June’s birthstone is Pearl
… and it isn’t a stone at all. Whoever came up with the marketing idea of birthstones must have slept in their geology and biology classes. This post informs about the origin of pearls, why they are not stones, but gems, and how to best take care of them.
- June’s birthstone is Pearl
- What are pearls made off?
- Why do pearls shimmer in all colors of the rainbow?
- Why do pearls lose their mother-of-pearl?
- How to protect your pearls
- Rainy day outfit with pearls
- Top of the World Style linkup party No. 265
What are pearls made off?
Pearls are not gemstones – even though they are often advertised as gemstones of the sea. Shelled mollusks and sometimes snails in both freshwater and salt water produce pearls when there is an irritant within their soft tissue. They deposit thin concentric layers of calcium carbonate in micro crystalline form around the irritant. In the case of natural pearls, it is typical a grain of sand, while in the case of farmed pearls it’s a plastic or marble sphere (see next photo of a bisected cultured pearl). In the early last century, glass pearls were used as nucleus. The layers consist of a form of aragonite and conchyn. Since it’s a living being the layers fail to have the same thickness all around the nucleus.
Why do pearls shimmer in all colors of the rainbow?
The aragonite deposits like shingles with the conchyn in between. This layering breaks the light and causes the shimmering effect of pearls. The color of the pearl itself differs with the waters the mollusks lived in and the kind of mollusks. It depends on the color of the uppermost conchyn layers.
Size and shapes of natural pearls
Natural colors of pearls are pink, silver, creme, golden, green, blue and black. All other colored pearls are dyed. There are eight “basic” shapes: Baroque, round, semi-round, oval, drop, pear, button, circled and double bouldered.
Natural pearls occur in various sizes ranging from a pin to dove egg. The largest natural pearl found so far weights 450 carat (0.2 lb, 90 g). It is in the South Kensington Museum.
Why do pearls lose their mother-of-pearl?
Conchyn is an organic substance. Thus, it is subject to aging and drying. First the pearls start getting matt. Next fine tears and cracks form. Finally, the layers fall off and the plastic or glass pearl gets exposed.
There is no way to guarantee how long a pearl will hold its luster. Estimates are 100 to 150 years on average. But many other aspects play a role.
Carbonate is dissolvable in acids. Human sweat is a moderate to nearly neutral acid with pH-values between 4.5 and 7. The ph-values of oily, natural and dry skin range between 4.0 and 5.2, 5.2 to 5.7, and 5.7 to 7.0, respectively. Most skin care products, shampoos and hair sprays are moderately acidic too. The pH-values of face toners, for instance, range from 4.0 to 5.0. Moisturizers, creams and sunscreens have pH-values from 5 to 6. For comparison natural rainwater, freshwater and ocean water have pH-value of 5.6, 7 and about 8.5, respectively. Tap water pH-values vary from 6.5 to 8.5.
How to protect your pearls
Due to the sensitivity of pearls to acidity, avoid wearing your pearls on your plain skin or keeping them on when taking a shower or spraying your hair. It’s best to wear your pairs under a collar or with a mock or turtleneck sweater.
Take your pearl rings or bracelets off when you work with chemicals or perform activities wherein they could be scratched.
Gently wipe your pearls with a clean cloth when you take them off. Doing so helps to reduce the amount of acid that may be on them from perspiration, skin products, etc.
Store your pearls in linen or soft cloths fabric separate from other jewelry in a humid environment to avoid scratches (from other jewelry) and cracks from dryness. Don’t put them in a plastic bag or container as their may be airtight. Recall pearls need moisture.
Rainy day outfit with pearls
Typically the air in Interior Alaska is very dry. Therefore, I like to wear my pearls on rainy days. In this LOTD, big pearl studs and the engagement ring of my late grandma Hannah.
Top of the World Style linkup No. 265
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Photos of me: G. Kramm
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