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Pearls: Everything you need to know

Find out more about the history of Pearl and everything you need to know about the enchanting birthstone of June!

History of Pearl

Pearls are thought to be one of the oldest and most valuable gemstones, with an existence dating way back to 2300 BC. For many years, pearls have been a symbol of beauty and purity, but were once incredibly dangerous to collect, as divers would risk their lives plunging 100ft underwater to retrieve them. Today, natural pearls still remain as a rare and highly sought after gem.

Where do Pearls come from?

Pearls are unique compared to many other gemstones that are mined from the earth in exotic countries. Instead, pearls are found at the bottom of the sea and are the only gemstone that is created inside a living creature. A pearl is formed when sand or other small substances make their way inside an oyster and irritate an organ inside called the mantle. The oyster produces a hard, crystalline substance in order to protect itself from the irritants, and this ultimately becomes a pearl. Historically, pearls are found in the Persian Gulf, but they have also been found in freshwater sources, such as rivers, lakes and ponds all across the world.

Aside from where they are produced, freshwater pearls differ from saltwater pearls also because they can last longer and often have a better lustre and shine. Freshwater pearls are known for their variety of unique shapes, sizes and colours. They are a popular choice here at McGowans!


Famous Pearls

The ‘Pearl of Allah’, which is also sometimes known as the ‘Pearl of Lao-Tse’, is one of the world’s most famous pearls. It’s currently the largest one that has ever been discovered, weighing in at 14 pounds.

But arguably the most iconic pearls of all are the ones that Audrey Hepburn wore around her neck while playing Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The necklace is thought to be made up of around 100-120 pearls and is estimated at $50,000!


Pearl value

The value of a pearl mostly depends on whether it’s natural or cultured. Pearls that form naturally inside oysters tend to be the rarest and most expensive. Cultured pearls, on the other hand, come from oysters that have received a bit of help from pearl harvesters who open oysters and cut small slits in the mantle and manually insert small irritants. While cultured pearls are still real, they are usually less expensive than natural ones.

There are of course other factors that contribute to the value of a pearl, such as the colour, shape and surface quality.

Pearl buying tips

Follow the tips below when shopping for Pearls to ensure you are getting the best value possible.


Pearls are known as one of the more versatile gemstones, particularly because they come in such a variety of colours, including pink, green, red, white and even black. The colour of a pearl may vary depending on the part of the ocean where the mollusc lives.


There are a few factors that influence the carat size of a pearl, like where it’s found, for example. Pearls that are found in fresh water sources tend to be smaller than pearls that would be found in larger areas like seas.


Lustre refers to the quality of light that reflects from the surface of a pearl. The more lustrous a pearl is, it will shine more and reflect more light. High lustre pearls are generally valued higher than pearls with a low lustre.

Surface quality

The surface quality of a pearl is graded on a scale of ‘clean’, ‘lightly spotted’, ‘moderately spotted’ or ‘heavily spotted’. A pearl with a ‘clean’ surface would have no blemishes and would be more valuable, but rare to find, while a ‘heavily spotted’ pearl would show obvious blemishes and be of less value.


Pearls that are perfectly round are considered to be the most beautiful and sought after. But not all pearls are perfectly round, some can form into uneven and lumpy shapes, these are known as ‘Baroque’ pearls.

McGowans’ Pearls

Our experience and friendly team will always help to guide you through the buying process of any gemstone and will ensure you find the best piece for your taste and budget. You can visit us in store in Glasgow or Aberdeen to discover our range of affordable and beautiful pearl jewellery. We have finance options available too.

We sell a range of stunning antique and vintage pearl jewellery you can browse online or in store. Please note that our online items only represent a small selection of our stock. Don’t hesitate to pop in to one of our stores to view our full collection!

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