and royal families all over the world. Once Kokichi Mikimoto figured out a way to culture pearls in the 1910s, the pearl industry boomed.


Earlier this year, Kamala Harris wore a gorgeous pearl necklace and earring set when she become the Vice President of the USA. She also wears them with sneakers for a more casual look.


kamala harris sworn in as vice president wearing pearls

Curious to find out more?


Let's begin with some fun facts:

  • A pearl is produced by a living organism, which makes it an organic gem

  • Pearls have been the symbol of wealth and status for thousands of years

  • Most of the pearls on the market are "cultured pearls", which means they are grown with human assistance

  • For a pearl to be considered natural, there should be no human assistance in the growth process. Natural pearls are extremely rare

  • Pearls are measured in millimeters


selection of pearls of different colours and shapes


Natural vs. Cultured Pearls


A natural pearl is formed in a pearl bearing mollusk (a soft bodied marine animal). When a foreign object gets inside it, the mollusk gets irritated and starts to coat the object with layers of smooth nacre, creating a pearl.


To culture a pearl, a human copies the natural process but is responsible for the introduction of the "foreign object".


strands of pearls wrapped around a decorative octopus on a mirror tray next to decorative shells on a coffee table

Myth Buster


A widespread misconception is that a grain of sand is used to culture a pearl. However most freshwater cultured pearls are grown using mantle tissue from a donor mollusk.


To grow a pearl of a large diameter a large plastic or shell bead is often used to start the growth process.


Check out my previous Myth Busters Vol.1 and Vol. 2 to find out what is true and what is false when it comes to gemstones and jewellery


black Gucci sunglasses next to a pearl necklace and red mac lipstick on a white background lifestyle photography

Source


Pearls can be cultured using saltwater or freshwater.


Mollusks that produce saltwater pearls are called oysters.

3 types of saltwater cultured pearls include:

  • Akoya cultured pearls, appeared in 1930s (Japan, China, Vietnam)

  • South Sea cultured pearls, appeared in 1950s (Australia, Indonesia, Philippines)

  • Tahitian cultured pearls, appeared in 1960s (French Polynesia, Cook Islands)


multi-coloured saltwater pearl necklace on display

Mollusks that produce freshwater pearls are called mussels.

Freshwater cultured pearls are:

  • simply called "freshwater pearls"

  • Japanese freshwater cultured pearls appeared in 1930s

  • Chinese freshwater cultured pearls appeared in 1970s

  • currently mainly produced in China

  • China produces approximately 10 times more freshwater cultured pearls than all other saltwater and freshwater producers combined


multi-coloured pearl strand next to loose pearls

Availability


Overfishing and oil drilling has drastically reduced the supply of natural pearls.


According to the Gemological Institute of America, "a shell diver might search hundreds or even thousands of mollusks without finding a single natural pearl.

And of those found, few would be gem quality" or suitable for jewellery.


That's how rare natural pearls are.


Thanks to the introduction of freshwater cultured pearls to the market, pearl jewellery is now readily available at very reasonable prices and has become a timeless classic for many.


hot pink nine west shoes stilettos with pointed toe next to a pearl necklace lifestyle photography


June Birthstone (along with Alexandrite)


Pearls are also known for the following traits:

  • “stone of sincerity”

  • signifies faith, charity and innocence

  • assists in self acceptance and lifting one’s spirits

  • balances and heals all chakras



Do you know what powers and qualities your birthstone holds?

Visit my previous post titled Beauty and Power to find out!


Durability


Although pearls are very soft and can scratch easily, if worn and stored with care, they can last for a lifetime and can even be passed on as a treasured heirloom.


As pearls are organic gems, they are part water and dehydration can cause them to crack. You can maintain their moisture by keeping them away from intense heat and sunlight. Wearing them to the beach is a big no-no.


I always recommend removing any jewellery, especially pearls when exercising, showering, cooking or doing household chores, especially involving harsh chemicals. This will help keep your pearls safe.


pearl necklace next to round opal vintage inspired white gold engagement ring on a white background

Pro Tip: I recommend storing your pearl jewellery in a cloth or silk pouch, away from your other jewellery. Do not store pearls in a plastic bag, chemicals from plastic can cause damage.


pearl necklace in an open beige silk pouch

Caring for your pearls


Pearls, like other gemstones and jewellery, need occasional TLC. Lotions, perfume, hair sprays and natural skin oils can stick to pearls and make them look tired and dull.


But don’t just chuck them into your at-home cleaning solution!


There is a lot of misinformation when it comes to pearl cleaning and there is no need for a deep clean! Giving your pearl necklace, ring or earrings a gentle wipe with a soft cloth will do the trick and will keep your heirlooms damage free.


The cloth can be dry or slightly damp. If the inner string gets wet, lay the necklace out to dry before wearing.


lady's hands wiping a pearl necklace with a light cloth pearl cleaning tips

For more jewellery cleaning tips, check my previous Blog Post:

10 Easy Tips to Keep Your Jewellery Clean and Damage-Free


How to style your pearls?


Although I do not recommend pearls for engagement rings, they are a great choice for pendants, necklaces and earrings. Depending on your personal style, you can go for a classic pearl strand or choose something a bit more fun and trendy like below.


selection of classic and trendy pearl necklaces and pendants in white yellow and rose gold


Pearls range in colour from white to soft peach and pink tones and are available in white, yellow and rose gold jewellery.


selection of classic and trendy pearl studs and drop earrings in white yellow and rose gold

Wear them with a formal dress or a suit, a flowy summer dress or jeans and a T-shirt. When it comes to this versatile gem, you can mix, match and experiment. You can even wear them with your other jewellery, no rules here.


summer dress and woman wearing pearl necklace with white t-shirt

Say yes to pearls if you:

  • adore a traditional, classic look

  • want to give a nod to the 90s comeback

  • want to mix and match your pearls with other jewellery

  • are inspired by Jennifer Lawrence, Bella Hadid, Billie Eilish and Lizzo


Jennifer Lawrence Bella Hadid Billie Eilish Lizzo wearing pearl necklace

Did a gorgeous piece of pearl jewellery featured in this blog catch your eye?


I would be delighted to hear about it!


Schedule a complementary, 30 minute connection call with me here to chat about some options




Looking for jewellery and gemstone inspiration?

Visit Tsarina Gems Instagram page for more stunning jewellery ideas