Historically, pearls are the oldest gem known to man and have been coveted for centuries. From ancient Egypt and Cleopatra to 1920s fashion and Coco Chanel, pearls have always been held in high regard. Used as forms of adornment and trading commodities since they were first discovered, most likely by chance by people searching for food along sea shores, they have had many different symbolic purposes: purity, protection and status. Unlike gemstones that are mined from the earth, pearls are formed in living organisms, in bodies of either marine or freshwater molluscs. Cultured pearls are formed in the same way as natural pearls, when an irritant becomes lodged in the soft inner body of a mollusc, causing it to secrete a crystalline substance called nacre which builds up around the irritant in layers. The difference being the way the irritant ends up there; by chance or when man places it there. Classified as organics, every pearl is unique and they come in hundreds of different varieties; from perfect spheres to baroque forms.