Pearls are organic in origin. They are created within the shells of certain mollusk species. Naturally, pearls are found in salt water and freshwater. The oysters and clams that produce pearls live deep within the water bodies and it is difficult to search for them. However, most of the pearls today are cultured in pearl farms under completely human controlled environment.
Pearls are formed when any foreign particle enters the shell of an oyster and irritates the living being. The oyster starts secreting the layers of aragonite to cover up the particle to actually digest it. This process looks simple but it is actually very complicated and time consuming. It may take from one to several years in formatting a perfect pearl.
The foreign particle could be a small fragment of rock, a parasite or a sand grain etc. the foreign body could enter inside the shell or inside the tissue. When pearls are made inside the tissue, they are irregular in shape and have lesser aesthetic and commercial value while those formed in tissue are finely shaped and have more value for jewelry making.
The history of pearls used for jewelry is extremely old. A pearl necklace of the Persian Queen Achemenid worn by her four thousand years ago has its admirers even today. Similarly, the pearls of Queen Sheba were also of great historic importance. And it was believed that Queen of Egypt, the seductress Cleopatra loves to serve wine with ground pearls to her special guests. The largest pearl in the world was given by the Mugul Emperor Shah Jahan to his Queen Mumtaz. The pearl was believed to be about three inches long and two inches across.
La Peregrina is another notable pearl in history. It was, in fact, considered the most beautiful pearl by experts. A perfect pear shaped white pearl; La Peregrina was one and a half inches in length. It has a long history of owners starting from a slave who found it in Panama and gave it up in return of his freedom. The conquistador ruler of the region in 1570 had sent the pearl to King Philip II of Spain. It was then passed to Mary I of England, Prince Louise Napoleon of France, British Marquis of Abercom, whose family offered t for sale at Sotheby's. From there famous actor Richard Burton bought it for his beloved wife Elizabeth Taylor. The pearl remain with her till she was alive.
Queen Elizabeth I was another notable pearl lover. She was said to have approx 3000 dresses weaved with pearls. Her treasure had numerous pearl pieces and she was greatly in love with the gem. Not just she, but most of the British queens and monarchs had a special love for pearls. Queen Mary of Teck loves to wear pearl chokers and collars while Queen Victoria has some extraordinary pearls studded in earrings and brooches.
Queen Elizabeth II is no exception to this list of pearl lovers. She had chosen pearls for her wedding jewelry and has often seen wearing her favorite pearl studs and double strand necklace. The queen during her diamond jubilee celebration was mostly seen with her pearls.
It was one of the powerful stone in Asian cultures. Indians believed pearls could ward off negative energy and are great in controlling anger and ill thoughts. They considered them as the tears from haven. Arabs, Persians and Chinese use pearls for multiple medicinal purposes. They are the birthstone for lucky people born in June and people with zodiac sign Cancer. Pearls are associated with the powers of moon. Historically, they were the symbol of purity, truth and innocence.