Foxfire Jewelers The Creative Custom Jewelry Studio since 1985

2250 North Coast Highway Newport Oregon 97365

(541) 265-RING    (541) 265-7464


A Pearl is formed when, in response to an irritant within their shell, certain types of mollusks secrete nacre and build up a smooth coating around the irritating object. With cultured pearls, the irritant is provided by man, but in natural pearls, this irritant is most likely a parasite or grain of sand. Cultured pearls are most prevalent today, but only from the 20th century on. Many layers of nacre, which is composed of tiny interlocked crystals of aragonite, form a Pearl.

Although many mollusks form pearls, we value those with 'lustre,' a soft sheen of reflected light which is formed only by certain mollusk species, specifically oysters. Pearls are most commonly thought of as white, but many colors abound such as cream, pink-peach, blue-grey, and black.

There are two main types of pearls: Saltwater and Freshwater.

Saltwater Cultured Pearls are produced when the oyster is implanted with a round Mother of Pearl sphere cut from a Mississippi river clam shell. The Pearl that results is either round, or freeform based on round, or anything in between. Saltwater Pearls are primarily Akoya pearls from Japan, which range in size up to 10-12mm, and the South Seas pearls which are generally much larger and include the prized natural color black pearls. Pearl culturing has begun in the Sea of Cortez, in Mexico as well.

In the past, natural (not cultured) pearls were predominantly found in Ceylon, Scotland and Norway, and especially the Persian Gulf. Persian Gulf natural Pearls are still found today and are very expensive.

Freshwater Cultured Pearls are produced by different varieties of freshwater clams, and get their start from a bit of another type of mollusk's flesh implanted within the host creature. The result are pearls with freeform, often fantastic shapes. The most well known freshwater Pearls come from Lake Biwa, Japan and from certain rivers in China. American rivers produce freshwater Pearls, and culturing these in the Mississippi has begun to yield Pearls in usable quantities.

Pearls were among the treasures sent to Europe by the Conquistadors, but overfishing of the pearl beds by the Spanish invaders caused depletion of the mollusks, ending the harvest.

Pearls have long been used in Asian medicine, and are thought to be efficacious in the cure of eye ailments, heart trouble, indigestion, fever and bleeding. They are sometimes taken like pills or ground up as medicine components. Since pearls are in fact rich in calcium, they actually would be very effective in aiding indigestion and curing heartburn.

The Chinese have a legend that pearls fall to the earth as rain when dragons fight in the sky, and that pearls offer protection against fire breathing dragons.

Western beliefs held that pearls could cure mental illness and soothe heartbreak for the wearer. They were also credited with being a powerful antidote against poison. Ancient tales tell of how rain, or the tears of angels, was supposed to have fallen in the open shells of oysters, which turned the drops to Pearls. When manna fell from Heaven, it was believed to have been accompanied by Pearls and precious gems. Pearls were symbolic of purity and clarity, and were associated with the moon. Moslem writings refer to the "Pearl of Paradise" and it is said that heaven is beautified by many red Pearls.

Cleopatra was said to have dissolved a pearl in wine and swallowed it to seduce Mark Antony. The Pearl was thought to be a powerful aphrodisiac, and to attract love.

One of the most ardent admirers of pearls was Queen Elizabeth I of England, who wore dresses studded with pearls of incredible richness. She was reputed to have confiscated several fine Pearl necklaces from Mary, Queen of Scots. Still pearls were favorites of many other European royal figures. Henry VIII wore a massive gold crown studded with rubies, sapphires, diamonds, and 19 pearls, as well as a necklace set with large round pearls. Rudolph II, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was fond of pearls and collected pearls from America.
Hardness: 2.5-4.5

Toughness: Variable

Birthstone: June (along with Alexandrite)