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June Birthstone: Pearl
From one of the lowest of life forms, the mollusk, comes the pearl -- a gem of unsurpassed beauty and elegance. Ancient Greeks believed that pearls were the hardened tears of joy that the goddess of love shook from her eyes as she was born from the sea. The Ancient Chinese thought that these gems came from the brains of dragons.

The real explanation for natural pearls is almost as interesting as the mythology. When an irritant, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, lodges in the flesh of a mollusk, a protective substance called "nacre" is produced. Over a period of years, layer upon layer of shimmering nacre coats the irritant, creating a lustrous pearl.

Natural pearls are relatively rare, so a process was created where a piece of shell or a bead was placed inside a mollusk to stimulate the production of nacre. This results in a cultured pearl, which accounts for about 90 per cent of the pearl industry.

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 in Japanese and Australian coastal waters. These gems come in a whole spectrum of colors, from pure white to pink, yellow, gray and black. They also come in wide variety of shapes and sizes.

Pearls have been a passion of people throughout the ages. They have been ground up and used in cosmetics and as a medicine to treat heart and stomach conditions. 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. Pearls are suitable for all ages, and elegantly worn with everything from jeans to an evening gown.

There are two alternate birthstones for June. The first is Moonstone (we have a huge selection), a type of feldspar named for its resemblance to the iridescent sheen of the moon. Mined in Sri Lanka, Brazil, India, Madagascar, and the United States, a gift of this stone is symbolic of health and longevity.

The second alternate birthstone for June is the Alexandrite. A yellowish or brownish green in color, this gemstone changes color to a red hue when exposed to a glowing light source, such as candlelight. Because of this, it has been characterized as "an emerald by day, a ruby by night." Alexandrite is mined primarily in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Burma, Madagascar and Tanzania. It is a rare and expensive gemstone, symbolic of joy and good fortune.

(This article written by Mike McGinnis and published originally on indiasilver.com. We encourage republication but stipulate the piece be copied in its entirety with links and attribution.)

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