Pearls are June's most-popular birthstone, and are a favorite in bridal jewelry and couture. Cultured freshwater pearl beads come in several shapes and colors, making it easy to add elegance to a wide variety of jewelry designs. Pearls are organic gemstones, formed when a foreign object (like a tiny stone) makes its way into an oyster (or similar mollusk's) shell. Over time, the mollusk covers the intruding object with 1,000's of layers of nacre. "Cultured" pearls are pearls in which people, rather than nature, implant the foreign particle, and care for the mollusks at a pearl farm while the pearls develop. Nearly all pearls available today are cultured. Natural pearls are very rare (and valuable!), so the word "pearl" should be assumed as "cultured pearl". Pearls formed by saltwater oysters are commonly known as oriental pearls and those produced by freshwater mollusks are called freshwater pearls.
Genuine pearls are sensitive to acids, dryness and extreme humidity, so be sure to treat your pearls with care. Clean only with a soft cloth or cleaners that are designed for pearls, and avoid spraying them with perfumes or hairspray. Find more info about pearls in our Gemstone Index.
Most pearl beads have very small holes, and fit best on 26-gauge wire. Wire-hole pearls fit up to 22-gauge wire, so they can be used with thin head pins and eye pins. Leather-hole pearls have a 2mm hole, perfect for many of your favorite thicker styles of cording, including leather, cotton, waxed Brazilian polyester and more.