Like the little black dress, every woman should have at least one classic strand of pearls to make the perfect fashion statement. Style icons Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were defined by their signature jewelry. Queen Elizabeth II has an enormous collection. Women in politics wear pearls because they evoke feelings of trust, class, savoir-faire and luxury.

Before cultured pearls were introduced in the early 1900s, natural pearls were extremely rare and so expensive that only clergy and the very rich and powerful could enjoy them. We’ll never know exactly when pearls were discovered or who were the first people to appreciate them, but American gemologist George Frederick Kunz posited that an ancient fish-eating tribe discovered pearls when they opened oysters for food.

Nature and Nurture

Natural pearls are created not from a grain of sand as first thought but from a parasite, piece of shell or food particle that gets trapped in the oyster’s soft body. The oyster senses the irritant and coats it layer by layer to protect itself, using the same substance it uses to coat the inside of its shell. The result is the magnificent, iridescent, shimmery gem we know as the pearl.

Cultured pearls are formed in almost the same way, although by human hands that carefully implant the irritant inside the oyster, which is then set free in fresh or saltwater to allow the very same phenomenon to occur over a period of two years.

Pearls are cultivated and harvested all over the world, in places like Mexico, Tahiti, Japan, China and the United States. While the classic round pearl is a favorite, diamond, oval, square, rectangle and petal shapes are created when a small shell of that shape is inserted using the same culturing methods.

Pearls of a Different Color

While white is the universal color of pearls, China is famous for its freshwater pearls in natural, floral colors of peach, pink and lavender. Gold, light gray and white are indigenous to Australia and the Philippines. And black, blue-gray, green and peacock originate in Tahiti.

Pearls can be dyed in every exotic color imaginable and appeal to a wide variety of tastes and styles. There really is no end to what’s available in the world of pearls.

The Pearls of Scheherazade

On Tuesday, June 16, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., Scheherazade Jewelers is presenting an exclusive pearl roundtable event. Betty Sue King, recognized nationally as the Pearl Goddess, will make a special appearance. Her passion for pearls and the depth of her knowledge includes more than 35 years sourcing the finest pearls from around the world. S;at 952-926-2455 .

The June Birthstone

If you or a loved one are lucky enough to have a June birthday, the pearl is your birthstone. Let the pearl experts at Scheherazade help you choose the perfect gift in a stunning ring, earrings or strands.