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Thursday, June 25, 2020

Pearl: The National Gem Of The Philippines

Did you know that aside from the famous national symbol of our country there lies a so-called "The National Gem of the Philippines?". Yes! Being a country surrounded by multiple bodies of water, the Philippines is rich and diverse in aqua-culture. Because of the incomparable volume of water to the landmass of the country, its national gem is not mined on caves but is harvested through the deep tropical seas. Pearls.

Giant Pearl Philippines
Image: Juan Dasco 
On October 15, 1996, during President Fidel V. Ramos' regime, he officially proclaimed an order that treats the Philippine pearl, widely known as the South sea pearl, as the national symbol for gem of the Philippines. As of now, the Philippines is one of the leading countries, together with Indonesia, as the top producers and distributors of golden South sea pearls.

It is not a wonder how pearls become our national gem. Even before the Philippines is colonized for the first time, Filipinos treat pearls as a sacred symbol. It is said that the largest clam pearl in the world was found under the Palawan sea by a Filipino diver. The pearl was named "The Pearl of Allah" or "The Pearl of Lao Tzu". Although the pearl is found under the Philippine territory, its possession was transferred to an American man named, Wilburn Dowell Cobb.

Another clam pearl has been discovered on the coast of Palawan that surpasses big time the size of a long time known largest pearl. It weighs 5 times heavier than the "Pearl of Allah" and now displayed in the Puerto Princesa city hall. The local government decided to brand the pearl as "The Pearl of Puerto".

South sea pearls only occur on tropical seas. It is considered as the largest pearl amongst all pearls. The size ranges 10 mm to 20 mm in diameter, 16 mm is the average size, about the size of a 5-Philippine centavo coin. As it is the largest, it is also considered the most expensive pearl because of its color and glimmer. The Philippines is the top producer of the most valuable color, the golden south sea pearl. A south sea pearl strand of necklace can be sold for half a million pesos up to 15 million pesos.

For the longest time, South sea pearls are valued even before the Late Modern period. A lot of divers and explorers are competing in harvesting these magnificent pearls to use for jewelry and treasures. As the 19th-century approaches, the South sea pearls started to get extinct. At that time, the Japanese were famous for their technique in culturing pearls specifically, the Akoya pearls. South divers learned from the Japanese and successfully cultured South sea pearls in the 1950s.

Pearl Philippine Symbol
Image: Philippine Primer
In order to produce a cultured South sea pearl, a round shell bead is implanted into a golden-lipped pearl oyster. The nacre, lustrous coating that creates the pearl begins to form as a reaction from the implant.

If you are one of the people who is mesmerized by the glamour that the South sea pearls give off and decided to buy a Philippine National Gem, here is a surefire way to know and distinguish a real pearl from the fake ones. The test you need to perform is called "The Touch Test". First, you must hold two pearls, one each hand, and gently rub them against each other. Real pearls usually produce slight friction when rubbed to another because their outer layer of nacre is not perfectly smooth. On the other hand, fake pearls evenly glide past each other due to its synthetic nature.


Written by Yna Marie Barcia, IFY Books

"A person who always wants to familiarize herself to any skill that seems to be amusing and a student dreaming to learn more".

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