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Facts and Folklore by Wynn Fabbri
Even though summer is not officially here until June 21st, I consider June a summer month and think of all the wonderful things that come with June including the birthstone for June, Pearl. The word Pearl is derived from the French word Perle which came from the Latin word Perna which means leg. Strange, right? However, wherever the word pearl comes from, they are interesting and fascinating and beautiful. Fresh water pearls are given on a first wedding anniversary. Pearls are given on the third, twelfth and thirtieth wedding anniversary also.
Pearls are calcium carbonate. They are organic and develop inside shelled mollusks (mussels, oysters and clams). When a foreign object enters the shell, a substance is created by the mollusk to coat the object, this substance is called nacre and it keeps forming layers around the irritating foreign object. The surface of the pearl nacre has an iridescent luster. Cultured pearls are formed when humans intervene in this process by inserting an irritating object and then waiting for nature to take its course.
There are many shapes of pearls, baroque pearls are any shape other than round and smooth. Of the pearl types, there are Akoya , which are saltwater round cultured pearls from the akoya oyster. Freshwater pearls can be either natural or cultured and can be somewhat round but usually they are baroque. Freshwater pearls come from ponds and rivers and are described as "Chinese" pearls. Akoya and freshwater pearls can be irradiated or dyed to many different colors. Tahitian pearls, which are baroque to round, are natural pearls from the south seas and come by their dark colors naturally and their nacres are very thick. Tahitian pearls do not come from Tahiti, Tahiti is just the main trading area for atolls (ring shaped coral reefs), that produce these pearls. These black lipped pearls are formed in the French Polynesian area. Gold South Sea pearls and White South Sea pearls can be either natural or cultured, they are larger at typically 12-15mm. Natural South Sea pearls are very valuable and expensive, especially the pearls that are the most perfectly symmetrical and free of blemishes. The areas that produce the largest amount of natural pearls are the Persian Gulf, Red Sea and the coasts of Sri Lanka and India. These natural pearls are found in salt water and are referred to as "Japanese" pearls.
Pearls have been associated with wisdom, through experience, they are thought to "quicken the laws of karma" and to cement engagements and love relationships. They are also thought to keep children safe.