Pearls are the only gems found within living creatures, both salt and freshwater mollusks. However, most pearls on the market today are cultivated or cultured, since they now occur extremely rarely in nature. While pearls require special care, they have an enduring appeal for jewelry, particularly as the traditional June birthstone.
The finest pearls display unblemished surfaces with even coloring. Thus, there is a natural association with qualities like honesty, purity, and wisdom. Some cultures associate pearls with the divine, believing that pearls were tears shed from heaven, while others placed pearls in the graves of their loved ones. Ancient Chinese lore claims that pearls represent wisdom and power and are carried by dragons.
While most still think of pearls as white, they are now available in a range of colors including black, green, gold, silver, and various pastels depending on where they were farmed.