From the desk of our Gemologist
June brings us the beginning of summer, but it is also a wonderful time in the world of gems. June has two birthstones- Pearl and Alexandrite! It is one of the few months with multiple birthstones.
You may be lucky enough to find a pearl in an oyster, but almost all pearls are grown on pearl farms. The term cultured pearl does not mean the pearl is fake; it simply means it was grown on a pearl farm. Pearls are the only gemstones that are grown in a living organism. Kokichi Mikimoto harvested the first set of cultured pearls in 1893. Now nearly every pearl you see is a cultured pearl.
There are many types of pearls from all over the world; however, the two main categories are saltwater and freshwater pearls. Saltwater pearls tend to be whiter and rounder while the freshwater pearls are multi-colored and baroque shaped. The pearl farmers wait until an oyster is 3 years old before they begin growing the pearl. To start the pearl, they insert a piece of mussel and a round bead into the oyster. The bead acts as an irritant. The oyster then coats the bead with nacre. Nacre is what gives the pearl its luster. The oysters then remain in the water for another 2-5 years before the farmers harvest the pearls.
Alexandrite, like the pearl, is a unique stone. It was discovered in the Ural Mountains in 1830 and named after Alexander II who was the heir to the Russian throne. Russians loved the stone because its color changes and matches the colors of Russia military. Alexandrite is often described as an “Emerald by day and a ruby by night.” The Ural Mountains’ deposit of Alexandrite was mined dry because of the Russian’s obsession with the stone—but the natural Alexandrite can still be found in other places around the world.
Pearls should be cleaned with a soft tee shirt or a certified pear cleaner. Do not use pearl cleaners on strands of pearls because it will rot the string over time.
To clean an Alexandrite, use warm soapy water and a soft toothbrush.
All gemstones should be checked by your jeweler every 6-12 months to make sure your jewelry lasts a lifetime!
Pictures via gia.edu gem encyclopedia