Pearls are the only gemstones made by living animals! Every pearl is unique, no two are alike and all have some imperfections... kind of like us! But what exactly is a pearl? How is it formed and where do they come from?
Oysters or mollusks make a pearl when something like a tiny rock or grain of sand has lodged inside their shell and is irritating them. The oyster will start to coat this irritant with nacre or mother of pearl until it stops bothering them. This is how formation begins and can take up to 7 years to complete as a solid, lustrous pearl.
Pearl is the birthstone for June, together with alexandrite and moonstone.
Natural Pearls Vs Cultured Pearls
Pearls can be found naturally or farmed by people Natural pearls are rare and are usually odd in shape. What people see mostly on the market today are primarily cultured pearl.
The growth of cultured pearl requires human intervention and care. Most of the mollusks used in the culture process are raised specifically for that purpose, although some wild mollusks are still collected and used.
Types of Pearl
The four major types of cultured pearls are akoya, freshwater, south sea and Tahitian pearls.
Akoya pearl is the most commonly known saltwater cultured pearls. They are traditionally measuring from 2mm to 11mm in diameter. They are mostly white or cream in colour, and are the most classic pearl used for jewelry, especially single-strand necklaces. Japan and China both produce saltwater Akoya cultured pearls. Find out more about Akoya Pearls.
Freshwater pearls are the most commonly produced pearls and are the most affordable pearls for most shoppers. They are produced in sizes ranging from 4mm to 18mm and come in many shapes and colours. These pearls are found in freshwater lakes and ponds. China is the leading sources for freshwater cultured pearls.
South Sea pearls, measuring from 8mm to as large as 20mm South Sea pearls are traditionally found in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They can be white to silver or golden. Their large size and thick nacre, due to long growth period, plus their limited critical growing conditions are all factors contributing to their high value.
Tahitian pearls are cultivated primarily around the island of French Polynesia , the most familiar being Tahiti. These saltwater cultured pearls are also referred to as black pearl, although they also come in gray or brown and can have blue, green, purple or pink overtones. They can be found measuring anywhere from 8mm to 14mm.
Did you know? Cultured or freshwater pearls are considered to offer the power of love, money, protection, and luck. Pearls are thought to give wisdom through experience, to quicken the laws of karma and to cement engagements and love relationships. They are thought to keep children safe.
Pearls have been coveted as symbols of wealth and status for thousands of years. In 2206 BC a Chinese historian recorded the oldest written mention of these beautiful spheres. Through the centuries, the demand for pearls became increasingly desired by royalty and wealthy families in Asia, Europe and elsewhere.
How Are Pearls Graded?
The following features establishes the value of each type of pearl:
- Luster – Pearls with high luster have bright reflections on the surface.
- Surface Characteristics – This represents the number of blemishes or imperfections on the pearls surface.
- Shape – Round pearls are the most valued along with symmetrical drops, like tear drops.
- Color – White has been the most classic but appreciation has grown for more unusual natural colors.
- Nacre Thickness – The more layers of nacre on the pearl, the higher the luster and also more durable.
- Size – Cultured Pearls range from 2mm to 16mm in diameter, depending on the shell size of the mollusk.
Did you know? Cleopatra won a bet that she could provide Marc Anthony with a banquet worth more than the assets of a country. She took off a pearl earring, dissolved it in wine and drank it!
Care and Clean for Pearl
Caring for your pearls is simple, but extremely important to ensure they last a very long time.
- Pearls should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. Occasionally Pearls can be washed in warm soapy water and dried with a soft cloth. If the pearls are strung, wait for the silk to dry completely before wearing.
- When storing pearls, wrap in a soft cloth if enclosed with other gemstone jewelry. This will prevent the nacre becoming scratched.
- Storing pearls in a safety deposit box for extended periods of time is not advisable. Pearls love to be worn and need
While occasionally minimalist but sometimes daring, pearls will always be an elegant, timeless choice. From the symbolic white pearl necklace to lavender and peach tones, Lao Feng Xiang Jewelry will find you the perfect pearl.