From the iridescent pearl to the rare alexandrite, June’s birthstones offer something for every style.
If you were born in June, you can claim two birthstones. Pearl – that precious ocean jewel – and the colour-shifting alexandrite are birthstones for this month. Both are rare and classically beautiful, providing jewellery-lovers with a wealth of possibilities.
As the only jewels made by living creatures, pearls are unique and valued additions to any jewellery collection. They are created by molluscs, with oysters producing pearls in saltwater and mussels in freshwater.
A natural pearl is formed when an irritant, for example a grain of sand, gets inside the shell. The mollusc then covers the irritant in a substance called nacre which creates the pearl. The precious gems take between two and four years to form.
Most pearls on the market are known as ‘cultured pearls’ with pearl farmers intentionally placing the irritant in each shell. Natural pearls are far rarer and more expensive. In fact, less than one in every 10,000 wild oysters will contain a prized pearl. The world’s most expensive pearl was two-foot long and sold in 2016 for $100million.
There are many different pearls on the market, from Akoya and Tahitian to South Sea, and each is unique in appearance and quality. Most freshwater pearls on sale come from China, while the coasts of Japan, French, Polynesia and Australia are the source of many saltwater pearls.
Pearls come in a variety of different colours, from the classic, creamy white pearl to dyed varieties of yellow, pink, black and green. All are prized for their iridescence and shimmer.
Referred to as the ‘Queen of Jewels’, the pearl has been a prized possession for many cultures spanning thousands of years. Julius Caesar is believed to have made a law banning anyone below the ruling classes from wearing the precious gemstone.
It is also steeped in romantic imagery. Ancient Egypt’s Cleopatra supposedly wore the largest pearls in the world at the time as earrings. The ancient Greeks believed pearls to be the tears of joy from goddess of love Aphrodite.
Pearls continue to be desirable with Hollywood’s most glamorous stars among those coveting them. Billed as the world’s finest pearl, the 550-year-old La Peregrina was owned by acting icon Elizabeth Taylor who designed a ruby and diamond encrusted necklace for it to sit within. The stunning, pear-shaped natural pearl was set in jewellery created for the actress by Cartier and sold by Christies in 2011 for more than $11million.
Symbolising purity, clarity and loyalty, pearls are a beautiful choice for jewellery, from simple, elegant earrings to an eye-catching necklace. Equally beautiful whether worn to complement an evening dress or teamed up with a business suit, pearls exude class. Stylist has proclaimed a new era for pearls, suggesting that drop earrings and long line pendants are a chic way to showcase your timeless pearl jewellery.
Alexandrite was first discovered in Russia’s emerald mines in the 19th century and has captivated jewellery lovers with its colour-changing shimmer ever since. The first stone to be mined had red and green hues, with its colour changing depending on the light shone on it.
Most are now mined in Brazil, Sri Lanka and East Africa, and have a less vibrant colour. The expensive gem’s colour change has a larger effect on its price than clarity ,with the more distinct colour shifting gems fetching the highest price tags.
Alexandrite is difficult to discover and the natural gemstones are said to be rarer than diamonds. However, for the past 50 years, synthetic alexandrite gems have been lab-grown, created by heating and pulling a seed crystal through a variety of molten materials. The Alexandrite Tsarstone Collectors Guide said that most synthetic alexandrite is produced in Russia, Japan and the USA.
So, while alexandrite may be one of our lesser known precious gems, perhaps this will change given advances in lab-grown gemstones.
Because it is rare, alexandrite does not feature in every jeweller’s collection. This scarcity is part of the stone’s appeal. It is an unusual precious gem that captures attention and makes a statement.
Luxury brand Hirsh cites Alexandrite as its favourite stone. The high end maker describes Alexandrite’s changing colour as giving a playful, magical feel to any piece and offers a variety of statement pieces to showcase the gemstone, from stunning rings to pendants.
Pearls and Alexandrite are precious and rare jewels. If you choose to invest in pieces featuring these stunning gems, our jewellery and watch insurance will give you piece of mind that your precious item is protected.