Pearl is June’s birthstone, an organic gemstone that has been adored since ancient times. The gemstone is formed within living organisms such as mussels and oysters, and they are the only gemstone to be found within the sea!
The pearl is thought to be a calming gemstone, symbolising purity and protection while also having connections with the moon. Today, pearls remain a popular fashion accessory and here at Kernowcraft, we provide a huge selection of pearl gemstones and beads in a whole array of colours and shapes for you to use in your handmade jewellery designs.
Read below to find out more about this beautiful gemstone and of course, a few pearl jewellery ideas for your next project!
A pearl is produced in the soft tissue of a living shelled mollusk - such as an oyster or a mussel. It is made of calcium carbonate which has been deposited in concentric layers. A pearl is formed when there is something irritating the mantle folds inside the mollusk - this is normally something such as a piece of grit or sand that has made its way inside. The mollusk begins to protect itself from irritation by covering the piece of grit or sand with layers of nacre — the mineral that the mollusk's shell is made from (also known as mother-of-pearl). This process continues, layer upon layer, until the iridescent pearl is formed.
Nearly all of the pearls on the market today are cultured. A cultured pearl is created by placing a piece of mantle tissue inside the mollusk which then deposits layers of nacre around the nucleus, dissolving it and creating the pearl. Naturally created pearls are extremely rare as only a small percentage of mussel will ever produce a pearl – it is said that one in ten thousand molluscs naturally produce gem-quality pearls. This is why we culture them! It is still a natural process, however it has been instigated by humans.
Colour: Natural and cultured pearls come in a whole range of beautiful colours. The most popular colour choice is white and cream, which is mainly associated with a bride on her wedding day but also classic jewellery designs too. Other colours include black, silver, green, pink, green and many more - these colours are determined by the certain organism which produces the pearl.
Appearance: Pearls can be found in a variety of shapes and sizes which make them a really interesting gemstone. The shape is formed by many factors of the organism such as the size of its nucleus and the position of the pearl. Some shells can have flattened sides due to being pushed up against the shell whereas others may have ridges from the pressure around them. Round pearls are actually very rare, which explains why the more round a pearl is, the higher in value it will be.
Rarity: Natural pearls are very rare however cultured farm-grown pearls are easily sourced.
Moh's Scale Hardness: Pearls measure 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale which means it is a soft gemstone, therefore you need to ensure that you take great care of your pearls to avoid scratches and damage.
Sourced: South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
Cultured freshwater pearls are created using freshwater mussels. They come in a variety of natural colours but are also often dyed to create stronger and more unusual colours. Cultured freshwater pearls tend to be cheaper than cultured saltwater pearls as mussels can produce far more pearls per shell – typically between 24-32 pearls. The quality can vary vastly, so we have carefully selected pearls that are good quality and have great lustre.
Cultured saltwater pearls are created using saltwater oysters. A shell bead (often mother of pearl) is placed inside the oyster which then deposits layers of nacre around the nucleus bead. They are better quality than cultured freshwater pearls and tend to be more round in shape due to the shell bead nucleus. They also have better lustre than cultured freshwater pearls. As with many cultured saltwater pearls, ours are created in Japan.
Mother of pearl is the common name for the iridescent 'nacre' that forms inside the lining of the shells of abalones or oysters. It is more common than pearls and is found worldwide, it is caused by calcium carbonate which creates an extremely silky texture and iridescent appearance. It is mined in many regions including Japan, Australia, Europe and the USA and measures 3.5 on the Mohs hardness scale.
Pearls are one of the oldest gemstones ever discovered and were probably found by people searching for food along the seashore. The oldest pearl is thought to be found back in 420 BC, worn by a Persian princess which is now featured in La Louvre in Paris, France.
Pearls are formed when an irritant is trapped in a bivalve (such as an oyster). Once the living organism senses the irregular particle, it will coat it in layers of aragonite and conchiolin - the very same substance its shell is made of. The pearls high lustre is created from the crystalline structure of nacre which then reflects the light - creating that gorgeous finish we all know and love.
The gemstone has a history of myth and legend, especially as it is sourced from the sea. The pearl was often linked to royalty and the ruling class, meaning they were an item of luxury. In fact, Julius Ceaser created a law to ensure that pearls could only be worn by the ruling classes - knights would also be seen wearing pearls, believing it would protect them in battle.
And weddings you ask? Well, Ancient Greeks supposedly believed that pearls would stop women crying on their wedding day! By
The pearl symbolises purity, faith and loyalty. It is also believed that the pearl represents femininity and creates balance in oneself.
Chinese myth would often associate pearls with dragons, claiming that pearls fell from the sky when fighting among the clouds. The Chinese have also relied on pearls and their healing properties, using them to treat the skin to problems such as indigestion.
Pearls come in an array of colours, and with each colour brings a new message - for example, cream represents success whereas black is thought to bring you good luck!
For jewellery making, you can use a whole range of different styles and shapes of pearls. At Kernowcraft, we have worked hard to create a selection of pearls that are high in quality but also great in value.
There are a range of different pearl styles for jewellery making which are often by-products of cultured pearl production - It’s hard to get a pearl completely round; for this matter the price jumps considerably for perfectly round pearls, especially with strands of pearl beads.
Here are some examples of the many shapes available to use in your jewellery designs
It’s hard to get a pearl completely round; for this matter the price jumps considerably for perfectly round pearls, especially with strands of pearl beads. This is why some of our pearls are listed as ‘roundish’ as they are very close to being round, but without the high price tag!
This is a regular, oval shaped pearl that is longer in length than potato or roundish pearls. Again this is created in the same way as round pearls and is just a shape variation.
Button shaped pearls are nice and domed on the top with a slightly flat bottom. This is achieved by putting something of this shape within the mollusk for the pearl to form around it. We stock half drilled button shape pearls which are great for gluing into settings with pegs for earrings and rings.
Cabochons usually have a flat bottom and a polished, domed top. These pearl cabochons have a lovely lustre and are available in a range of sizes to suit your designs.
Baroque pearls are both irregular and non-symmetrical in shape. They can be very abstract or just slightly irregular. The slightly irregular shapes are often referred to as semi-baroque pearls. Some pearls that might be considered as oval, button or drop pearls but are not symmetrical would be classed as a semi-baroque pearl.
Coin shaped pearls are cultured pearls. The pearl farmer will insert a flat round nucleus made of shell to help the mussel form the shape of a coin, turning the shell so that there is an equal thickness of nacre on both sides of the pearl. This process can take up to a year before the pearl is ready.
Pearls are fairly delicate and require a little TLC to keep them in good condition. As they are relatively soft they can be susceptible to being scratched and damaged. Cosmetics and the natural oil from our skin can also dull the lustre. It is recommended that you apply any perfume, hairspray or other cosmetics before putting your pearls on. After wearing, wipe them with a soft damp cloth to remove any residue and store them separately away from any hard items to avoid scratches. If you pearls are strung on silk it is also a good idea to restring them periodically.
Pearls traditionally come strung on silk thread. If you wear your pearls very often it is recommended that you re-string them about once a year. For extra security you should knot the thread between each pearl – this will prevent all your pearls falling off the strand if it should break and also stops the pearls from rubbing against each other causing damage.
We recommend The Basics of Bead Stringing as a great go-to book for stringing techniques. If you’re looking for a slightly longer-lasting thread we recommend our Flex-Rite 7 extra fine jewellery wire. At 0.3mm in diameter it is perfect for pearls as they have very small drill holes and it is incredibly strong yet offers a lovely flexible drape.
From your wedding day to delicate drop earrings, here at Kernowcraft we have a number of pearl jewellery designs to inspire you.
In this pretty design, we've created a bead bar necklace using a simple wire-wrapping technique - follow the tutorial to make your own here.
This is a great beginner's project that uses elastic thread to create a really simple bracelet design, we've also added a sweet little shell charm to complete the look! Learn how to use Stretch Magic elastic thread to make your own bracelets here.
Explore our range of high quality sterling silver ring settings to use with your favourite gemstone cabochons! This design features a delicate pearl, set into a gallery wire ring - all that's needed is a bezel rocker to gently set the gallery wire around the stone to keep it in place. Learn more about using gallery wire settings and shop our range here.
We love these blush pink pearls! We've hung them on sterling silver hoop earrings and added another textured hoop element too.