The pearl was the favored gem of the wealthy during the time of the Roman Empire. This intriguing gift from the sea had been brought back from the Orient by the Crusaders. Roman women wore pearls to bed so they could be reminded of their wealth immediately upon awakening.
Pearls were once considered an exclusive privilege for royalty. A law of 1612 drawn up by the Duke of Saxony prohibited the wearing of pearls by nobility, professors, doctors or their wives.
On the other side of the world, pearls were being worn for adornment by the American Indians. The freshwater pearls of the Mississippi River were strung into necklaces, sewn onto headdresses and set into copper ornaments.
A natural pearl forms when an irritant works its way into a particular species of oyster, mussel or clam. As a defense mechanism, the mollusk secretes a fluid to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating is deposited on the irritant until a lustrous pearl is formed.
A cultured pearl undergoes the same process. The only difference is that the irritant is a surgically-implanted mother-of-pearl bead or piece of shell. The core is, therefore, much larger than in a natural pearl.
Freshwater pearls occur naturally, but in recent years, a strong cultured pearl industry is developing this product.
Pearls of all sizes, shapes and colors are a highly versatile accessory for a modern woman’s wardrobe.
Because of the chemical content in perfumes and cosmetics, they can dull the surface of pearls. Wipe them with a soft cloth after removing them from being worn to remove any of the cosmetics which may have been deposited on them.
It is advisable to have the strand knotted between each pearl to prevent loss of more than one pearl should the strand break. If you can detect the fibers of the nylon beginning to fray, your strand needs to be restrung.
Cos Altobelli is a third generation jeweler and president of Altobelli Jewelers in Burbank, previously located in North Hollywood for 60 years. His specialty is appraising for all functions and acting as an expert witness. He holds a graduate degree from the Gemological Institute of America and the title of Certified Gemologist Appraiser from the American Gem Society, is the author of three appraisal books, and has appeared on “Prime Time Live” several times. Mr. Altobelli can be reached at (818) 763-5151.