Learn about Pearls
We are pleased to provide the following information so you can learn more about the only gem material that requires no cutting or polishing to unlock their beauty . . . Pearls.
Pearls are unique. It is the only gem created by a living creature. A perfectly graceful gift from the depths of the sea. Many legends have sprung up around pearls. But perhaps the best known is that the pearl was the teardrop of an angel. She was crying for joy. In the family of gems, none are quite as gentle and feminine as pearls. Weddings, anniversaries, or a memento from your travels, there remains no finer gift to express your love.
Choosing a pearl is often an instinctive decision. But some pearls do complement different skin tones more than others do. Pinkish, rosy-white and cream pearls generally flatter paler complexions and blonde hair, while darker skin tones and brunette hair bring out the richness of darker pearls. Every pearl we sell is a genuine natural or cultured pearl, mostly imported from oyster beds in the South Seas, Japan, or China.
The ocean is home to the pearl. Originally, pearls were formed by accident in pearl oysters. They were created when a foreign body of some sort, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, found its way into the pearl oyster. The oyster reacted by coating the irritant with layer upon layer of the pearly substance, known as "nacre", that gives the pearl its unique appearance and luminescent beauty.
Cultured pearls are formed by more or less the same process except that in this case, humans rather than nature introduce the irritant. A bead is inserted into the oyster by a technician, creating a pearl that turns out every bit as natural as one that originated in the wild.
The beauty and magic of pearls have been a source of fascination and desire since their discovery in ancient times. Viewed as magic charms, symbols of purity and love, or sources of wisdom and power, pearls are one of the oldest known gems and have been revered by countless civilizations.
Legend has it that Cleopatra dissolved a large pearl in a glass of wine and drank it to impress Marc Antony with her wealth and power - a ploy that worked all too well. Knights in the Middle Ages wore pearls onto the battlefield to protect themselves from harm. Queen Elizabeth I so loved the white gems that she had them sewn on all her clothing and wore ropes of them around her neck. In addition to its fascinating beauty, the pearl occupies a unique spot in the world of precious gemstones. Instead of being found in a core of rock, a pearl is made over time by a living creature, an oyster.
Prized by man, the pearl begins its life as an irritant to the oyster. To protect itself, the oyster coats an intruding object or grain of sand with nacre, a crystalline substance that builds up over time, resulting in a shimmering, iridescent creation. The culturing process developed by man mimics nature. Pearl farmers implant a fine bead into the oyster where it cannot be expelled. The oyster does the rest and creates its lustrous masterpiece.
Types of Pearls
Akoya - This is the most familiar type of pearl sold in necklaces. Akoyas from Japan and China are grown in pearl oysters and are known for their shimmering beauty and warm colors which range from rose, cream and gold to silvery white and blue/gray.
South Sea - Large (10mm and up) cultured pearls grown in tropical and semi-tropical oysters in the South Seas and around the coast of Australia. Their color ranges from silvery white to gold; they are quite costly due to their size and rarity.
The South Sea area extends from Burma and the Gulf of Thailand through the Sulu Sea of the Philippines, Malaysia, the Indonesian Arafura Sea and north west Australia. It continues into the Cook Islands, eastward through Tahiti to the Tuamotu Archipelago and the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia. All pearls cultivated here are referred to as "South Sea pearls". Black pearls cultivated here are referred to as Tahitian.
There are two types of oysters found in this area which give birth to the beautiful South Sea pearl - the pinctada maxima (silver lip or gold lip oyster), and the pinctada margaritifera (black lip oyster). South Sea white pearls are cultured in warm climates in saltwater oceans primarily off the coast of Australia. A large oyster (mollusk Pinctada Maxima produces pearls the larger sizes mentioned, 10 to 20 millimeters. Akoya oyster and South Sea have same nucleation process. South Sea Pearls comes in colors like white, silver or gray, gold and cream, and overtones can have white or rose and shapes like round, button, drop, oval and baroque.
Rounds and symmetrical teardrop shapes are the most valuable. Rounds are valuable and used for necklaces, and finished jewelry. Drops are also valuable and primarily used for earrings and pendants. Buttons are considered less valuable and used in finished jewelry (rings, earrings) and ovals are also considered less valuable and used in necklaces. Baroques are out of shape pearls with no symmetry and used in necklaces.
South Sea Pearls have a lower luster than Akoya pearls as a result of warmer waters as the rate of secretion of nacre is much faster in South Sea pearls. Pearl matching is important for a matched pair like earrings and necklaces. This is how well all of the evaluating criteria blends together.
Tahitian Black - Large (10mm and up) cultured pearls grown in black-lipped oysters in French Polynesia. Colors range from silvery gray and green to deep purple and black. Their large sizes and unique colors command premium prices.
Mabe - Large, hemispherical cultured pearls grown against the inside shells of oysters rather than in the oysters' bodies. Less expensive than round cultured pearls due to their half-round shape, they are most popular in earrings, rings and brooches.
Freshwater - Pearls cultivated in mussels, not oysters, in freshwater lakes and rivers in China, Japan and the United States. Due to their easy cultivation, freshwaters are fairly inexpensive. Shapes can be freeform, rice shaped, off-round or spherical and colors range from milky white, to peach, pink, and lavender.
Keshi - Also known as seed pearls, these tiny pearls can be as small as a grain of sand and form accidentally in many cultured pearl oysters.
Baroque - Cultured pearls that are irregularly-shaped, yet often lustrous and appealing. Due to their shapes, baroque pearls are often less costly than round, cultured pearls.
How To Buy Cultured Pearls
When purchasing a piece of cultured pearl jewelry, whether it's us or someone else, it's best to buy pearls from a knowledgeable, professional jeweler who can explain how to make the most of your purchase and ensure that you are getting the best quality cultured pearls within your budget. You should always remember that the better the quality of pearls you select, the more valued they will be over time. Use the following quality factors to evaluate any piece of cultured pearl jewelry. Refer to the picture below for visual example of the following descriptions.
Lustre - A combination of surface brilliance and a deep glow that seems to emanate from within the heart of a pearl. The lustre of a good quality pearl should be bright, not dull, enabling you to see your own reflection clearly on the surface of a pearl. A pearl that appears too white, dull or chalky indicates poor quality.
Surface - Since cultured pearls are grown by oysters in nature, it is rare to find a pearl whose surface is free from any type of blemish. Blemishes can include disfiguring spots, bumps, pits and cracks on the surface of a pearl. The fewer blemishes on the surface of a pearl, the more valuable it will be.
Shape - It is very rare to find a perfectly round pearl, but generally, the rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is. Cultured pearls also come in oval, pear and baroque shapes.
Color - Cultured pearls come in a wide range of colors from pink to black. While the color of a pearl is often a matter of personal preference, people with fair skin tend to look best in slightly pink or silvery white pearls, while cream and golden pearls look best on those with darker complexions.
Size - Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can be smaller than one millimeter, in the case of seed pearls, or as large as 20 millimeters for a big South Sea pearl. With all other quality factors being equal, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it will be since it is difficult for an oyster to grow a pearl larger than five millimeters. The most popular size of pearls sold around the world is about seven millimeters.
Matching - When buying a strand of cultured pearls, matching is very important. All the pearls in a good quality strand should be evenly matched in terms of luster, surface, shape, color and size. Well-matched pearl necklaces command top prices because pearl growers must harvest about 10,000 oysters in order to find enough pearls that match closely enough to make up a simple, 16-inch strand.
Selecting a Cultured Pearl Necklace
Choose your cultured pearl necklace based on your appearance, personality and style. For example, short necklaces are best with long necks; longer lengths tend to slenderize and elongate the body. Fair-skinned women look best in rose-hued pearls, deeper skin tones are more flattered by cream or golden hues. Let your expert jeweler customize a necklace so its proportions and color are exactly matched to yours. Use this guide to necklace lengths and terminology:
Choker - A necklace 14 inches to 15 inches in length that rests on the collarbone.
Princess - An 18-inch necklace strung with either graduated or uniform pearls.
Matinee - A slightly longer necklace, usually 20 to 24 inches in length.
- A 30- to 36-inch necklace, this length should fall to the breastbone and
can often be worn long or doubled.
Rope or sautoir
- Any necklace longer than opera length. Ropes are often worn knotted or with
a shortener for added versatility of style. Dog collar
- A multiple strand pearl necklace that fits closely around the neck. Bib -
A single necklace with multiple strands of pearls of varying lengths that
are worn nested together. Torsade
- A necklace in which several strands of pearls (usually freshwater) are twisted
together and held with a special clasp. Graduated
- A necklace with pearls of gradually increasing size with the smallest at
the back and the largest at the center. Uniform
- A necklace in which all pearls appear to be the same size, although there
is usually a slight difference between the center and end pearls.
Rope or sautoir - Any necklace longer than opera length. Ropes are often worn knotted or with a shortener for added versatility of style.
Dog collar - A multiple strand pearl necklace that fits closely around the neck.
Bib - A single necklace with multiple strands of pearls of varying lengths that are worn nested together.
Torsade - A necklace in which several strands of pearls (usually freshwater) are twisted together and held with a special clasp.
Graduated - A necklace with pearls of gradually increasing size with the smallest at the back and the largest at the center.
Uniform - A necklace in which all pearls appear to be the same size, although there is usually a slight difference between the center and end pearls.
Your Cultured Pearl Wardrobe
Begin your pearl wardrobe with a matching pearl necklace, earrings and bracelet. The necklace can be lengthened to a rope or sautoir by letting your jeweler match new pearls to the size and color of existing ones or it can be updated with a pendant or jeweled clasp. Add a ring, pin or earrings set with dramatic mabé pearls or South Sea pearls. Or, consider a long cultured pearl strand with several invisible clasps that allow it to be worn in different lengths or combined with a matching bracelet. Go for high drama with a ring or earrings set with one white pearl, one black.
Caring for Your Cultured Pearls
Remember that cultured pearls are precious jewels and should always be treated as such.
Pearls are wonderful to own and wear and they also make wonderful gifts. While serving as the Director of an international "Flagship" store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, Tom appeared on CNBC with a magnificent strand of South Sea Pearls. The price of the strand was an even $1,000,000.00 (one million dollars).
As on all of our pages, we invite you to contact us with any questions . . . we love pearls.