Pearls are one of the most well known gemstones in the world. In literally every culture and continent, pearls are held in high regard, and as a natural gemstone, it has no equal. Pearls are grown within the confines of the shells of mollusks, but only mollusks with inner shells that have the iridescent material called nacre, or mother of pearl as a surface lining, will produce commercial grade pearls.
Pearls come about as a result of an intrusive, foreign object finding its way into the pearl oyster. In response to this “intrusion,” pearl oysters will develop layers of nacre around the object until it is “quarantined,” as a pearl. This habit is the basis of the pearl farming industry, where humans will place small objects into the pearl, and harvest the pearls at a later date.
Most pearls are either white or cream in color, with a few being black; these black pearls are generally more valued than normal cultured, white pearls. Pearls can also be dyed to be other colors, but the most aesthetically pleasing colors are still white or black.
The composition of mother of pearl is chiefly calcium carbonate (CaCo3), but it is of the branch of calcium carbonate known as aragonite. Due to differing layers of platelets within the atomic structure of nacre, light shining on them will be reflected in multiple angles, thus producing the iridescent appearance of pearl.
Most commercial pearls come from marine oysters, and to a lesser extent, some species of freshwater mussels. The most expensive pearls are the naturally occurring pearls without human help. These pearls are very rare, and hardly exist anymore except for some in the south seas. Most pearls sold on the market are cultured pearls, and mostly come from pearl farms in China, Japan, and Taiwan. If you’re buying pearls, please try to buy only cultured pearls, because all over their habitat, pearl mollusks are endangered due to harvesting and habitat destruction.
The metaphysical properties of pearl
The pearl is a feminine gemstone, and strongly associated with the moon, and the water element. It symbolizes innocence, faith, integrity, devotion, and gentleness. It shares many of the characteristics of moonstone, that other crystal that symbolizes the moon. In many religions worldwide, pearls are often mentioned, and used as metaphors for rare, valuable objects.
Pearl can be used to promote a gentle spirit, and help in cultivating introspectiveness. Due to its nature of having grown as a result of adversity and irritation, pearls are able to show us that we too, can overcome any bad situation, and transform it into something positive.
Pearls can be used for treating digestive disorders, and to promote fertility. Pearl is also used to help with skin disorders in some traditional medicine, and these may use crushed pearl in their concoctions. Other alternative medicine advocate ingesting crushed pearl in the treatment of disorders.
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