The Pearl is one of the less popular of the birthstones, which is a true shame. Pearls have a fascinating history in jewelry, come in just about every color and shape, and are absolutely lovely. One of the more interesting facts about the Pearl is how they’re formed. Unlike most gemstones found in Beadworks, Pearls are considered mineraloids, like Amber, Obsidian, and opal. Mineraloids are gemstones that don’t have the perfect crystal structures found in others, like Diamonds or Agate or even Jasper.
Pearls are formed in mollusks, mussels for freshwater pearls and clams for saltwater. Some irritant, a grain of sand for example, gets into the shell and annoys the humble shellfish until it can isolate the irritation and cover it with a “pearl sac”. This encases the grain of sand in the same stuffs as the inner lining of the shell, allowing the critter to carry on its merry way. This pearl sac is only one layer and not all that impressive. It takes decades of growth, layering that sac with more and more of the shell for it to grow into what we know as a pearl.
Next time you can’t think of an insult for someone who’s annoying you, call them a pearl.
If you were to picture a pearl in your head, you’re probably picturing that perfectly round Pearl on a long strand. In nature, those round pearls are actually the least common shape, making them the most valuable. There are eight classifications that a Pearl can fall into: baroque, button, circled, drop, pear, round, semi-baroque, and semi-round.
The baroque has to be one of the most popular shapes of the gemstone at Beadworks. They’re almost completely unique from one another because they’re so irregularly shaped. They make for wonderful earrings and pendants. Semi-baroque Pearls have the irregular shape, but they’re more oval in shape than baroque blobs. These are the most common shapes of Pearls, likely because any pearl that doesn’t fall into the other categories ends up here.
Button Pearls are almost completely round, but with a flattened side. Historically, they were used in necklaces that could hide the imperfect shape, usually hidden among other rounds or as a pendant. They’re fairly common as earrings, with the flattened side hidden by a backing to make the Pearl appear larger.
The term “circled” can apply to just about any pearl that has a distinct ring, or rings, around the body of the Pearl. They don’t blend with other pearls, making it exceedingly rare to find in a strand unless all of them had the rings, but they make for pleasing pendants.
Drop Pearls are also known as teardrops and are perfect pendants for that pearl strand, or earrings. The famous painting Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer features such a teardrop Pearl. Pear Pearls are similar to drops, but they have that rounded bell at the bottom like a perfectly ripe pear.
As mentioned previously, round Pearls are the least common type that can be found. These spheres are the most sought after because they can be used in strands, as pendants, earrings, or used in embellishments. Almost all classical paintings featuring ropes of pearls, or pearl studded clothing, was likely using round or semi-round Pearls.