Pearls make the perfect gift for babies born in June or under the signs of Gemini or Cancer. As ancient symbols of purity and innocence, pearls are traditionally worn by a bride on her wedding day. This makes pearl jewelry a great gift to celebrate a bride-to-be or a first, third, 12th, or 30th anniversary.
If you’re shopping for perfectly round, natural pearls, you’ll need patience and a large pocketbook. Most pearls on the market today are produced through culturing, giving pearl buyers a wealth of options.
Most freshwater cultured pearls are made in China, while common saltwater cultured pearls include Akoya, white or golden South Sea, and black Tahitian. Colors can range from creamy white to pink, yellow, brown, purple, blue, green, silver, or an iridescent rainbow of hues like a peacock.
Pearls are one of few gemstones not measured by carats. Luster is the most important aspect of choosing a pearl. The finest pearls are metallic and reflective like mirrors.
Pearls can range in size from 3mm to 13mm. Because pearls do not require polishing or faceting like most gemstones, finding a pair of pearls that match perfectly in size, color, and luster can be more difficult and more expensive. A matched strand of natural pearls may sell for hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of dollars.
Beware of imitation pearls or shell pearls, which are made from conch shells or glass coated with a solution containing fish scales. Rubbing two pearls together will reveal if they are smooth imitation stones or if they feel gritty from the nacre that comprises natural and cultured pearls.
Expert gemologists can distinguish natural pearls from cultured pearls by using gemological X-ray equipment. Natural pearls consist entirely of concentric growth rings, while cultured pearls have a solid nucleus of the bead or shell that was implanted to stimulate pearl production.
If you are looking for pearl birthstone jewelry, find an American Gem Society jeweler near you.