Pearls are unique in the gemstone world in that they are the only gemstone formed within a living creature. Pearls have been treasured for their lustrous, creamy texture and subtle iridescent reflections since the dawn of humankind. Over 4000 years ago a Chinese historian first wrote about pearls, making them the earliest known gem to be highly prized, long before diamonds and gold.
Natural, or real pearls, occur when an irritant finds its way into the soft tissue of a mollusk or oyster without human involvement. The animal secretes layers of nacre to cover the irritant, forming a pearl. Commercial pearl culturing, however, was developed in Japan by Kokichi Mikimoto in 1893 and commercialized in 1916. In this process, a human inserts the irritant into a freshwater mussel or saltwater mollusk. The animal is returned to the water in a ‘farm’, where it proceeds to cover the irritant with layers of nacre to create cultured pearls. Today it is estimated that 99% of all pearls sold are cultured pearls. 100 East Fine Jewelry exclusively uses cultured pearls in the jewelry we sell. Pearl is also another June birthstone. To learn more about pearls, or any of our gemstones, visit our education and resources page.