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Third Year Anniversary Gift Guide: Pearls

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Anniversary gift traditions began in the Victorian Era, around the time when love marriages began to take the place of arranged and political marriages. According to these 18th-century traditions, leather is considered to be the traditional third anniversary gift. If you are looking for a third anniversary gift idea made of leather, these could include purses, wallets, journals, or belts. 

Pearls are considered to be the official third anniversary gemstone, making them a great third anniversary gift idea if you are looking for a more feminine and glamorous gift that will still honor anniversary gifting traditions.

Pearl is believed to symbolize purity, wealth, and wisdom, bringing prosperity to the early stages of your marriage. Because pearls have been a fashion staple and have been worn for so long, they represent a truly timeless look that will never go out of style. This may be why pearls are considered to be the official gemstones for both the third and 30th wedding anniversaries, as they are sure to be stylish through decades of marriage.

Pearl necklaces are truly classic and timeless third anniversary gifts.
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What Are Pearls?

Pearls are the only gems made by living creatures, making them an especially wonderous gemstone and third anniversary gift. Pearls are quite rare in nature, formed by mollusks under only a very particular set of conditions. They are formed when an irritant, which can be anything from a small grain of sand to a piece of food, gets stuck deep in the shell of a mollusk. Because the mollusk can not expel it, its shell begins to coat the irritant with a layer of shiny nacre made of the mineral aragonite. The pearl is then formed after many layers of nacre are coated around the irritant, creating a stunning and lustrous gem.

An Akoya pearl with a 9mm diameter will take between 10 and 14 months to form.
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Natural Pearls

While pearls are originally found in nature, natural pearls are exceptionally rare and difficult to harvest. Most regions where natural pearls are found have been subject to overharvesting, so the populations of pearl-producing mollusks are depleted. It is also very costly to hunt for gem-quality natural pearls due to their extreme rarity. Because of this, most natural pearls available on the market are vintage, as it is no longer worth the time and resources for most pearl producers to find and sell natural pearls. 

Cultured Pearls

Because natural pearls are so rare and difficult to find in nature, most pearls are instead cultured. Cultured pearls are formed by real mollusks almost the same way pearls are formed in nature but are grown under controlled conditions in either salt or freshwater farms. Instead of an irritant naturally finding its way into the shell of a mollusk, a mother-of-pearl is implanted into the shells of mollusks for them to form a nacre around. After the pearl starter is implanted, it can take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years for the pearl to develop depending on the size and type of pearl. There are four main types of cultured pearls: Akoya pearls, South Sea pearls, Tahitian pearls, and freshwater pearls. Each pearl type is formed by different mollusks local to their own regions, creating an abundance of choices for your third anniversary gift. 

Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are a wonderful third anniversary gift idea if you are looking for a luxurious pearl with a classic look. Akoya pearls were the first cultivated pearls to be produced at a larger scale in Japan. After decades of perfecting the process, they are considered to be some of the highest-quality cultivated pearls. They are also produced in much smaller quantities than other cultured pearls, with most Akoya oysters only producing one to two pearls in their entire lifetimes. Akoya pearls are usually white or cream colored and have the most uniform round shape. They also have the thickest nacre, displaying a shimmering luster. 

This James Allen necklace highlights an Akoya pearl's bright white color and round shape.
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South Sea Pearls

South Sea pearls are grown in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, hence their name. They are the largest of the cultured pearls, growing up to 20mm in diameter, making for an exceptionally bold third anniversary gift. They can be found in white, gold, and silver colors, with varying overtones coating each unique pearl. 

This extraordinary necklace from Blue Nile showcases a strand of 10-13mm South Sea Pearls.
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Tahitian Pearls

Tahitian pearls are grown in the islands of French Polynesia and are famous for their spectacular black color. They come from the Black-Lip Pearl Oyster, which secrete a rare black nacre when producing pearls. Most Tahitian pearls exhibit a stunning variety of overtones over their dark base color, creating a vivid multi-colored look. These pearls are an excellent third anniversary gift if you are looking to honor classic traditions with a multi-colored twist. 

This necklace from Blue Nile highlights Tahitian Pearls' stunning array of colors.
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Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are well known for their unique variety of colors, shapes and sizes, making for a great third anniversary gift for your unique spouse. Freshwater pearls are formed by mussels rather than oysters, contributing to their unique shape and color. They are generally small to medium in size but are often found in irregular and off-round shapes. One of the most appealing qualities of freshwater pearls is their variety of color options, including pink, purple, and white colors. 

These Freshwater Pearl earrings from James Allen highlight the variety of shapes of freshwater pearls.
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Pearl Earrings

Pearl earrings make for a beautiful yet classic third anniversary gift idea, as they are timeless pieces that can add a touch of elegance to any occasion. Simple pearl studs can be worn with anything from casual everyday attire to a black tie event, making them a very versatile third anniversary gift. If you are looking for something to make a bigger statement, diamond-adorned pearl drop earrings like these from James Allen can be the perfect third anniversary gift. 

Other gemstones such as sapphires can be added to pearl earrings for a fun and colorful twist.
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Pearl Necklace

Pearl necklaces are iconic staples in fashion, elevating any look and adding a touch of vintage style. A simple pearl necklace is a timeless third anniversary gift and is sure to never go out of style. Simple pearl necklaces can come in a variety of lengths depending on the style you are going for, ranging from a 15-inch choker to a 60-rope necklace. Although white pearls are the more traditional option, you can find pearl necklaces in a variety of colors like pink, yellow, and blue, and choose between a large range of pearl sizes to create a truly unique look. If you are looking for a less traditional third anniversary gift idea, you may want to consider a necklace featuring a single large pearl, such as this 14k Yellow Gold Freshwater Cultured Pearl Swirl Necklace from James Allen.

This Yellow Gold Freshwater Cultured Pearl Necklace puts a modern twist on a traditional pearl necklace.
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Pearl Bracelets

Pearl bracelets are a great third anniversary gift idea if you want to give a classic gift suitable for any occasion. Simple pearl bracelets make for a classic choice, pairing well with a pearl necklace or pearl earrings. Pearl bracelets don't have to stick to tradition, though, as bracelets like this 18k Yellow Gold Baroque Freshwater Cultured Pearl Spring Bracelet feature the classic look of pearls with a modern twist.

A simple pearl bracelet is the perfect third anniversary gift to accessorize any outfit.
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at Blue Nile

How to Care for Pearls

Pearls are especially delicate gemstones, requiring a bit of extra care to keep your third anniversary gift looking fresh. We recommend you store them in a cloth bag away from other gems to avoid scratches and put them on last after applying perfume, hairspray, or any other product that could come in contact with your piece. To clean pearl jewelry, wipe the gem with a damp cloth after wear and do not submerge it in soap or use a mechanical jewelry cleaning system. 

Amanda Butcher

Amanda is a student of geological sciences and environmental studies at Tufts University. She grew up hiking and mountain biking in the Bay Area and continues to explore nature and learn about the beautiful gems and minerals it forms in her free time.

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