All About Pearls

Pearls are unique in that they are the only gemstones formed within a living creature, usually, an oyster (saltwater) or a mussel (freshwater) are formed when an ‘irritant’ like a grain of sand or an ocean parasite, finds its way into the body of a mollusc. To ease the discomfort, the mollusk produces a substance called ‘conchiolin’ (blackish) over which another substance called ‘nacre’ (whitish) is secreted. The nacre is composed of microscopic crystals, each perfectly aligned with the other, so that light passing along the axis is reflected and refracted by others to give a rainbow effect. The thicker the nacre, the more beautiful the pearl.
Genuine pearls fall into one of two categories, Natural or Cultured. Pearls were so cherished that when the supply of natural pearls became depleted, a technique was discovered to cultivate them by inserting a polished piece of shell into the body of the oyster, a process known as ‘Pearl Farming.’ The resulting pearls were called cultured pearls, and the only physical difference between natural and cultured pearls is the thickness of the nacre, which is greater in natural pearls. Most pearls today are cultured pearls, and natural pearls have become one of the rarest of all gems, with prices to match. There are many varieties of pearls which occur in both salt and freshwater environments such as Akoya, Biwa, South Sea, Tahitian Black Pearls, Burmese, Keshi and Mabe pearls
Type Of Pearls
Natural Pearls
Natural pearls are extremely rare. Historically, many were found in the Persian Gulf; unfortunately, today, most have already been harvested. You may be able to purchase small, natural pearls, but they will be costly.
Cultured Pearls
Cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms. The mollusks are raised until they are old enough to accept the mother-of-pearl bead nucleus. Through a delicate surgical procedure, the technician implants the bead and then the mollusks are returned to the water and cared for while the pearl forms.
Tahitian pearls
Tahitian pearls are interestingly not exclusively from Tahiti – they’re grown in several of the islands of French Polynesia, including Tahiti. Their typical sizes range from 8mm to 16mm. These naturally colored pearls are collectively called black pearls, but their colors include gray, blue, green, and purple.
Freshwater Pearls
These pearls are grown in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds, predominately in China. Although many are white and resemble the akoya cultured pearls in shape and size, they can also be produced in various shapes and in an array of pastel colors.
Imitation Pearls
These pearls are grown in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds, predominately in China. Although many are white and resemble the akoya cultured pearls in shape and size, they can also be produced in various shapes and in an array of pastel colors.
Main Factors Affect Pearl Quality And Value
1. Pearl Size
Natural pearls are sold by weight; weighed in grains with four grains equal to one carat. Cultured pearls are sold by mm size (diameter); if they are not round, then two measurements are given. The larger the pearl, the greater the cost. A 2mm pearl is considered very small, and those exceeding 9mm are considered very large. Large cultured pearls are very rare, and there is a dramatic jump in the cost of cultured pearls after 7.5mm
2. Pearl Lustre and Orient
The sharpness and intensity of the images reflected from the pearl’s surface (Lustre) and the underlying iridescent play of colors (orient) distinguish it from all other gems. The degree of Lustre and orient is one of the most important factors in determining the quality and value of the pearl.
3. Pearl Cleanliness
Refers to the pearl’s freedom from any surface blemishes, such as small blisters, pimples, spots or cracks. Imperfections may also appear as bumps, dark spots or small indentations. As well as the rule that the clearer the surface the more expensive, it is also true that the nearer to the drill hole, the greater the chances of imperfections.
4. Pearl Shape
Shape is divided into three categories – Spherical, Symmetrical and Baroque. The rarest are the spherical or round pearls, judged on their degree of ‘spherically’. Perfectly round pearls are extremely rare and the most expensive. Button pearls and pear shaped pearls are judged on their evenness and good symmetry, and although less expensive than round pearls, they are much more expensive than baroque.
5. Pearl Color
Color is still a very important factor in determining the value and cost of the pearl. Two elements are involved in determining the color; Body color and Overtone. Body color refers to the basic color of the pearl i.e. white, yellow, black. Overtone refers to the presence of a secondary color (its tint), for example a ‘pinkish’ overtone is often found in fine white pearls. Very white pearls with a rose colored overtone are the rarest and most expensive, and some black pearls command stellar prices.
6. Pearl Surface
The cleaner the surface of the pearl, the more valuable it is. Look for an absence of disfiguring spots, bumps or cracks on the surface of a pearl, also known as “cleanliness.“ Notice that the highest quality pearls have a sharp, mirror-like reflection.
Caring For Your Pearls
  • Pearls are delicate and fragile treasures. You must handle them with care and follow the guidelines below to ensure you keep them in their best condition.
  • You should not store pearls with other jewelry as they can be scratched easily when metals and other gemstones rub against them. Instead, store fine pearls in a soft chamois bag or other non-abrasive material.
  • Put your pearls on after you’ve already applied makeup and perfumes to keep them clean.
  • Wipe our pearls with a very soft, lint-free cloth as soon as you take them off. The cloth may be dampened with water for extra cleaning. If damp, allow your pearls to dry completely before putting them away.
  • Physically dirty pearls can be cleaned with a mild soap and water solution such as diluted clothing detergent. Make sure that you never use solutions that contain ammonia or harsh chemicals.
  • Never clean pearl jewelry in an ultrasonic cleaner.
  • It is a good idea to have your pearls re-strung periodically to ensure that the silk or nylon holding them is in good shape. For more information on re-stringing visit our Services page