Pearls are gemstones which are the product of living creatures. They are formed when an irritant (like sand) is introduced to a Mollusc. Molluscs create a Nacre coating around the irritant which eventually forms the pearl that we see, love and wear. They have been a treasured gemstone for centuries with some records dating back to 2,000BC and are easily recognised as a precious stone as they require no cutting or polishing, easily giving away their beauty and rarity.
Today, most pearls on the market are cultured pearls which means they are not naturally occurring and that the irritant is introduced into the oyster or mussel. The ‘technologists’ then supervise the pearl growth to ensure it is of optimal shape. It makes it easier to match similar shaped pearls for jewellery.
There are many different types of Pearls:
- Akoya: Salt water pearls grown off the coast of Japan which have a warm colour but rarely reach more than 9mm in size.
- South Sea: Can grow from 8mm and larger. They are found in a variety of colours such as white, silver, gold and rose.
- Tahitian: Typically grow from 8mm to 14mm in size. They are famous for their grey and black hues. They also come in red, blue and green.
- Freshwater: These are grown in mussels rather than oysters and are found in freshwater lakes. They are not perfectly round but are slightly elongated.
- Mabe: These are less expensive as they are grown against the inside of the oyster shell rather than inside the body. They are generally half round and are used in rings, brooches and earrings.
Similar to the 4C’s of diamonds, pearls have their own standards of quality.
Lustre and Orient
‘Lustre’ is the pearl’s ability to refract light and ‘Orient’ is the luminosity of the pearls inner glow. The higher the lustre and orient the higher quality the pearl. To observe this, look at the pearl at different angles to see how bright the rainbow reflections shine. The scale ranges from exceptional, fine to dull.
There are two elements to consider when you are observing a pearl’s colour- body colour and overtone. ‘Body colour’ is the base colour of black, white or pink etc. However, the overtones include the level of the hue. White pearls with a rose coloured tint are the rarest and most expensive. If the colour is creamy, it will be less expensive.
Size & Shape
It takes a long time to grow large pearls, therefore it is more common to find smaller pearls. The larger they are the more expensive, but then again it depends on the other factors as well. The more symmetrical the shape the valuable the pearl. The most popular shapes include round, oval and tear shape.
The creation of a pearl is an imperfect process. Each pearl is unique and the surface may be smooth, other times it may have blisters, spots and small holes. The less imperfections the more expensive it will be.
Pearls are precious gems which deserve special care. They are porous and so will absorb products used around them like hairspray, perfumes and make-up, as well as body sweat. Retaining the lustre and value of your pearl jewellery is not a difficult task. It’s simply a matter of knowing what and what not to do:
- Avoid direct contact between Pearls and chemicals such as hand creams, makeup, perfumes and hairsprays. These chemicals will directly affect the Nacre layer of the Pearl.
- Pearls keep their original lustre better if given a soft wipe after wear to prevent deterioration of the surface of the pearl. We suggest using a soft damp cloth.
- Because they can be scratched, it’s a good idea to protect them in a chamois bag or wrapped separately, so your other jewellery doesn’t harm them.
- Some people find that their pearls change colour. This can be due to a variety of factors including the exposure to cleaning agents.
- If you have a string of Pearls it’s wise to often check if the string is loose or wearing thin. Strands can be knotted between each Pearl. This ensures that they don’t all run loose if the silk strand breaks. Re-stringing should be carried out on an annual basis.
- Pearls that are in a metal setting should be checked annually to see how the setting is wearing and provide repair advice when required.
Finally, do not forget to enjoy wearing your Pearls as they are timeless, versatile and incredibly beautiful. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to call or see our friendly team.