Hallmarked as the “Queen of Gemstones,” pearls have held a significant place among the gems of choice since 520 BC. Legend has it that pearls possess many powers desirable to those wearing them; wisdom, love, money, protection and luck, among them. They are the only gemstones created organically from living things. The types of pearls, their sizes, colors, and shapes are determined by the type of mollusks they are derived from, as well as from where those mollusks lived.
I am fortunate to own a much loved, classic and elegant strand of pearls, a gift brought back for me by my husband from a business trip to the Orient. While wearing my pearls last week, I began to think about the many ways that pearls symbolize life lessons. Here are my thoughts…be prepared never to see a strand of pearls in the same way again!
A single pearl can take years to cultivate. The time it takes to create a pearl varies depending on whether it is natural or man-made, but the ability to match these pearls and translate them into jewelry takes expertise and significant man-hours. Real pearls are valuable because of the time and labor involved in the pearl’s travels from mollusk to man…or woman.
The same thoughts translate when we estimate our own worth as people. The longer we live, the more wisdom we possess and the more expertise we have. This is true in business as well as in our personal worlds. We are each the sum total of all of our life experiences that accumulate over time. The time it takes to “form who you are,” just like the time it takes to “form a pearl,” results in a significant investment. Knowing our value keeps us focused on our goals and allows us to step up towards that which we desire. Why? Because if we know what we are worth, the obstacles and fears standing in our path become much less significant. We have earned the right to push past them and toward our goals, simply because we are worth it! We’ve done so before successfully and therefore we can do it again successfully. Like the strand of pearls, we are both an investment in time lived and timeless in our impact. A pearl retains and continues to manifest its value and style just as we retain the wisdom that we collect from having lived and learned and even failed in our own lives.
There are thirty-nine “members” on my strand of pearls team! Thirty-nine pearls, all individual and iridescent in their own right that have banded together to form one pearl necklace “team.” One pearl is magical, thirty-nine even more powerful. My pearls are hand knotted, which means that the individual pearls are knotted off on both sides of the pearl to secure them individually. Each one stands alone in its own splendor, but works together with all of the other pearls to form a complete circle.
The “pearls” in our lives represent all the different facets that make up each of us. In other words, all the pearls in the strands of our lives are composed of who we are in business, at home, in our communities, with our friends, or to our relatives. They are the sum total of all of the roles that we play and all the elements of who we are individually. Sometimes we tend to define our successes and ourselves by only our businesses or, conversely, by just our family life or relationship status. Each of us is multi-dimensional, we play all of these roles…the wife, the mother the sister, the child, the boss, the friend.
Collectively, our pearl strands are strengthened by the teamwork and synergy within our own circles of being. How we choose to balance and refresh these elements of our lives dictates the level of joy that we derive from each part of our existence.
In effect, we are each the entire strand of pearls!
Rare is the pearl that is absolutely perfect. In fact, more pearls have minor imperfections, which are widely accepted as part of their innate beauty. Most
perfectly imperfect pearls go on to become not only treasures of value, but also wearable objects of art. No two pearls are exactly alike. Although painstakingly matched to each other on an individual strand of pearls, often slight imperfections are hidden in the overall design of the necklace. Some of the allure of the gemstones is surprisingly due to these minor differences between the individual pieces. These imperfections give the pearls character and depth. Also, pearls are fragile and they may scratch easily. It is recommended that pearl necklaces be restrung every few years to maintain their durability and reinforce their pristine endurance.
As humans, we are not perfect either. No two people are exactly alike. When we allow ourselves to be who were really are, imperfections and all, we grant ourselves the freedom to be vulnerable, to experience life more in the moment, and to begin to let go of our fears and worries. Accepting our weaknesses allows us to focus on our strengths. Identifying and accepting our unique qualities allows us to embrace what sets us apart from each other as well as what joins us together. People can be fragile as well. If we focus too much on any one area of our lives, other areas may suffer.
When we are worn out, we can lose our luster just like a pearl. If we are too focused on perfecting one area of our lives, we may lose our overall objectivity and compromise the entire necklace by weakening even one pearl. Any break in our string of pearls is a break in our overall ability to function. Just as a pearl necklace may go to the jeweler to be restrung, we need to tap into what may be the best way for each of us to reboot, refresh and rejuvenate exactly who we are, imperfections and all, in order to perform at our best. It is this mixing and matching of strengths and pain points that links together a real and identifiable version of who we are and affords us a foundation upon which we can base further growth and wisdom. This is the true test and measure of our own self-acceptance.
The clasp on a strand of pearls plays a significant role in the functionality, design, value and overall success of the necklace; without the clasp…there is no necklace! The clasp is essentially the leader of the strand of pearls. Without the clasp, the necklace has no way to open and close, and loses significance and meaning. All the pearls in the necklace line up surrounding and supporting the clasp, waiting for it to open and close, to lead each pearl towards its goal of forming one continuous strand.
We are all leaders in our own lives. Where are we being the clasp? Where are we just simply the pearls following the pack? Having and demonstrating the courage to be at the center of what is most important to us defines our ability to set off a positive chain reaction How we choose to hold our strands of pearls together may be personal, but our clasps need to function and close or this can create a problem. If we are the problem, we are also the solution.
Once we recognize that we need to overcome our fears or setbacks in order to have full closure in our lives, we can opt for strategies that will move us closer to optimizing our ability to not only close our necklace, but to wear it proudly and fearlessly.
When a mollusk senses either a natural or man-made irritation, it responds by secreting a substance called nacre in layers around the irritant, and it is this substance that forms a pearl. The mollusk’s response to fear is to protect itself. It overcomes fear by taking action. Started as a way to combat an obstacle, this action results in an iridescent and luxurious pearl. What a prize for coming up with a solution to a problem!
When we sense irritations or fears in our lives we often move away from that which bothers us rather than forward to face it. The biggest catalyst to change is fear itself. The seeds of our fears have been planted in our past and despite our best efforts, we never really abandon our fears. We do learn to overcome them by acknowledging and responding to them. Our choices to take action, to do something in the face of our fears, form the first steps toward overcoming the inner voices and terrors that hold us in place.
We become stuck because we become afraid to try something new, to move toward that which we want. Facing fear where it is most felt, at a moment where we sense danger, gives us each power over our fears and the ability to seek our own solutions toward propelling us ahead.
The ultimate bonus lesson that we can learn from a strand of pearls comes from one of the leading characteristics of pearls themselves. The number one reason that pearls appeal to us so much is…SIMPLICITY. What begins as a complication, an irritation, an obstacle, evolves into one of the most luminous, elegant and simple gems we know. The mollusk’s ability to respond to and overcome it’s fears provides us with the most memorable “pearly wisdom” life lesson of all.