Did you know that pearls are officially the world’s oldest gem?
Well, even if that’s news to you, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that pearls have been the gem of choice for everyone from the Pope to Julius Cesar, and a stable of fine jewellers for centuries. And unless you’ve been living under a sartorial rock for the past year (we aren’t judging – there are more important things happening in the world after all!), you’ll know that pearls are having a real fashion-revival at the moment, adorning catwalks and glossy magazine pages – warranting a revisit of the history of these spherical beauties.
How pearls are formed
Unlike other natural gemstones, which are mined from the earth (unless of course they’re produced in a lab), pearls are born from natural organisms. Natural pearls are formed when an oyster shell is accidentally infected with an outside irritant, such as a piece of shell, and the oyster in response secretes nacre, which builds up in layers around the irritant – until voilà! A pearl is born. Today however, the birth of most pearls is far from accidental, as irritants are implanted in oysters to form cultured pearls. In fact, natural pearls are so scarce that almost all jewellery being crafted and sold today uses cultured pearls, with ancient gems using natural pearls fetching million dollar sums at auction.
The revival of the baroque pearl
During their creation, some pearls receive irregular layers of nacre, and end up with ‘defects’ – these irregular-surfaced pearls are also known as ‘baroque’. “Defect, you say?” Well, in the 16th and 17th centuries, baroque pearls where filed down to give them that perfectly-round shape that was considered most beautiful. Today however, designers are prizing baroque pearls for their natural irregular beauty, and they are widely used in jewellery creations that are completely unique – and now, to quote Vogue, the authority on such matters, “baroque pearls are back in fashion”.
At FINEMATTER we are lucky to work with several jewellery designers which incorporate baroque pearls in their designs. Discover the unique creations of Pernille Lauridsen or Anni Lu by clicking the Designer tab on the menu above.