Pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June and is also the birthstone for the Sun Signs of Gemini and Cancer. Pearls have been used for adornment for more than 6,000 years. By 2500 B.C. there was already a substantial Pearl trade in China. The “ideal” Pearl is perfectly round and smooth, although more often they form in irregular shapes. An organic gem, Pearls are formed inside mollusks such as oysters and mussels. They are formed when an irritant such as a tiny stone or bit of sand gets inside the mollusk's shell. A lustrous substance, called nacre, is secreted around the object to protect the soft internal surface of the mollusk. As layer upon layer of nacre coats the irritant, a Pearl is formed. Light that is reflected from these overlapping layers produces a characteristic iridescent luster. This process of building a solid Pearl can take up to seven or eight years.
The most valuable Pearls are perfectly symmetrical, relatively large and naturally produced. The principal oyster beds lay in the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of India and Sri Lanka, and in the Red Sea. Chinese Pearls come mainly from freshwater rivers and ponds, whereas Japanese Pearls are found near the coast in salt water.
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