Pearls have always been appreciated for their beauty and rarity. From China to India, from the Arab world to Imperial Rome, and all cultures around the world for thousands of years have venerated pearls with as much fervor as the most precious stones. This soft and feminine stone is the birthstone associated with the month of June. It is also offered to celebrate thirty years of marriage.
The pearl is a biomineral, that is to say a rock of organic origin. It is made in a natural way by some bivalve molluscs, in the same way as the nacre which lines their shell. The pearl is formed when a kind of small or irritating object is incorporated into the fabric of an oyster or a mollusc. The reaction of the mollusc is then to secrete mother-of-pearl, a combination of crystalline and organic substances. As mother-of-pearl accumulates in the layers, it surrounds the irritant and eventually forms a pearl. Fine pearls are pearls that are formed naturally, more or less by chance, by a parasite or a piece of food lodged in the flesh of the mollusc.
The hue of a pearl depends on three factors:
- the colour: it goes from white to black through silver, gold, green, blue ... It depends on the species of the mollusk producer, the composition of its environment, and the nature of the nucleus . The colors are coded by letters, each culture zone identifying a well-defined palette of hues. And for each hue, you can add a number from 00 (bright) to dark (100).
- the features: these are secondary colors that appear on the base color, in a translucent layer. Their presence is not systematic.
- the east: this is the name given to the optical phenomenon of iridescence when we speak of mother-of-pearl or pearls. The more aragonite layers are thin and numerous, the more these moving iridescence are developed.
The abalone pear (Haliotis pie, Haliotis Kamtschatkana, mollusc also called abalone) is the most beautiful and the most precious, because its culture is not yet developed: it is therefore found in a natural state in ... only one abalone out of 100,000! Hence its rarity among jewelers. Rich in color, with remarkable luster and brilliance, it is found on the west coast of the American continent, in Australia and New Zealand.
Akoya pearl, round and shiny, white to yellow, is produced in Japan and China by the oyster Pinctada Fucata.
The Tahitian pearl, produced in French Polynesia, is usually large in diameter and dark in color, from eggplant to black. The mollusk is the oyster Pinctada Margaritifera.
The Pearl of the South Seas and Australia are from the Pinctada Maxima oyster (Philippines, Indonesia, Australia), they can be many colors.
Freshwater Pearls are the work of various species of mussels and are grown in China and Japan. Each mold can produce up to 50 beads at a time! Among them, the Biwa pearl comes from Lake Biwa in Japan.
Keshi pearls, highly appreciated by jewelers, are fortuitously produced alongside pearls provoked voluntarily by pearl farmers. Those of Tahiti are very famous.
Conch pearls, very rare, are not grown but found by fishermen in a shell called Lobatus Gigas.
The Melo Melo Wild Beads, in the South Seas, can measure up to 40 mm!
The pearl is soft, tender and feminine. Like mother-of-pearl, it provides soothing and well-being; it would have positive effects on decalcification problems. Centuries ago, it was already used to treat dementia and epilepsy, as well as depression. In India it was given multiple benefits, especially against phthisis, ophthalmological problems, haemorrhages ... Hindu medicine always used its powder, to revive energy, especially sexual. In the East, it is attributed virtues in connection with fertility and an aphrodisiac character. According to ancient Indian legends, the priests, in search of the divine light, held a talisman bead in the palm of the hand. One belief was that well-made pearls made mute speeches.
In China, in the third millennium BC, the pearl was collected as a tax payment. In Suza, Iran, an Achaemenid necklace of 216 pearls dating from four centuries before Christ was found. Hindus say that Krishna would have gathered the first pearl in the depths of the sea, to offer it in adornment to his daughter on the day of his wedding.
Three Japanese invented the grafting process to produce cultured pearls with oysters: Kokichi Nishikawa, a biologist, Tatsuhei Mise, a carpenter, and Kokochi Mikimoto, son of a noodle seller, had the same idea almost at the same time. But by the thirteenth century, the Chinese knew how to cultivate pearls of freshwater mussels, and today they produce about 500 tons per year.
A beautiful Polynesian legend tells that the young princess Hina, on the island of Raiatea, was engaged with a handsome young man, who offered her splendid pearl jewels. Happy, the girl promised to wear them only from her wedding onwards, and in the meantime she had them guarded by armed men who watched them day and night.
Despite this, a rejected suitor, Hiro, appealed to her on another subject. She had to refuse his request, and it was too much for Hiro who, seeking revenge, managed to steal the jewels and flee to the neighboring island of Huahine. The princess, weeping, sent against Hiro a huge dog with prodigious strength and flair. The mastiff hurried after the robber and rejoined the island of Huahine. Hiro hurried to bury his haul under a rock and then fled to the mountain. The dog managed to find the jewels thanks to his flair: he put his paw on the rock, and his gigantic footprint is still visible. The princess went on to marry her fiancé...
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