June birthstones - The Modern Pearl
Ah June, the month where summer begins, weddings take place, and the ice-cream trucks finally start their rounds through the neighborhoods. Its the month of farmers markets and brunch, and to show PRIDE for the LGBTQ community. It's the month of the Gemini, and the month of the Pearl. Used widely in jewelry for hundreds of years, pearls hold quite an importance to the jewelry community. From the mouths of mollusk babes, comes a pearl--so true, so pure. In this article, we talk about a brief history of the pearl, its symbols and meaning, and why it makes a perfect gift for those June babies.
Natural pearls (unlike ones made of glass or plastic) are formed as a defense reaction when a foreign object enters the oyster, mussel or clam. This can be anything from a grain of sand, to a parasite, to even a man-made irritant designed in the cultivation of pearls--but more on that later. The mollusk then secretes "nacre," a lustrous white, pink or even deep blue-almost black fluid to cover the pearl--think of that liquidy, sugar glaze that bakers pour over cakes to make them look like a marbled night sky. That gelatin based glaze dries to almost a mirror finish, leaving the cake smooth, shiny, and absolutely scrumptious. See yum below:
Anyways, I got side-tracked--a pearl is a lot like this cake, with the nacre building up layer by layer to form the smooth, shiny, sugary pearl--aaaand now I'm hungry. Luckily, this cake takes a lot less time to make than the pearl--which needs around three years to fully grow to gem quality. That sounds like quite a battle! With a beautiful stone left in the end.
Japan holds the title of first cultured pearls, with their Akoya pearl, patented in 1916. The process of cultured pearls is the same for the natural pearls, but an irritant--typically a bead--is placed in the mussel to form a base for the nacre to coat. Pearls formed with a tiny bead are typically round, and the type of pearl you would instintiely think of.
Regardless of the way the pearl is made, either by natural irritant or cultivated in a farm, pearls have been used for hundreds of years, in dozens of ways. Traditionally in European history, pearls meant purity, generosity, wealth, and perfection. They can be seen in countless paintings from the old masters depicting young virgin women, a beautiful bride, or a wealthy lady of the court. You may recognize the famous painting by Botticelli, the Birth of Venus, below. He depicts the beautiful venus in the center of a clam shell--almost taking the place of a pearl.
Here she is, lustrous and white--but as a historical symbol. Let's leave the Christians to their symbols for a moment, and talk about the astrological meanings of the pearl.
This brings us to the month of June, and the astrological sign of the Gemini. Gemini's, or the twins, have a duality to their personality. They are said to be adaptable and flexible, and curious to a fault. The duality of their nature allows them to be friends to all walks of life, but can also make it difficult to know the true nature of the Gemini. On the one side, they may fit the pure, perfect symbolism of the pearl, but there is something more to their personality than just that.
The modern Gemini, or June baby, might shy away from the one-sided puritan symbol of the pearl, as it might not symbolize all aspects of their personality. When giving the pearl as a gift for this birthstone, lets lean towards a more modern approach. And now, this is where I come in. For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with pearls and their ability to make anyone look like royalty, but what attracts me most are the natural, unusual pearls or "baroque" pearls. These pearls paired with modern, architectural jewelry elements, promotes a look of power and beauty, modern yet classic, dainty yet strong.
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