Perhaps the most beloved gem of all time, pearls seem to never go out of style and were favored by monarchs and royals way before diamonds were even discovered.
Ariana Grande’s new engagement ring features a diamond set with a pearl on the side and even in the hit Netflix series “Bridgerton” does the lead character have an engagement ring with pearls. Actresses Emma Stone and Michelle Williams have similar engagement rings with pearls, which is also June’s birthstone.
They’ve always been a hot commodity and in 1917, Pierre Cartier traded a double strand of natural pearls for a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the first written record about pearls are from 2206 BC by a Chinese historian. In 1893, Kokichi Mikimoto successfully cultured the first pearl in Japan. He started the cultured pearl jewelry industry with the establishment of his luxury pearl company, Mikimoto, which is still around today.
Featuring a pearl in an engagement ring is nothing new, but its also not so common. Daphne Lingon, head of Jewels for Christie’s Americas, explained to Town & Country magazine that “pearls have always been a classic staple in jewelry and have transcended time and fashion. While pearls may not have always been regarded as a choice for engagement rings, this is a trend that is emerging. When selecting a pearl ring, you will need to decide if you would like a cultured pearl or a natural pearl, the latter being the more expensive of the two choices and then the overall style from the Edwardian or Art Deco periods or a more contemporary look. You will also need to take extra care of a pearl ring, especially if it’s being worn every day as the material is organic and does not wear as well as a diamond, sapphire, ruby, or other gemstone.”
The factors that determine the overall value of a natural or cultured pearl, or a piece of pearl jewelry, are size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality, and (for pieces with two or more pearls) if they’re matching.
Care and cleaning
Pearls do require an ample amount of care. Ranking only 2.5-3.0 on the Mohs Hardness scale, they’re quite fragile and may not be cut out for daily wear and tear like diamonds and colored gemstones. They are very soft and “easily scratched or abraded,” according to GIA, which added that “aging, dehydration, and sometimes excessive bleaching during initial processing might make some pearls more fragile.” High heat can also burn cultured pearls or cause discoloration, splitting, or cracking.
Pearl can be damaged by many chemicals and all acids, includes hair spray, perfume, cosmetics, and even sweat.
GIA suggested that to maintain the quality of the pearl, it “should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. It’s safe to use warm, soapy water for occasional, thorough cleaning. If the pearls are strung, be sure the string is completely dry before wearing. For routine care, it’s best to wipe cultured pearls with a very soft, clean cloth after each wearing.”