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What Do Pearls Symbolize: Facts & Myths

Though it might be tempting to pass off an inheritance like Grandma’s heirloom pearls to your second cousin twice removed, the truth is, if they are real pearls, it would be wise to keep them.

Real pearls are among some of the most coveted gems in the world. Elegant, serene, and beautiful, some people view pearls as a small reflection of the moon because of their innate luster and their underwater mystique. In this article, we are going to uncover a number of different facts about these beautiful gems and also cover information on pearl symbolism.

Cultured pearl necklace

How Are Pearls Formed?

Pearls occur organically. These beautiful gems are created within different species of mollusks. This is quite different when compared to other gemstones that form minerals beneath the surface of the earth. It is this distinction that makes pearls “gems” but not “stones.” Therefore, the word gemstone doesn’t apply as a descriptor. Instead, pearls are simply called gems.

There is a myth that surrounds pearls related to how they are formed. It’s said that pearls are a result of sand entering a species of mollusk such as a clam, an oyster, or a mussel. However, the truth is that pearls are produced when a foreign organism, or parasite, enters the shell of a mollusk and disrupts its natural state. When this happens, the mollusk secretes a fluid to survive. This fluid is similar in composition to the fluid that creates the actual shell of the mollusk. Several layers of this fluid are deposited over time, which is what creates the lustrous gem known as a pearl.

Today, this process is being hacked and irritants are being artificially inserted into the shells of mollusks to produce even more pearls. However, the mollusk organism needs to reach maturity before the foreign irritant can be implanted.

This makes for a long, less-than-ideal process. Despite that, the fruits of this labor can turn out to be extraordinary. However, even if everything goes smoothly, only about 5% of the mollusks can produce premium-quality pearls. Apparently, Mother Nature can only be hacked to a certain extent!

How to Identify Real Pearls?

Do you know, how to identify real pearls? A fun test to differentiate a genuine pearl from an artificial one is to scratch it very slightly with your teeth. An original pearl will lose a bit of the deposit formed on it and the surface will feel chalky.

While in an artificial pearl, the surface will still be as smooth as glass. The paint applied to the artificial pearls gives them a smooth, mirror-like surface.

Long necklace with cultured pearl pendant

What Do Pearls Symbolize?

The oldest mention of pearls dates back all the way to 2206 BCE. This shouldn’t be surprising, as many Eastern philosophies value pearls and equate them to spiritual wisdom and awareness.

Naturally occurring pearls can take several years to fully develop, as layers upon layers of coating continue to stack up. The lifespan of some mollusk species can extend up to forty years and they are the producers of some of the most expensive pearls in the world.

A single naturally occurring pearl found in such a species after four decades can easily cost upwards of a million dollars!

The Egyptian Queen Cleopatra is said to have taken one such expensive pearl from her studded pearl earrings and dissolved it in her glass of wine. She then drank the glass of wine in front of Mark Antony to symbolize the fact that she could consume such riches.

The time it took to form the pearl was basically the equivalent of an entire generation, and she even offered the glass as a toast to him. Talk about being extravagant! It’s also said that all the Egyptian royalty were buried with several pearl gems after they died. Sometimes, the truth really is stranger than fiction!

  • According to Ancient Chinese lore, pearls were formed inside the head of a dragon and one had to slay them to gain rightful ownership of the pearl.
  • The Japanese believed that pearls were formed when nymphs, mermaids, and other mythical creatures cried, and their tears were converted into pearls.
  • The Persians believed that rainbows were responsible for the creation of pearls and that thunder and lightning gave them their imperfections.
  • The Hindus believe that pearls can reduce your karma and make your relationships strong.

Meanwhile, the Quran says that Paradise is full of priceless pearls, while the Greeks promoted pearls as a symbol of honesty and integrity.

Another interesting pearl symbolism tidbit that some believe is that when God banished Adam & Eve from the Garden of Eden, they wept, and their tears turned into pearls. It is also believed that the tears of Eve turned out to be white pearls, while Adam’s tears turned into black pearls.

Cultured pearl pendant

7 Different Types of Pearls

Akoya Pearls

  • Origin: Akoya pearls are predominantly cultivated in the coastal waters of Japan, with the Japanese Akoya pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata martensii, being the primary host.
  • Characteristics: These pearls are renowned for their perfectly spherical shape, typically ranging from 5 to 9 millimeters in size. The cultivation process involves precise grafting techniques, resulting in a mirror-like luster and a surface free from imperfections.
  • Uniqueness: Akoya pearls stand out for their commitment to perfection. The stringent selection of oysters and the meticulous cultivation process contribute to the consistent roundness and flawless nature of these pearls, making them a symbol of refined beauty

Freshwater Pearls

  • Origin: Freshwater pearls are cultivated in various freshwater environments globally, including China, the United States, and Europe, utilizing a range of freshwater mussel species.
  • Characteristics: Distinguished by their diverse shapes, freshwater pearls can be round, oval, or uniquely baroque. Their sizes vary from 2 to 15 millimeters, and their surfaces may display subtle imperfections, adding a touch of organic charm.
  • Uniqueness: The versatility of freshwater pearls is a key feature. They offer a broad spectrum of design possibilities due to their diverse shapes and affordable nature. The cultivation process allows for the production of numerous pearls in a single oyster, making them more accessible to a wide range of jewelry enthusiasts.

South Sea Pearls

  • Origin: South Sea pearls are primarily cultivated in the warm and pristine waters of the South Pacific, with major production areas including Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • Characteristics: These pearls are characterized by their impressive size, often ranging from 10 to 20 millimeters or more. They exhibit a silky, luxurious luster and a smooth surface, emphasizing their natural elegance.
  • Uniqueness: The extended cultivation period of South Sea pearls, sometimes up to two years, contributes to their rarity and size. Their grandeur and the inherent elegance of their appearance make them highly sought after, representing the pinnacle of high-end jewelry.

Tahitian Pearls

  • Origin: Tahitian pearls are cultivated around the islands of French Polynesia, with the black-lipped oyster, Pinctada margaritifera, being the host.
  • Characteristics: These pearls are known for their dark and exotic colors, ranging from black and gray to mesmerizing peacock green. With sizes typically ranging from 8 to 16 millimeters, Tahitian pearls add a bold statement to any jewelry piece.
  • Uniqueness: The captivating color range of Tahitian pearls sets them apart, with each pearl possessing a one-of-a-kind blend of hues. This uniqueness makes them a canvas for truly individual and artistic jewelry creations.

Baroque Pearls

  • Origin: Baroque pearls, unlike many other types, do not have a specific geographic origin tied to a particular species of oyster or mussel. Instead, the term “baroque” refers to a unique and irregular shape rather than the origin of the pearl itself. Baroque pearls can be found in various saltwater and freshwater environments worldwide.
  • Characteristics: Their unique charm lies in their free-form shapes, allowing for creative and imaginative jewelry designs. Baroque pearls showcase organic beauty, with each pearl having its own distinct shape, making them a canvas for artistic expression.
  • Uniqueness: The individuality of each baroque pearl is a testament to the beauty found in irregularities. Designers often favor these pearls for their versatility, enabling the creation of one-of-a-kind, avant-garde pieces.

Mabe Pearls

  • Origin: Mabe pearls are cultivated from the same species of oysters as other pearls, such as Akoya or South Sea oysters. The term “mabe” specifically refers to the way these pearls are grown inside the shell.
  • Characteristics: These pearls are dome-shaped with a flat back, making them suitable for earrings and pendants. Their iridescence often displays a captivating play of colors, adding a dynamic element to the jewelry they adorn.
  • Uniqueness: Mabe pearls are distinct in their formation and shape. The flat back design enhances comfort when worn against the skin, and their captivating iridescence adds a touch of magic to any piece of jewelry.

Keshi Pearls

  • Origin: Keshi pearls are accidental pearls formed during the cultivation process, often as byproducts of other pearl production.
  • Characteristics: Small and irregularly shaped, Keshi pearls possess a high luster. Each Keshi pearl is unique, showcasing the unpredictability and beauty of nature.
  • Uniqueness: Collectors and jewelry enthusiasts appreciate Keshi pearls for their individuality. No two Keshi pearls are alike, making them a rare and special addition to any jewelry collection.
Cultured pearl necklace chain

Other Fun Trivia About Pearls

  1. The long strenuous cycle that the pearls go through to become the prized possessions they are is symbolic of the trials that humans go through over several years to gain experience and knowledge. To some, pearls are a true embodiment of wisdom.
  2. Pearls were once used by magicians and sorcerers to eliminate the effects of poison and to protect themselves.
  3. Since pearls are born as a result of an organism attempting to protect and take care of itself, some believe that wearing pearls correctly symbolizes your commitment to self love and self care.
  4. Just like most gems, pearls are believed to have healing properties that can help ward off evil. They are thought to balance the sacral and heart chakra, while getting rid of any negative energy in your system that may be causing an imbalance.
  5. Pearls also happen to be amazing mood enhancers when held or consumed. Yes, you read that right. A few varieties of pearls can in fact, be consumed.
  6. A few of them can also be applied to the skin in powder form, as they are believed to possess anti-aging properties.
  7. Pearls are perfect companions to have while meditating because they are believed to strengthen a connection to the spiritual realm. They are also said to be prosperity magnets, bringing forth wealth, health, and positivity.
  8. Some believe that pearls may be able to help them discover the purpose of their existence and increase wisdom. Finding more wisdom and purpose tends to make one more attuned to the love around them and as a result, appreciation for everyone increases. Marriages and relationships begin to improve and people tend to lead a more fulfilled life.
  9. Pearls are said to have healing properties, used to heal several ailments of the lungs, kidneys, liver, and heart.
  10. They are said to channel feminine energy. Many women wear pearls during their birthing process.
  11. A pearl gem can help you deal with negative situations in life by surrounding you with healing energy and positivity—much like the mollusk organism surrounds the parasite with layer after layer of protection fluid in an attempt to heal.

Can you say poetry in nature? Pearl symbolism spans centuries and cultures. Full of beauty and a lustrous sheen, pearl earrings, necklaces or bracelets make an excellent addition to every jewelry collection. At Diamond Nexus we have the perfect fine pearl jewelry pieces to add a statement to your look.

*Here at Diamond Nexus, we strive to provide valuable information while being clear and honest about our products. The Nexus Diamond™ alternative is a patented lab created diamond simulate that, among all simulants, most closely imitates the look, weight and wear of a diamond, with two exceptions – it is absolutely perfect in every way, and it costs significantly less. Price points and environmental facts expressed in this blog were taken from popular online retailers and may vary. Learn more about the environmental impact of mining by visiting our blog.

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