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10 Interesting Facts about Pearls

23 October 2019
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Love wearing pearls? From their history to their structure, learn some pearls of wisdom about pearls themselves here.

Pearls, which are often viewed as a timeless classic gemstone, have been a popular feature of jewellery for a lot longer than you may realise. But how much do you know about them? Keep reading to find out more!


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1. Pearls are the Only Gemstone to Come From a Living Creature

Although pearls are still considered to be a gemstone, they are difficult to compare to others, such as rubies or diamonds. This is because pearls are actually the only gemstone to come from a living creature, with all others being created under the Earth's crust. The oysters they come from are also consumed as seafood, whilst the oyster shell produces mother of pearl, which is used to create accessories too.


 

2. Natural Pearls are Amongst the Rarest Jewels in the World

When we purely think about natural pearls being formed in Oysters, rather than pearls which are cultivated in a lab, they are actually an extremely rare gemstone. On average, less than 1 in every 10,000 wild oysters contains pearls. The overall population of wild oysters also remains affected by previous overfishing, which further increases the rarity associated with natural pearls. 


3. It is Believed that Only 1% of Pearls Used in Jewellery are Natural

Approximately 99% of pearls currently available are deemed to be cultivated rather than coming from the natural source. Kokichi Mikimoto successfully created the first cultivated pearl in 1896, which led to a trend that met the demand for pearls by providing a more environmentally-sustainable solution for obtaining them. Rather than relying on overfishing to gain rare and therefore expensive natural pearls, these more symmetrical cultivated pearls gradually became more and more popular as a more cost-effective alternative to the real ones.


It is believed that almost all natural pearls have been harvested. Of the genuine, natural pearls that are very rarely found, even some of these do not meet the level of quality required to be sold by some selective jewellers.


4. The World's Most Expensive Pearl is Valued at $100 Million

Kept under the bed of its owner for almost a decade as a good luck charm, this pearl wasn't discovered by officials until 2016. The house this pearl was kept in burnt down and a fisherman found the pearl off the coast  of the Philippines. The pearl's astounding valuation is due to it being the largest pearl ever known to exist, measuring a staggering 26 inches in length and weighing over 5 stone. 

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5. Julius Caesar Ruled that Only Aristocrats Were Permitted to Wear Pearls

In 1BC, Julius Caesar created a law which stated that only rulers of Ancient Rome would be permitted to wear pearls. This is because pearls were seen as a strong indication of social class in Ancient Rome. They were considered to be a symbol of wealth and prestige, and as such, Caesar wanted to ensure that they were reserved for those of the highest class only.


6. Cleopatra Used Pearls to Win a Bet

According to the famous legend, wanting to win a bet with Marc Anthony, Cleopatra claimed she could host the most expensive dinner in history. At the time, she was known as owning two of the largest pearls in existence, which she wore as a pair of earrings. She ordered her servants to obtain the most powerful vinegar available and dissolve one her pearls in the solution. She then proceeded to drink what could be seen as the most expensive cocktail ever made. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt was deemed to have won the bet. 


7. The First Pearl Dates Back Over 7,500 Years Ago

In 2012, French researchers found what is considered to be the oldest pearl. It was discovered in a gravesite in the United Arab Emirates and named Umm al Quwain, after the specific region of the country in which it was found. Using carbon dating, scientists were able to work out that the gemstone was more than 7,500 years old. The gemstone previously believed to be the oldest pearl was less than 5,000 years old, meaning it was under two thirds of the age of this particular pearl.

 

8. There are Four Main Types of Pearl

The most widely available and arguably most well-known type of pearl is a freshwater pearl. These are mainly grown in large water sources across China, and due to being less rare than their counterparts, they are sold for the most reasonable price of the four types.


However, the Japanese Akoya pearl, a variety of saltwater pearl, is also sometimes considered to be the most well-established type of pearl. Despite the name, they are found in both Japanese and Chinese waters. They are known for possessing a uniquely beautiful shine and for their spherical shapes.


Tahitian pearls, which are cultivated in the islands of French Polynesia, are another kind of saltwater pearl. Although they may be referred to as black pearls, they also come in gorgeous shades of grey, purple, blue and green. 


Finally, South Sea Pearls, found in the Australian waters and in the Philippines, are the largest pearls available. They usually come with a white, cream or golden hue.

 

9. Pearl Diving Used to be Much More Dangerous

Occupational diving is now subject to stringent rules and regulations, as legislation is used to maximise safety for all divers, including pearl divers. However, pearl divers previously risked shark attacks on a frequent basis. In fact, according to National Geographic, in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, the mortality rate for divers was believed to be a staggering 50%. 

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10. Pearls are One of the Official Birthstones of the Month of June

Being blessed with three birthstones, those born in June can embrace the precious pearl as one of their official birthstones. In addition to its classic beauty, pearls have long been considered to symbolise loyalty, purity and clarity, making this birthstone a perfect gift for a friend or relative. 


If you wish to explore more birthstone jewellery or gemstone jewellery, please visit our website. At Diamond Heaven, we offer an impressive range of carefully-selected jewellery for a wide range of special occasions. If you wish to gain advice before choosing an item, please contact us or visit our Birmingham, London, Manchester, Glasgow or Cardiff branches.