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7 facts about pearls

1. The explanation of the “grain of sand” is a myth

Pearls are real anomalies in the world of gemstones. They not only come from a living organism (mollusk), but also take their characteristic pearl iridescence from an organic substance – mother of pearl. In addition, pearls come out of their shells as a “finished product” without requiring cutting or other post-finishing. 

It is customary to explain the origin of pearls in a mollusk by the “theory of a grain of sand”. It is believed that layers of mother-of-pearl envelop a grain of sand that accidentally got inside a shell with a mollusk. However, experts dispel this myth. A more plausible “suspect” should be considered a microscopic organism that moves inside the fleshy part of the shell of the mollusc and makes the mother of pearl “respond to the invader”, enveloping the irritant with a special secreted secret. Over time, a pearl grows in this place.

2. The Baja California region (northwest Mexico) produces beautiful black pearls from Pinctada mazatlanica and Pteria sternasaltwater oysters

Baja pearls range in color from silvery white to eggplant and pink. Originally known as all-natural, they have also been successfully cultivated since the 1990s.

Both the parent oyster species Pinctada mazatlanica (known as La Paz black-lipped) and Pteria sterna (or western-winged rainbow-lipped) are found in the Mexican Sea of ​​Cortez (California bay).

It is a 700-mile, narrow strip of water that separates the Baja Peninsula from the Mexican continental Pacific coast.

The pearls found in this most beautiful place of the planet reach a size of 8-10 millimeters and are famous for their unique color transitions and iridescent iridization (the effect of “iridescence” of color).

The Mexican state of Sonora is famous for its pearl farm located in the coastal town of Guaymas. The Perlas del Mar de Cortez farm cultivates pearls and is open to visitors from Monday to Friday from 9 am to 12 pm.

3.  How did Cleopatra’s famous “pearl” banquet actually take place?

One of the most impressive stories from the world of pearls has always been the legend of the dinner at which the queen effectively won an argument against her husband Mark Antony. The point of dispute was the cost of the dinner: Cleopatra assured that she could arrange the most expensive banquet in history of all time.

Writer and renowned pearl expert Fred Ward provides the following details to the story.

In his book Pearls, the author claims that the queen wanted to impress Antony and the entire Roman Empire. In her ingenious attempt to do this, Cleopatra removed a large pearl from her earrings and dissolved it in a glass of wine (according to another version – vinegar), after which she took a sip. Shocked, Antony gave up his part of the supper – the drink with the pearl from the second earring – and acknowledged Cleopatra’s victory.

The author complements the legend with an estimate of the value of pearls from Pliny, who is often called the first gemologist in the history of mankind. Pliny calculated that both pearls were then worth 60 million sesterces, or about $ 28.5 million today.

4. Natural pearls are known by various names such as Oriental, Persian Gulf, and Basra

About 2,000 years ago, the finest pearls were found in the waters of the Persian Gulf, prompting the growth of related businesses in the Bahrain, Qatar and Basra regions, through which trade routes lead to Iraq.

In the early 20th century, the depletion of the gulf pearl population and the onset of cultured pearls effectively ended this trade. Today the terms “oriental” pearls, pearls of the Persian Gulf or Basra are used interchangeably, equally denoting natural pearls from the most legendary oyster sources.

The authors of People and Pearls: The Magic Endures, Ki Hackney and Diana Edkins, believe that only 0.5% of the world’s pearl reserves can be considered completely natural. That is why, when a natural pearl necklace appears at auction and its valuation reaches $ 9 million, as happened with a seven-row pearl and diamond necklace in 2013 in Geneva (Christie’s) – it is literally a piece of history freed from old vaults.

5. Warm ocean waters are to be thanked for the radiance and silkiness of the luxurious pearls of the South Seas

The author of the article came to this conclusion after a thorough conversation with representatives of the GIA (Gemological Institute of America, note by JEWELERUM) Dona Dirlam and Robert Weldon. According to them, the pearls of the South Seas, which are considered the largest and most valuable of the pearlescent varieties, boast such brightly manifested characteristics of brilliance and silkiness precisely due to the high temperature of the water of the South Pacific Ocean. The warm ocean currents accelerate the growth of mother-of-pearl and the depth of its shining layers is the reason for the famous iridescent effect that we can see in pearls from these regions.

6. Pearls of the conch and melo species: porcelain instead of mother-of-pearl

Conch (conch) and Melo (melo) are two of the rarest and most valuable types of pearls, the most radically different from all other pearls produced by bivalve shells, “pearl oysters”. Conch and melo pearls are not formed from mother-of-pearl, but from a material that resembles expensive porcelain in its appearance. Such pearls are called “non-mother-of-pearl” (the rarity and high cost of these types is also determined by the fact that the pearls of conch and melo cannot be cultivated).

Conch pearls grow in the waters of the Caribbean near the Bahamas. They are generated by Strombus gigas, (or “the Queen Conch shell”) – a univalve (as opposed to bivalve “pearl oysters”) mollusc, which produces pearls of natural pink color with areas resembling bursts of flame. At the same time, the “melo” pearls are the product of another sea creature – the huge sea snail Melo melo (Melo melo sea snail), whose habitat is the Andaman and South China seas. Their best examples are orange, reminiscent of ripe papaya.

7. Pearls benefit the body

Kokichi Mokimoto is the son of a noodle maker from Toba, Japan. It was he who invented the method of pearl cultivation in 1893, and was able to promote pearls with a new technology around the world. It was he who believed that pearls bring longevity. According to the book People and Pearls: Magical Trials, he ate two pearls for breakfast throughout his life, and died in 1954, when he was 96 years old. Bon Appetit!

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