Ah, it’s June, but believe it or not, it’s very chilly here in New York City. When we went for a walk in the park, I was wearing an orange hoodie, and my dog, Poppet, is still wearing her long, curly mop! (She’s a rescued Bichon who loves comfort). But, back to the subject at hand, I was definitely wearing pearls under my orange, zip up sweatshirt.
Here is a little story about pearls: A few years ago the mother of a friend asked me to make a special, 60th birthday gift for her best childhood friend, who was born in the month of June. She told me she wanted a special necklace, one that would be sparkly and have a lot of blue in it, which was her friend’s favorite color. I remember we were both at work at the time, and couldn’t stay long on the phone. We hung up before I could get further details.
The birthday was coming up, though, and I only had a week to work on the present. I started that same evening, letting my mind wander whhile I designed and crafted as I usually would. In this daydream state, I seem to still my mind and create something inspired, something different, just for the person who will wear it. This time, I began working on a chocolate pearl and crystal necklace since it was the month of June, but I also started to wirewrap some blue quartz crystals and blue topaz beads in silver wire. Soon, I was making a pair of matching blue chandelier earrings that seemed regal and appropriate for a woman’s 60th birthday. I decided this set of necklace and earrings would be much better, and simply put aside the chocolate pearls.
A few days later, as I finished the blue necklace and put it in a gift box, I couldn’t help but to return to the pearls. I knotted them individually, added accents, a nice clasp, and also boxed them and put them in a pouch. I’ll tell you what happened at the end, after we finish talking about this month’s guest of honor!
Pearls can be considered to be as substantial as a gemstone, after all, their chemical composition is CaCO-3, or aragonite. The crystallography is defined as orthorhombic, which means that its minute crystals are oriented radially in a concentric form. In terms of hardness, the pearl is only around 2.5 to 4.5, and its density is measured at 2.6 to 2.85. Nevertheless, pearls are quite hardy, and in fact, it’s not very easy to drill through one! Just think about the painstaking job of manually drilling through thousands of pearls to make jewelry, back in the old day, before the Foreman Drill existed.
Throughout the ages, people have held the pearl in high esteem, and used pearls to adorn themselves and to create dazzling works of art. A pearl seems to attract our attention, whether it is one single pearl in a simple setting, or a strand of magnificent South Sea pearls. People respond to pearls. We want to touch them and hold them in our hands. We want to hold them up to the light and take in the inimitable luster of the nacre, the mother-of-pearl. The well-known author and psychic, Edgar Cayce, writes that pearls should be worn against the skin for their healing properties, and to encourage the development of an even, tranquil temperament. Other authors cite Cayce’s writings and add that this quality would also be conducive to meditation, and for some people, to aid in dreaming. Lama Sing, another author of esoteric texts, maintains that it is the organic origin of the pearl that causes people to have different reactions, affecting the “endocrinal” centers of the body.
Thelma Isaacs reports that the pearl is considered by Hindus to be one of the five precious gems in the magical necklace of Vishnu– the others being diamond, ruby, emerald, and sapphire. The color of the pearl is also important– gold being for wealth, black for philosophy, pink for beauty, red for health and energy, and gray for thought. Now, this brings us to the variety of pearl colors found in nature, because many pearls used today in jewelry are actually dyed or heat treated. The natural colors are white, cream, rose, black or gray. The darker black/gray pearls may have hues of a coppery red, blue, or green, but all other colors of pearls are artificially tinted.
As we know, natural pearls are formed when an “irritant,” be it a grain o sand of a speck of the same nacre or mother-of-pearl enters the shell of a mollusk and becomes trapped in the mantle. Pearls are formed by the secretions of nacre by the oyster known as Pinctada, and also in conch shells and abalone. When the same process is replicated by inserting a nacre bead into the oyster, these pearls are known as cultured pearls, since they are cultivated. Today, we know that most pearls are cultured, and that the larger the pearl, the more uniform the orb, and the more luscious the luster of the nacre, the price can be astronomical– it really doesn’t matter whether they are natural or cultured. What used to be known as “Baroque” pearls, the ones with odd shapes and uneven color that were not preferred in jewelry, are now appreciated precisely for their unique beauty. Even dyed and heated and mass-produced, the sheen and glow of a real pearl cannot be imitated by synthetic or glass beads.
Also, you can (nearly 99.9% of the time) always ascertain that you hold real pearls in your hand by running them against your teeth. If the feeling is rough and even sends a shiver down your back– that’s a real pearl strand. If it is smooth and you feel nothing, it’s not real. However, just as with any piece of jewelry that you choose to wear or keep with you, what’s important is that you like it. What matters is that it makes you feel good, and in this sense, this is the whole point of a personal talisman: it has to make the wearer feel something special, the ability to focus one’s energy, to integrate one’s sense of self. And I think that pearls must make most people in the world feel and respond to the magical piece of nature we hold in our hands.
And to get back to our story, here’s what happened the day I delivered the blue necklace.
The moment I brought out the pouch with the box in it, my friend’s mother became very anxious. She looked at it, and instead of reaching out to take it, her hands went instinctively to her face and half covered her mouth. “Oh, I should have told you…!” And then, nervously undoing the ribbon to open the pouch, she shook her head and continued– “My friend, Cathy, she’s convinced that she can’t wear pearls because they’re bad luck for her. I should have told you not to use any pearls.”
“I had a feeling,” I told her. “That’s why I made two necklaces!” And handing her the second pouch, I watched as her dark brown eyes expressed great relief, and she shook her dark red hair and smiled. Opening both boxes and admiring the necklaces, my new happy customer told me Cathy’s story. It seemed her friend had felt plagued by ill luck, losing her mother when she was 17, and then her husband only a few years after she was married. Somehow, Cathy always felt that pearls had been involved in her family’s misfortune, and that whenever she received pearls as a birthday present, something very sad happened. “That’s why I promised her I would never give her pearls.”
So, do you want to know whether Cathy ever got over her mistrust of pearls? Well, she didn’t. But she loved the blue necklace she got for her 60th birthday from her childhood friend– and my happy customer adored the chocolate pearl necklace and earrings! She liked them so much that she ordered a white pearl set for Christmas, and a gold set for the following year. The moral of the story? There’s no accounting for taste, and always bring extra pearls just in case. There’s bound to be someone who loves them.
Happy birthday, June babies!