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Freshwater Pearls: Jewelry for a Colorful Summer

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Summer is the gateway to so many choices, and most of those choices revolve around how to keep cool in the heat. What is the right pool or beach for the day?  What sandals will look right with my outfit?

When it comes to summertime heat, style is just as important to keeping cool as the right destination. One of the best ways to show off your style is to accessorize. That’s right, the perfect jewelry is the key to looking and feeling “cool” this summer.

Few gemstones have the carefree quality of pearls. Other gems have to be faceted and protected. Pearls, on the other hand, may naturally be strung or pierced. They work well as a lone strand or in layers. They resist corrosion better than nearly every other precious stone making them perfect for everyday wear.

With their varied hues and naturally beautiful shape, there isn’t  a better gem for summer. Freshwater pearls come in a rainbow of colors and a variety of contours. No matter what kind of outfit you have or where you go, the right pearls will go with anything.

The Symbolic Meaning of Pearls

It’s fun to think about the significance of your jewelry. Pearls are said to imbue their wearer with integrity. They also symbolize innocence and honesty.

Those qualities are the reason pearls are the standard gift for 1st anniversaries as well as wedding dress adornments. Pearls also happen to be the theme for 30th wedding anniversaries, the thinking being that if a marriage has lasted that long the partners in it must be faithful.

Anyone born in the summer month of June is likely to own at least one pearl accessory already.  June’s birthstone has a number of spiritual traditions. Pearls are said to bring out unique qualities of those born in this month as well as ward off bad luck. It’s also the symbolic stone of Gemini.

Making Freshwater Pearls

Today, the majority of pearls are cultured. Culturing pearls means that a pearl farmer will take a mussel and make small slits on the inside of its shell. Sometimes a small sliver of another mussel’s shell is placed in or near this slit.

Then the mussels are left alone as the farmers wait for a pearl or pearls to form. Those pearls consist of a substance called “nacre.” Nacre is the same thing that makes up the interior of the mussel’s shell. Each mussel may produce a number of pearls in its lifetime.

The first freshwater pearls to reach the jewelry market came from Lake Biwa in Japan circa 1930. These pearls, similar to some you can still find today, were of an irregular shape and came in a variety of colors. You can still find Biwa pearls today, but most cultured freshwater pearls come from China. The Chinese pearls produced today are much sturdier and have a more appealing appearance than those produced before the early 2000s.

Types and Treatments – Choosing the Right Freshwater Pearls

When you’re in the market for any new piece of jewelry, it helps to know your options. For example, pearls come in a variety of natural colors, but sometimes pearls are bleached or dyed to get a particular look. Furthermore, some pearls are heated to improve their appearance. Others are irradiated. As many brands, like these Honora freshwater pearls, have a selection of both treated and natural pearls, you may want to know the differences before you buy. Below is a list of treatments and terms you may encounter:

  • Polishing: Pearls are nearly always polished to a high shine before being sold. Polishing also buffs off a number of irregularities and creates a rounder appearance.
  • Bleaching: Pearls are frequently bleached to give them a more uniform color.
  • Maeshori and Heating: Pearls may be heat treated to change their color and shape them into a more desirable shape. It’s similar to giving them a facelift. Done incorrectly, this can ruin a pearl.
  • Dyeing: Dyeing a pearl occurs in a number of ways. The highest quality pearls use organic dye. It will saturate them fully so that when they the color will be vibrant even on the inside of the hole after drilling.
  • Irradiation: Some pearls are irradiated. Irradiation is one of the only ways to get dark pearls with high shine without dyeing them. Pearls that undergo this process are not radioactive. Possessing irradiated pearls poses no health risk as it will have dissipated by the time they reach the market.

Pearls also come in a number of grades. The scale goes from “gem quality” as the highest ranking a freshwater pearl can achieve, through “AAA” and “AA.” The lowest class is “A,” though even these are 70% to 90% error free and nearly a perfect sphere. Any pearl that doesn’t fall into a ranking category may still be used in jewelry, typically at a reduced price, or may be stripped and ground up.

Pearls may also come in a variety of shapes:

  • Ringed Pearls have a band around the center, somewhat like Saturn.
  • Baroque Pearls are odd-shaped and typically oblong.
  • Drop Pearls resemble a teardrop shape.
  • Button Pearls boast some sort of flat area.
  • Off-Round Pearls are nearly a perfect sphere.
  • Round Pearls are the classic, flawless, spherical shape.

 Essential Pearl Care

As pearls are an organic substance, rather than a genuine stone, they do not corrode as quickly as many other gems. However, they are more likely to crush given their relative “softness.” Whenever you choose to wear your pearls, don’t let them come into contact with acidic or sticky substances, including chlorine or hairspray, as they may damage the finish.

Clean your pearls when you take them off. Cleaning them is simple, all you need is a soft cloth and clean water. Use a brush with soft bristles. Never use alcohol on any pearl jewelry as it will dissolve the pearl. Similarly, an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner can also cause the pearl to break down.

In conclusion, with a little basic care, freshwater pearls can make up the most carefree piece of jewelry you have.


About the Author 

Sonya Matejko is a writer with a focus on stories of love in a wanderlust world. Her most popular article has been shared over half a million times on Facebook alone.

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