An Introduction To 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
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.
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.
and natural pearls
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
aspects considered when examining the quality of akoya pearls includes:
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.
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.
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.