The Queen of Gems and Gem of Queens – Pearl – June

The Italian film director Federico Fellini said “All art is autobiographical, as the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.” The pearl is also known as the queen of gems, and the gem of queens.

When an irritant finds its way into an oyster, it triggers a defence mechanism. Layers of nacre transform the intruder into a rare and glowing pearl. The majority of white South Sea pearls are from Broome in Western Australia. Gold varieties are more common in Indonesia, and black pearls come from Tahiti.

A cultured pearl is a natural product, formed around a special bead. In the case of Autore pearls, this comes from an American freshwater mussel. The process is the same as in the wild, and takes about 2-3 years to form a pearl. The best pearls come from the Pinctada Saltwater oyster grown in the clear Northern waters of Western Australia and Indonesia.

The Romans believed that pearls were the frozen tears of the gods. In ancient Indian and Middle Eastern mythology, they were dewdrops captured by clams from the moon. Pearls have been associated with purity, virtue and by the nature of their rarity in the wild, with great wealth. Pearl necklaces were traditionally given as 21st birthday gifts to young women.

Two of the most famous novels featuring pearls are The Pearl by John Steinbeck, and The String of Pearls by the Austrian author Joseph Roth. Ten Black Pearls: A tale without a moral by Cecil Freeman Gregg is a long out of print 1935 detective story. “And the music of the pearl drifted to a whisper, and disappeared.” (John Steinbeck, The Pearl)