Pearls are a spherical or irregular formation that develops in the body of some molluscs. Pearls are composed of the same substance as the shell - mainly calcium carbonate. It is formed as a result of a foreign object (grain of sand, parasite, etc.) hitting the wall of the mantle or between the mantle and the shell, around which mother-of-pearl is deposited. Pearl color is white, pink or yellowish, sometimes black; sizes - from microscopic to pigeon's egg.
Since ancient times, pearls have been highly valued for their beautiful play of color and the mysterious glow that comes from the inside of the gem. These qualities, as well as the correct spherical or pear-shaped shape, have created world fame and fame for pearls so rarely found in nature. This gem has long been placed on a par with precious stones, and sometimes equated with pure diamonds.
The respect that our ancestors had for the aforementioned gem is embodied in the very concept of "pearl", which means the highest quality of any object or creation of human hands. In addition, it was pearls, due to their whiteness and iridescent luster, that in all centuries were a symbol of purity, it was also believed that pearl promotes prosperity and longevity, gives the owner health and happiness. And in the Russian North, he was associated both with tears of sadness (half pearls) and also with tears of joy (pitched). In Russia, pearls were a favorite decoration - everyday and festive garments, decorations of tsars, icons and church veils were embroidered with pearls, household items were inlaid.
There are several versions explaining the origin of the word "pearl". Some researchers believe that the word comes from the Arabic "zenchug", the Tatar "zenju" or the Chinese zhen zhu ("zhen zhu"). In Russia, the word "pearl" ("zhenchug", "zhnchug") first appeared in 1161; in parallel, there was a synonym - "pearl", which was used to name this gem by the inhabitants of Europe (English, Germans, French). It should be noted that, for example, the Greeks call pearls "margarites" and the Indians "manyara" ("flower bud").
Since the nature of pearls was unknown for a long time, many legends, myths and, at times, amusing notions were made about it, which are firmly rooted in the minds of people around the world. Based on the findings of modern researchers, we will try to debunk the most famous myths about pearls.
Pearls are found only in tropical seas, in extreme cases, in warm waters. This is not the case - so-called river pearls are also found in cold-water rivers, streams and lakes in the north of both hemispheres.
Pearls can only be found in shellfish shells. Indeed, the pearls used to make jewelry are obtained from the shells of certain types of molluscs. But there are also "cave pearls", which are rounded (spherical or ellipsoidal) formations at the bottom of caves and mines under various stalagmites. Their structure is the same as that of ordinary pearls: the central core is a fragment of rock or mineral, surrounded by light (sometimes darker) concentrates of calcite (less often aragonite) composition. In shape and size, they resemble a pea with a section from fractions of a millimeter to 2 mm (oolites) and more than 2 mm (pisolites). Their surface is rough, less often smooth, sometimes glossy, reminiscent of dark brown river pearls. The color is white, grayish-white, pale yellow, bluish-gray, from orange to almost black and even green. It should be noted that these pearls have nothing to do with mollusks.
A pearl shell can only be found in the sea or freshwater body of water. This is true, but it should be noted that there are fossil pearls. It is very rare - there are only a few hundred pearls of this kind in the world. Mostly fossil pearls are found in fossilized shells of sea molluscs in the USA, Canada, England, Australia, Argentina, Belgium, France, Japan, New Zealand, etc. At the same time, some pearls, formed in the period from the Triassic to the Pleistocene, retained their color and mother-of-pearl luster. Freshwater pearls in a fossil bivalve shell were found only once - in 1970 in the Gobi Desert. And finally, quite often small pearls are found in ... canned mussels.
According to legend, widespread among the inhabitants of the Russian North, a pearl is born in the gills of a salmon. The fish carries the embryo of the gem for several years, after which it returns to the river and carefully lowers the pearl star into the open shell. This is not entirely true. Salmon fish are really very important for the growth of the pearl population, but they have nothing to do with the creation of the pearl itself. The fact is that the eggs of the female pearl mussel (one individual is capable of producing up to 3 million eggs) are between its valves until they turn into glochidia larvae. They are able to move independently and with the current of water fall into the gills of salmon fish (salmon, trout, pink salmon), where they stay for some time, moving along with the "host" fish over rather long distances. Over time, turning into miniature shells, the larvae leave a safe refuge in the gills of fish, fall to the bottom and lead a new life to an adult pearl mussel.
The highest quality pearls can be white or black, any other colors are due to the use of dyes. There is an opinion that the best pearls are those that do not have their own color. They are transparent, pleasing to the eye with a soft silvery shine, shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow, therefore they are called pearls of pure water. The extremely rare black pearls are devoid of orientation, but have an almost metallic luster and attract an extraordinary glare - an extremely bright speck of reflected light.
But the color range of natural pearls is not limited to this - it is not only white, but also golden, yellow, bronze, pink, blue, bluish, purple, reddish gray, brown, brown, black. A greenish gem is very rare, much more often grayish or yellowish with a bluish tint.
Pearls are often unevenly colored (with spots, streaks, etc.) or of a combined color: brown with a gray band, white with gray stripes or a red crown, gray with a brown (white) crown, etc. There are also gems, one half of which has high jewelry properties, and the other (brown or gray) is completely devoid of them. Some pearls, which have a greenish tint, turn white after drying.
Black pearls can be purchased "hand-held" at a cheap price. You should not believe this proposal - natural black pearls are extremely rare, therefore they are always very expensive. That is why at all times they tried to give pearls exactly black in various ways (for example, Webster and Corago dipped pearls into a solution of silver nitrate, after which they were irradiated with sunlight or ultraviolet light). In this way, brown or low-quality pearls are most often dyed, in addition, the dye loosens the organic matter, causing irreparable harm to the pearls.
Sometimes, instead of black pearls, they try to slip hematite balls into an ignorant buyer. It is possible to identify a fake only under a microscope - you will immediately notice the unevenness of the color. But if you don't have a microscope at hand, you just need to refuse the tempting offer to buy a necklace with black pearls "almost for nothing" - this is an obvious fake.
Black pearls are caught only in the seas. Indeed, black freshwater pearls are very rare, in addition, they are devoid of luster and sparkle. But there was a time when black pearls with a characteristic bluish tint were found in the rivers of the Kola Peninsula. These gems were called "Hyperborean pearls" and adorned the necklaces of the Norwegian queens.
Pearls are initially hard. The misconception is that pearls extracted from shells are soft. That is why experienced pearl divers take out the pearl not with their fingers, but with their lips, and hold it in their mouth for about 2 hours (under the influence of saliva, the pearl hardens), wrap it in a wet cloth and put it in their bosom, or place it in an infusion of various herbs, which helps to maintain shine and iridescence of pearls.
Pearls are never very large. The size of pearls varies greatly, from the smallest, a few tenths of a millimeter (pearl dust) to large ones, weighing up to several kilograms. However, such pearls are extremely rare, most often medium-sized pearls are found - with a diameter of 0.3-0.6 cm. The largest or rare in beauty pearls receive their own names and are kept in state treasuries. Such pearls are subject to the currency monopoly regime, since they are included in the register of currency values of the state. The world's largest "pearl of Allah", found in the shell of Tridacna (a large sea clam) in 1934 in the South China Sea off the island of Palawan (Philippines), weighs 6.35 kg, its length is 24 cm, its diameter is almost 14 cm This pearl got its name because of its original appearance - it resembles the head of Mohammed in a turban. Since this pearl is devoid of mother-of-pearl luster, it is of no jewelry value.
It is easy to grow artificial pearls - just collect shells, pour grains of sand in them, and after a couple of months you have a fortune in your pocket. Misconception. First, not every mollusk is capable of producing a pearl of pure water. Even in natural conditions, pearls are formed in the shells of mussels, Strombus gigas ("giant ear"), Placuna placenta (tropical plakuna) Baccinum undatum, Haliotis, representatives of the genera Trochus and Turbo, as well as Nautilus pompilius (pearl boat). Secondly, some mollusks alienate foreign objects that have fallen into them, that is, they are able to "push out" the grains of sand placed in them, nullifying all your efforts. And, finally, you should know exactly where to put the foundation for the future pearl. If your goal is simply to cover this or that thing with mother-of-pearl, without specific experience, this may be possible. For example, in China, the making of "Buddha pearls" flourished for centuries - tiny images of Buddha made of copper or lead were placed in the shells of pearls. Even so, you will have to wait from several months to 2-3 years.
If you want to grow a truly valuable pearl, you have to work hard. Europeans have repeatedly tried to grow artificial pearls, but the results, as a rule, did not meet expectations - such pearls could not boast of their size, ideal shape, or impeccable shine, and sometimes they were covered with mother-of-pearl only on one side (the exception is the experiments of Khmelevsky, who did not revealed to anyone the secret of achieving a good result).
Success in the culture of pearls was achieved by the Japanese researcher Mikimoto, who, after a series of trial and error, developed a method of transplanting a mantle (with a ball of mother-of-pearl wrapped in it) from one of the oysters into the mantle of another mollusk. The details of this seemingly simple, but extremely delicate and time-consuming operation are kept secret by the researcher.