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Pearl – June Birthstone Meaning

If you’re in the 20-35 age group, wearing double-strand pearls might not be considered as cool and popular as it was during your grandmother’s era. However most women, whatever their age, will agree that pearls make you look instantly classy, wealthy and feminine.

In short, pearls are a women’s jewellery essential.

Why? Maybe it’s because they suit any skin tone. Maybe it’s because they go with any outfit. All we know is that the pearl’s demure luster somehow manages to create a look that’s simple, elegant and let’s face it, sexy.

It’s the gem of powerful women who attend royal balls, walk red carpets and rule executive boardrooms.

Pearls today have also earned a traditional status as the June birthstone and the zodiac stone for Gemini. But their pure glow hides an intriguing and rather juicy history.

Read on to discover the true story of the pearl.

How Cleopatra won her bet

TA drawing of Cleopatra the Queen of Egypt crushing pearls into her drink to win a bet against Marc Anthonywo thousand years ago, pearls were
considered the ultimate symbol of wealth.

You might remember from GCSE history class that Queen Cleopatra was the last, and the richest, of all the pharaohs to rule Egypt.

Only months before her downfall, Cleopatra became embroiled in a heated love affair with the handsome Marc Anthony, who’d been sent to submit her to the the Roman Empire’s rule.

But Cleopatra was famous for her love of extravagance and luxury. So despite sharing a bed with Marc Anthony, she sneered at his efforts to seduce her with Roman riches.

To prove that Egypt didn’t need any additional wealth, Cleopatra wagered Marc Anthony that she could serve him a dinner so expensive that Rome would never be able to match the cost.

Marc Anthony laughed and agreed, but when dinner arrived, he was in for a shock.

Pale faced he watched as Cleopatra dissolved a magnificent, enormous pearl in her wine and drank it.

In the face of such wealth and feminine power, Marc Anthony had no choice but to admit he’d lost the bet.

Marilyn Monroe’s Mikimoto necklace

Marilyn Monroe wearing pearlsAlmost two millenia later, the pearl had become so coveted that the natural pearl beds of South America and the Pacific had almost been depleted.

The Spanish, French and British colonial rulers’ greed was to blame. By Queen Victoria’s era, pearls had become so rare they were completely unaffordable to ordinary people.

Until 1907, when a Japanese man called Kokichi Mikimoto patented the cultivated pearl.

His method, whereby a tiny pebble was inserted into an oyster and the shellfish went onto produce a beautiful pearl, soon became widespread.

But the cultivated pearl only truly stepped into the limelight when Joe DiMaggio bought Marilyn Monroe a real Mikimoto necklace as a honeymoon gift, when the newlywed couple visited a Japanese pearl farm during their 1954 world tour.

Up until then, farmed pearls had been shunned as cheap imitations by the rich and wealthy.

As soon as Marilyn placed them around her beautiful neck, cultivated pearls shot to fame as emblems of glamour, fashion and sex appeal.

Japanese fresh water pearls

What happened to Marilyn’s pearls? When she divorced Joe DiMaggio, she could no longer bear wearing them.

So she gifted them to her closest girl friend and stylist, Paula Strasberg, who in turn later gave them to her own daughter.

Curious pearl traditions and birthstone lore

The pearl has been called “the queen of gems”, because it is considered as rare a natural treasure as diamonds.

To astrologists, the pearl represents the birthstone for June and the gem that’s aligned with the zodiac sign of Gemini.

Since ancient times, the pearl birthstone has been said to bring love, luck, wisdom and peace to those born in early summer.

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Many wonderful and strange cultural traditions have formed around the pearl.

Ancient Romans believed that pearls could prevent young wives from crying.

In some parts of India, an un-pierced pearl is traditionally presented as a wedding gift and then drilled with a hole during the marriage ceremony.

In Old China, pearls were said to protect their wearer’s from fire and dragons. In medieval Europe, their pure white shimmer symbolised purity and chastity.

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