> Gemstone: Pearl

If your birthday falls in June, your birthstone is the pearl. Traditionally, pearls have symbolized success, love, and happiness. These gemstones are actually made when sand or another irritant finds its way into the shell specifically, the mantle -- of some species of mollusk. As the mollusk tries to deal with the irritation inside the shell, the organism creates a pearl, made of the same material as the shell of the mollusk. Depending on the environment and the mollusk in which a pearl grows, pearls can be pink, white, black, cream, mauve, gray, blue, yellow, lavender, or green, and mauve. In all cases, the colors are pale and muted and pearls are a soft iridescent shade.

Pearls are highly prized gemstones. The most valuable pearls are those that are perfectly round and are cultivated naturally. That is, those that are recovered by divers from actual mollusks in the ocean. In some cases, these pearls can be very large and quite sturdy. However, many pearls sold today are cultured, meaning that they are produced in mollusks in fields. Cultured pearls are made by purposely introducing an irritant into the shell of a mollusk. Pearls can also vary according to where they are grown. Baroque pearls, for example are grown in muscular tissue of a mollusk and are therefore irregularly shaped. Blister pearls grow next to the shell and as a result often have one flat side.

When selecting pearls, you will want to know that pearls are classed according to orient, lustre, and shape. Orient refers to the surface color of a pearl. The most prized pearls have a very delicate color on the surface that is neither whitish nor obvious. Lustre refers to the play of light on pearls. The best pearls have a soft glow rather than a flat color. They tend to have a deep lustre. The most-prized pearls have a spherical or drop like shape. Most prized pearls are produced by saltwater oysters or freshwater clams, mollusks with shells lined with mother-of-pearl. While pearls can be gathered from other mollusks, those tend to be flatter are porcelain-like and are not considered as valuable.

Size is also important consideration when purchasing a pearl. Pearls can range from less than 12 mg -- these are called seed pearls -- to many thousands of milligrams. The largest pearls tend to be Baroque pearls.

Because pearls are associated with love, success, and other such things, they are a popular choice of gemstone for the 12th and 30th marriage anniversaries. They are also very popular gemstone used in necklaces. In fact, the simple string of pearls is considered by many the most classic and elegant piece of jewelry. Pearls also look fabulous when set in gold or silver and when used as part of rings, bracelets, or earrings.

Once you buy pearls, you need to tend them carefully. Avoid letting your pearls come into contact with any chemicals. This means that if you use hairspray, perfume, or other chemicals or makeup, apply these items before you put on your pearls. Keep your pearls away from excessive dryness or timidity, as well. After wearing your pearls, wipe them off with a lint free, dry cloth. This will help remove any residue of makeup or chemicals on your jewelry. If you need to clean your pearls more thoroughly, use so soapy, warm water. However, you need to be careful not to let any soap or water get into the drill hole. This may cause the pearl to discolor. Once you wash your pearls, air dry them on a towel.

jewelry stores