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June Birthstone Option: Pearls

There can be options for birthstones depending on the month. Alexandrite and pearl are the common representations for the June birthstones. I want to tell you a little bit about pearls.

You may not know about all the different types of pearls, as there are several. Natural, Akoya cultured pearls, freshwater cultured  pearls, South Sea cultured pearls, and Keishi pearls. For this blog I want to tell you a little about the Akyoa cultured pearl.

Cultured Pearl Earrings by b.shannon designs
Cultured Pearl Earrings

First, you should know how pearls are formed. Natural pearls are created by mollusks to protect themselves from natural irritants such as grains of sand, minute parasites, or other small foreign bodies. As a defense mechanism, the mollusk forms layers of nacre over the irritant; nacre gives the pearls their lustrous appearance.

Akoya cultured pearls are produced by mollusks and closely related species that are found in the seas off Japan, China, South Korea, and Australia, as well as in the Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf and in the waters of other countries between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn such as Vietnam and India.

Akoya pearl farming was first established in Japan by Kokichi Mikimoto more than a century ago and still exists there to this day. There is a bead, commonly made of freshwater shell, inserted into a mollusk. Akoya mollusks are typically left in the water for 10 to 14 months. The best harvesting time is in the winter season, when cooler temperatures ensure the mollusks produce nacre slowly and more tightly, yielding the highest luster possible in akoya pearls before any processing is applied. Akoya bead-cultured pearls are typically round and range from 2 to 11 mm in diameter, with the most common sizes between 6 and 8 mm.

Pearl Ring designed by Brooke Sutphin, b.shannon designs
Cultured Pearl Ring

You should always treat your pearl jewelry carefully. Pearls are formed of organic material that is easily scratched. Pearls are usually strung or epoxied in jewelry applications. To clean them at home, just wipe them with a clean, soft cloth. When in doubt, take your pearl jewelry to a professional jeweler for cleaning. As always, you should have your jewelry cleaned and checked by a professional jeweler every few months, depending on how often you wear it.

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