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Pearls were once so rare and valuable, that in 1913 Pierre Cartier purchased his iconic New York building with two strings of 55 and 73 perfect wild pearls. At the time, they were the most expensive necklaces in the world - worth more than a million dollars (around $25 million in today's money). So whatever you do, don't throw out Great Grandma's pearls.
Not long after that, the art of cultivating pearls was developed by the Japanese. The price of pearls reduced, but their magic remains. Grown slowly, often over many years, pearl are made of alternate layers of calcium carbonate and conchiolin. This produces Nacre (or mother of pearl) a translucent material that traps light and gives the mysterious play of colours and glow we associate with fine pearls.