Most people know that pearls come from oysters, but many people may not understand how a pearl forms or how amazing they actually are. People have used pearls for centuries in jewelry or ornamentation and even, in crushed form, as face powder. Since they have been a common part of culture for so long, many people may take them for granted--but pearls are more interesting than you might think.
The common misconception is that pearls are formed when an oyster gets a pebble inside of its shell. This is not the case. Pearls are formed when a mollusk gets a piece of organic matter inside its shell, usually as a result of a parasite or injury. The oyster senses the foreign matter and coats it with a mineral and a protein, resulting in a substance called nacre.
Any mollusk that can grow a shell can also grow a pearl, but pearls usually come from mollusks with two shells called bivalves, like oysters. A pearl can take anywhere from months to many years to form. It all depends on the environment and the size and the type of mollusk.
Pearls come in a variety of colors. Black, white, gold, and pink are the most common. The color of a pearl depends on the type of mollusk it comes from. Some colors are not natural, though. Pearl sellers may bleach, dye, or alter the colors, depending on customer demand.
The easiest way to tell an artificial pearl from a real one is to gently rub it on your teeth. Real and cultured pearls (pearls created by artificially induced irritants) feel rough against the teeth whereas artificial pearls feel smooth.
Pearls in Beauty Routines
Pearls are made up mostly of calcium, and for centuries people have been crushing low-grade pearls for use as a pale, translucent powder. The powder gives the skin a shimmery glow and was favored by Japanese geishas for the shimmery effect it gave their skin.
Pearls in History
Pearls have been worn as jewelry for thousands of years. One of the most famous pearl is call La Peregrina (the incomparable), and its famous owners have included Philip II of Spain and Mary Tudor.
- Photo Credit Pearl in shell image by Dr.Szirmai JÃ¡nos from Fotolia.com
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