Pearls and alexandrite are two of the world’s most precious gemstones. Both have deep symbolic meaning and have been prized for their beauty and rarity for centuries. In this article, we’ll explore the history, meaning, and significance behind these two stunning gems.
The History and Meaning of Pearls
Pearls have an ancient and mythical origin story. According to Greek mythology, pearls were born when rain drops fell into seashells. Hindu folklore describes pearls emerging from dewdrops falling into the night. The ancient Chinese believed they were formed from the brains of dragons. Pearls have been admired and collected for thousands of years all over the world.
Pearls occur naturally in certain mollusks when an irritant, like a parasite or piece of sand, gets trapped inside their shells. To protect themselves, mollusks secrete nacre around the irritant to neutralize it. Layer upon layer of nacre coats the irritant, eventually forming a lustrous pearl. This natural treasure takes years to create, adding to its preciousness.
The rarity and origin of natural pearls imbue them with meaning. Often associated with the moon due to their soft luminous sheen, pearls symbolize wisdom, prosperity, and perfection. They represent purity and are given as a traditional wedding gift. Pearls have decorated crowns and royal garments to signify power and status. With their spherical shape, pearls have come to mean unity, infinity, and wholeness.
The History and Significance of Alexandrite
Alexandrite is an extremely rare variety of color-changing chrysoberyl. Like pearls, alexandrite has an air of the mystical and only occurs in a few places worldwide. It was first discovered in Russia’s Ural Mountains in the 1830s and named after the future Czar Alexander II.
Alexandrite is prized for its dramatic color shift from emerald green in daylight to ruby red under incandescent light. The more intense the color change, the more valuable the stone. This striking phenomenon led people to believe alexandrite had magical powers and could foretell the future by changing colors.
Green and red have symbolic meaning, adding to the stone’s mystique. Green represents regeneration and life while red signifies passion and fire. The alexandrite’s duality has made it associated with focused purpose and discipline. The rare stone became popular among Russian royalty in the 19th century and remains an extremely valuable gem today.
Evaluating Pearl and Alexandrite Quality
Many factors determine the value and quality of pearls and alexandrite. Evaluating them takes experience and a keen eye.
Important qualities to look for in pearls include:
- Luster – Measure of brightness and sheen. Highly lustrous pearls have an irresistible glow.
- Surface – Clean surface free of spots, bumps, or cracks.
- Shape – Spherical or symmetrical shape is ideal.
- Size – Larger pearls above 9mm diameter are more valuable.
- Color – Most desired are white or rosé with overtones of green, blue, or pink.
- Nacre quality – Thick, high-quality nacre makes them more durable and lustrous.
The most important factors determining alexandrite value are:
- Color change – Vivid shift from bluish-green to purplish-red increases value dramatically.
- Clarity – Stones should be eye-clean under 10x magnification.
- Cut – Well-cut stones exhibit the best color change.
- Carat weight – Value rises exponentially with size and weights over one carat are rare.
- Source – Alexandrite from Russia is most prized followed by Sri Lanka.
Price and Availability
Both pearls and alexandrite are among the most expensive gemstones in the world. Their scarcity and unique beauty make them highly coveted and valued.
Let’s compare the price and availability of these gems:
|Pearls||$100 to $150,000 per pearl||Rare|
|Alexandrite||$5,000 to over $500,000 per carat||Extremely rare|
As shown, both pearls and alexandrite can fetch astronomical prices. Top quality natural pearls over 15mm can sell for thousands per pearl. Fine alexandrite over 5 carats sells for millions. While cultured pearls are more common, flawless natural pearls and large clean alexandrite stones are considered national treasures.
The mesmerizing beauty of pearls and alexandrite make them ideal for jewelry. Here are some common ways they are used:
Lustrous strands of pearls are a classic choice for necklaces and bracelets. Single pearls shine as earrings, rings, or pendants.Uniform pearls are usually used for jewelry to create a cohesive look.
Alexandrite makes an incredible centerpiece in jewelry. The color change effect is best highlighted in settings that allow light through the stone. Popular designs include alexandrite solitaire rings, pendant necklaces, and floral cluster earrings.
How to Care for Pearls and Alexandrite
Proper care is essential for maintaining the beauty of pearl and alexandrite jewelry. Here are some tips:
- Wipe them with a soft damp cloth after wearing to remove oils and dirt.
- Store pieces separately to prevent scratches.
- Keep away from harsh chemicals in cosmetics, hairspray, chlorine, acid.
- Avoid ultrasonic cleaners which can damage nacre.
- Bring to a jeweler annually to check for loose knots and restring if needed.
- Clean with warm soapy water and soft brush.
- Only use an ultrasonic cleaner occasionally.
- Store in soft pouch separately.
- Avoid exposure to high heat and acid.
- Bring to a jeweler for inspection every few years.
Pearls and alexandrite should always be one of the last pieces of jewelry to put on and first to take off. Protecting them from bumps, chemicals, and dirt will help retain their luster and color change properties.
The pearl and alexandrite possess an otherworldly beauty unlike any other gems. Their rarity and powerful symbolism evoke allure, intrigue, and luxury. From royal crowns to wedding gifts, these two organic treasures have decorated the rich and famous for centuries. With proper care, pearl and alexandrite jewelry serves as a timeless inheritance passed down for generations.