The pearl is the official birthstone for the month of June. The Greeks believed that pearls were the hardened tears of joy that their goddess of love shook from her eyes as she was born from the sea. Early Chinese myths told of pearls falling from the sky when dragons fought. An Arabian legend states that pearls were formed when oysters were lured from the depths of the ocean by the beautiful moon and then swallowed moonlit dewdrops.
Through the ages pearls have been ground up and used in cosmetics as well as used to treat heart and stomach conditions. Pearls are considered to offer the power of love, money, protection and luck. Pearls are thought to give wisdom and to secure love relationships. They have also been thought to keep children safe.
Pearls are unique as they are the only gems that come from living sea creatures and they do not require any faceting or polishing to reveal their beauty. Pearls are formed inside mollusks such as oysters and mussels. They are formed when an irritant such as a bit of sand gets inside the mollusks shell. The process of building a single pearl can take up to eight years. Natural pearls are relatively rare so in the early 1900's the first successful commercial culturing of round saltwater pearls began. Divers find natural pearls in the Persian Gulf as well as in the waters off Japan, the South Pacific Islands off Northern Australia, and the coasts of Panama, Venezuela and California. Most of the cultured pearl industry is found in Japanese and Australian waters.
Pearls come in a variety of colors ranging from white and cream to pink, yellow, grey and black. Each coloration depends on the type of mollusk and the water in which the mollusk lived. These gems have adorned crowns, clothing and temples and were said to be a favorite of Cleopatra. Long ago, only those with royal status wore pearl jewelry, but eventually these gems were seen among all classes of people. They continue to be viewed as a mark of taste and refinement as well as a symbol of purity, and they are often given to celebrate a marriage or the birth of a child. Baby bracelets made of white pearls with a tiny cross charm at the clasp are popular baptism and christening gifts.
Alexandrite is the alternate birthstone for June. Naturally a yellowish or brownish green in color this gem has the unique ability to change to a purplish red when exposed to glowing light such as candlelight. Natural alexandrites are some of the rarest most expensive gemstones in the world. Alexandrite is symbolic of joy and good fortune. The alexandrite stone is often used for baby bracelets that are given as a gift to a daughter, granddaughter, niece, goddaughter or little sister.