Pearls – The Queen of Gems
Classic, timeless and elegant, pearls have long been a symbol of sophistication, and are always fashion.
“The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens” - Grace Kelly
In addition to their beauty, pearls are the only precious stone formed within a living organism – an oyster. A pearl is created when the oyster reacts to a foreign object entering its shell, by wrapping it in layers of ‘nacre’ – also known as Mother of Pearl.
Because so many variables must take place for this event to happen in nature, a perfect naturally formed pearl is incredibly rare. Indeed, before cultured pearls were created in 1893, pearls were actually rarer than diamonds.
Today, the vast majority of pearls are cultured – still grown within oysters (or freshwater mussels), but with a little help from humans to create the right conditions.
Natural pearls are formed when an irritant penetrates the oysters mantle, which causes it to create layers of nacre around the irritant as a defense mechanism. To mimic this natural occurrence, Cultured Pearls are created by surgically inserting a bead into an oyster. This process is referred to as 'seeding'.
The lustre, size, colour and surface flaws all combine to give a measure as to the quality of a pearl.
Types of pearls:
With their rich dark colour ranging from dusky black to the magnificent, iridescent ‘peacock’, the Tahitian South Sea pearl is internationally regarded as the finest and most prestigious in the world. They feature a distinctive lustre and superior strength, endowed by their thicker layers of nacre. When properly cared for, they will last many lifetimes.
South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls come in a wide range of colours, from timeless white and cream to opulent champagne and gold . Like their Tahitian counterparts, South Sea pearls spend between 2-3 years in the water acquiring extremely thick nacre layers.
Freshwater pearls differ from their saltwater counterparts in a number of ways. Most obviously, they grow in a non-saline environment, in mussels rather than oysters.
Freshwater pearls grow almost exclusively in fresh water mussels farmed in ponds throughout China. This is the least expensive and easiest to mass-produce of all pearls.
A single mussel can produce up to 50 pearls (compared to the South Sea pearl at one per oyster).
Freshwater pearls tend not to be as round or lustrous as their ocean-dwelling cousins, but are still popular for their affordability and toughness.
Choosing a pearl:
The lustre, size, colour and surface flaws all combine to give a measure as to the quality of a pearl. Look for detailed, accurate and comprehensive product specifications so you can compare and make an informed choice.
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