While the world has grown accustomed to white and round-shaped pearls, these gems actually come in a range of colours and shapes.

A lot of people appreciate pearls often enough, but few actually take the time to know more about these exquisite gems. Indeed, there’s still much to learn about pearls.

The Only Jewel Made by an Animal

You’ll be hard-pressed to find another gemstone produced by a living animal. In a nutshell, a pearl is an organic material created by an organism known as a mollusc. Pearls begin to form when a small particle gets trapped inside the mollusc’s shell. The mollusc, in turn, coats the foreign particle with a lustrous material popularly known as nacre.

Though almost any mollusc can create a pearl, the ones used for jewellery are often formed by two-shelled molluscs. Natural pearls are extremely rare, though: a pearl of great value can be found in less than 1 in every 10,000 wild oysters.

Pearls Have a Rich History

There’s a reason why pearls are renowned as the world’s oldest gem. Believed to be discovered by early people scavenging for food along the seashore, pearl jewellery has made a distinctive mark upon the pages of history.

As early as 2300 BC, pearls have been presented as a gift to Chinese royalty. Julius Caesar, on the other hand, has decreed that only those in the ruling classes could wear purls during the first century BC. During the Georgian and Victorian eras, pearls were used for mourning or memorial jewellery, as they were seen to symbolise tears.

Its Colour is Determined By The Mollusc’s Lip

As mentioned earlier, pearls come in colours other than white. The pearl’s colour is often influenced by the colour of the mollusc’s lip, or the outer part of its shell. Take Tahitian pearls for example – these pearls take its light or dark charcoal grey colours from Pinctada margaritifera and its black lips.

The pearl’s colour is also determined by the microscopic pigments inside the conchiolin layer. Basically, conchiolin is the material that cements the layers of a pearl.

Pearl jewellery pieces continue to find favour, even among the most discerning person with eclectic tastes. Find your next pearl jewellery by visiting the nearest jewellery shop, like Jacob’s, today.


10 Fascinating Facts About Pearls, NationalGeographic.com

Interesting Pearl Facts and History, About.com