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June and Pearls

Pearls possess a uniquely delicate translucence and luster that place them among the most highly valued of gemstones.

The color of the pearl depends very much on the species of mollusk that produced it, and its environment.

White is perhaps the best-known and most common colour. However, pearls also come in delicate shades of black, cream, gray, blue, yellow, lavender, green, and mauve. Black pearls can be found in the Gulf of Mexico and waters off some islands in the Pacific Ocean.

The Persian Gulf and Sri Lanka are well-known for exquisite cream-colored pearls called Orientals.

Other localities for natural seawater pearls include the waters off the Celebes in Indonesia, the Gulf of California, and the Pacific coast of Mexico. The Mississippi River and forest streams of Bavaria, Germany, contain pearl-producing freshwater mussels.

Japan is famous for its cultured pearls. Everyone familiar with jewelry has heard of Mikimoto pearls, named after the creator of the industry, Kokichi Mikimoto.

Cultured pearls are bred in large oyster beds in Japanese waters. An “irritant,” such as a tiny fragment of mother-of-pearl, is introduced into the fleshy part of two- to three-year-old oysters. The oysters are then grown in mesh bags submerged beneath the water and regularly fed for as long as seven to nine years before being harvested to remove their pearls. Cultured pearl industries are also carried out in Australia and equatorial islands of the Pacific.

The largest pearl in the world is believed to be about three inches long and two inches across, weighing 1/3 of a pound (.13 kg). Called the Pearl of Asia, it was a gift from Shah Jahan of India to his favorite wife, Mumtaz, in whose memory he built the Taj Mahal.

Another June birthstone: Moonstone

June’s second birthstone is the moonstone. Moonstones are believed to be named for the bluish white spots within them, that when held up to light project a silvery play of color very much like moonlight.

When the stone is moved back and forth, the brilliant silvery rays appear to move about, like moonbeams playing over water.

This gemstone belongs to the family of minerals called feldspars, an important group of silicate minerals commonly formed in rocks. About half the Earth’s crust is composed of feldspar. This mineral occurs in many igneous and metamorphic rocks, and also constitutes a large percentage of soils and marine clay.

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