The June birthstone, pearl, has long been a symbol of purity. Pearls are Historically symbolic of purity, innocence, and faith. Pearls enhance personal integrity and help clear one's mind so that it may be a clean and thus a direct channel for wisdom and spiritual guidance. They were once thought to be the tears of gods and goddesses in different ancient lore.
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Pearls are the result of a defense mechanism against irritation inside of a shellfish; especially oysters and mussels. When these irritations get inside the shell, the shellfish secretes layers upon layers of Aragonite (known as nacre) around the irritant until it gradually builds up to form the solid pearl. Light reflecting from these overlapping layers is what produces the characteristic iridescent luster.
Cultured Pearls are formed when a small sphere of mollusk shell, or "mother of pearl", is inserted into an oyster by pearl farmers. The vast majority of these 'seeds' are taken from mussels that come from the Mississippi River in the U.S. - because they grow large, thick shells and the right size spheres can be formed from them.
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Cultured pearls and natural pearls can be distinguished from imitation pearls by a very simple test that people have been practicing since ancient times. Take the pearl and gently rub it against the edge of a natural tooth. Cultured and natural pearls will feel slightly rough, like very fine sandpaper, due to the texture of natural nacre. Imitations will feel as smooth as glass because the surface is molded or painted onto a smooth bead.
There are three major types of saltwater cultured pearls: Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea. These pearls account for approximately 5% of the total weight of global pearl production. Although they share many of the same characteristics, they can look vastly different as each pearl is sourced from a different species of oyster. These oceanic oysters typically grow only one pearl at a time.
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