The Crystal Cove
  Back to Posts

An Introduction To Pearls

An Introduction To Pearls

Pearls are an essential element of classical jewellery design. They ooze sophistication, style and are a must for formal occasions such as weddings, balls and graduations as well as a multitude of other occasions and situations where sophistication and expensive jewellery, or at least expensive looking, is a must to create the right impression. Many families pass down items of jewellery such as pearl necklaces and sets down through generations as heirlooms, which hints at how treasured and potentially valuable pearls can be.

However, the term pearl is used too generally and many people have the image of a classic cream round pearl as the embodiment of what a pearl is and means.

There are many types of pearls with specific names to denote where they are from and how they were produced and collected, all of which add even more meaning to your pearl, particularly if you have been given the family pearls. You may be thinking of investing in some pearl jewellery or perhaps you want something that looks great but you don’t want to pay too much. Whatever your needs, it is worth knowing a little more about the different types of pearls so you know you are making the right choice. We will outline some of the most well known types of pearls as well as some of the common terms used when describing them.

Cultured and natural pearlspearl in a mollusc oyster shell

Natural Pearls

A pearl is formed naturally when a molecule, such as a grain of sand, finds it’s way inside a mollusc, such as oyster, causing irritation to which the oyster responds by secreting a substance called nacre. This substance hardens and builds up over time resulting in what we can refer to as a natural pearl.

Cultured Pearls

The term ‘cultured pearl’ is often incorrectly associated with being fake since there is a notion that a pearl is only ‘real’ if it has formed naturally in an oyster. However in truth the term is referring to human intervention in the pearl forming process. Cultured pearls are just as ‘real’ as natural pearls but human intervention, usually by pearl farmers, encourages the process in which pearls are formed naturally to begin within controlled environments, the pearls still form in the same manner.

To start the pearl formation process, a pearl farmer would insert a small shell bead and a small piece of mantle tissue into the mollusc, which act as an irritant to encourage the oyster to secrete a substance, known as nacre, to coat the tiny shell bead. This process is highly skilled and carried out with precision in highly controlled conditions. This process acts in the same way as when a pearl forms naturally. In fact most pearls today are cultured pearls and since the process of the pearl formation is essentially the same, it is difficult to tell apart pearls which have occurred due to a molecule entering the oyster on its own or a pearl which has been encouraged to form with human help.

Akoya Pearls

These pearls are saltwater pearls formed in Akoya oysters, found primarily in China and Japan but also farmed in South Korea and Australia. Due to their popularity, these pearls are usually referred to as the classic pearl. Their uniformity, shape and lustre make them high quality and are very sought after for these reasons. Japanese pearl farmers are known for their superior techniques in cultivating and so today akoya pearls from Japan are generally referred to as Japanese akoya pearls to differentiate them, since their quality is of a higher standard than akoya pearls found in other countries.

The pearls are often put onto strands to be sold and are classified by several aspects. When the best quality of each of these is achieved on a strand of pearls, the term hanadama is used to describe the quality. This is usually reserved for Japanese akoya pearls due to their superior quality.

The aspects considered when examining the quality of akoya pearls includes:





Nacre quality

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are known for their wide variety of colours and shapes and are cultured in different mollusc, such as triangle shell muscles. These are found worldwide, with a large section of the market coming from China. Freshwater pearls are much easier to cultivate and in greater numbers, since the mollusc are larger and can create more than a single pearl, making them cheaper than other varieties of pearls.

Tahitian Pearls

These pearls are mainly found in French Polynesia and cultured in a specific mollusc known as a black lip oysters found in the region. These pearls are often referred to as black pearls but their colours are unique and cover a spectrum ranging from grey, green, peacock and black. The pearls produced by this oyster are unlike any other in their appearance and are rarer due to their lesser numbers. Along with the beauty of these pearls, the rarity of the oyster makes it much harder to find similar pearls to string together and this adds to the cost when purchasing.

South Sea Pearls

These are the most expensive and sought after variety of pearl available and are produced by the large white lip pinctada maxima oyster, or the golden lip variety for the golden south sea variety. This oyster, found in the South Seas ranging from Northern Australia to South East Asia, is large and produces a larger pearl than other variety of oyster. South Sea pearls are found in white and gold varieties with a unique lustre that adds to their desirability. In addition to the size of the pearl this mollusc produces and it’s ability to only produce a single pearl at a time, these pearls command a higher price since the oyster must reach a certain maturity before it can be used to culture pearls. Therefore the process of culturing south sea pearls produces fewer pearls at a slower rate than other varieties.

Created On  18 Jun 2017 22:07  -  Permalink


Wow so interesting. I never knew there were so many types of pearls, a very useful read if you are looking to invest in a set of pearls
Posted By: Samantha  - 19 Jun 2017 17:10

Leave a Comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this blog until the author has approved them.
Name and email address are required. The email address will not be displayed with the comment.
Your comment
Name *
Email *
Website URL