Customers who yearn for pearl jewelry are following a tradition that extends back though the ages . According to legend , Cleopatra ground up a pearl in a cup of wine and told Marc Antony she was swallowing a country’s riches .British monarchs, including Queen Elizabeth I and King Henry VIII, adorned their necks and wardrobes with pearls .To the ancient Greeks , pearls represented love and marriage ,an association that grew over the years . Pearls and marriage are still linked in the public consciousness today .According to the Cultured Pearl Information Center (CPIC), 37% of all pearls sold in the United States are purchased for bridal occasions .The bridal market is the second largest U.S. market for pearl sales, next to holiday purchase (42% of sales) . Pearls items are extremely appropriate for bridal-party gifts , but because pearl necklace are a classic complement to a business suit ,they’re also appropriate gifts to mark graduations and promotions. They’re june’s birthstone and a traditional gift for third and 30th anniversaries . It’s no wonder the pearl’s popularity has persisted .
After all , it’s the only gem formed within a living creature . A mollusk produces a pearl to protect itself against irritants caught inside its body ,like sand and parasites .The animal coats the intruder with nacre , a natural substance that’s also part of the inside of its shell . The layers build on top of each other , a process that produce the pearl’s luster . This rarely happen in nature . Declining environmental quality and commercial fishing have wreaked havoc on the world’s natural oyster beds .Today , jewelry lovers looking for natural pearl ring usually have to comb estate jewelry collections to find them . Indeed, until the development of commercial pearl cultivation , only the wealthy could afford these natural jewels . Today , more pearls on the market are cultured , a process that blends mollusk activity with human ingenuity . A shell bead is surgically implanted in the oyster or mussel , stimulating it to produce a pearl jewelry . A lay person would need a X-ray in order to tell the difference between a natural and a cultural pearl . Although he didn’t invent the process , Kokichi Mikimoto- the famed “Pearl King”-helped develop the best method for culturing pearl necklaces on a large scale in the early 1900s . Saltwater oyster and freshwater mollusks produce different types of cultured pearls .