Emma Scaramozzino - June 16, 2021

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT: PEARLS

Toggle Clasp Necklace w/ Pearl Charm

Source: Shahla Karimi

The fourth installment of our Everything You Need To Know Series. This week we'll be covering June's birthstone - pearls.

ORIGIN

Pearl Farm

Source: National Geographic

Pearls grow inside of clams, mussels, and oysters. They are made up of aragonite and conchiolin, the same materials that make up the shell of the mollusk. A pearl begins to form when an intruder, such as a parasite, makes its way inside of its shell. The mollusk defends itself by producing layers of aragonite and conchiolin, which slowly encases the parasite to protect the mollusk. The layers of aragonite and conchiolin create a material called nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. This is how both natural and cultured pearls are formed. The biggest difference between the two is that the "intruder" or parasite is intentionally placed inside the mollusk so that a pearl can form. Cultured pearls are primarily found in aquatic farms in parts of Asia and Australia while natural pearls are fished for in the Arabian Gulf as well as waters off Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela.

NATURAL VS CULTURED PEARLS

Natural VS Cultured Pearls

Source: Diamond Buzz

Natural and cultured pearls possess the same physical properties and are formed the same way. The only difference is that cultured pearls are created with human interference; they intentionally place the "intruder" or parasite inside of the mollusk so that a pearl can form. Natural pearls are extremely are. Only one in 10,000 oysters will produce a natural pearl and of those only one in a million will be gem quality. Only about half of 1 percent of the world’s pearls are natural. That being said, natural pearls can be quite costly. We only work with cultured pearls.
*Fun Fact: It can take more than 100,000 mollusks to make just one strand of pearls.*

SALTWATER VS FRESHWATER PEARLS

Saltwater vs Freshwater Pearls

Source: Diamond Buzz

Saltwater and freshwater pearls are similar at first glance, but have a few key differences. Of course, saltwater pearls are grown in a saltwater mollusk and freshwater are grown in a freshwater mollusk. Additionally, saltwater pearls are considered to be more valuable because they produce more luster and take longer to grow than freshwater. However, due to saltwater pearls higher quality and scarcity, they are significantly more expensive.

PEARL VARIETIES

Akoya Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

AKOYA

Akoya are the classic pearls that first come to mind when you think of pearl jewelry. They are typically white with pink, silver, or cream overtones.

Tahitian Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

TAHITIAN

Tahitian pearls are known primarily for their charcoal gray color. They come from the Tahitian pearl oyster, also known as the “Black Lip” oyster. These oysters produce a variety of naturally colored black pearls that range from shades of pastel dove grays to darker charcoal grays. Their more famous colors like peacock, green, and aubergine are called overtones. These are an iridescent, secondary color that appears to shimmer over the main gray body colors. Because of their striking natural hue, Tahitian pearls are rarely color-treated. 

Golden South Sea PearlsWhite South Sea Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

SOUTH SEA

Commonly referred to as "the queen of pearls", South Sea pearls are known for their white and golden hues, as well as the distinct shimmer on the surface of the pearl. White South Sea pearls are produced by The Silver-Lipped P. Maxima Oyster and gold are created by The Gold-Lipped P. Maxima Oyster. The pearls from these oysters are never treated and are considered to be the most luxurious of all the pearl varieties.  

Sea of Cortez Pearls

Source: The Culture of Pearls

SEA OF CORTEZ

Sea of Cortez pearls are cultured exclusively at one farm operating out of Guyamas, Mexico. The farm produces less than 4,000 cultured pearls each year making them the rarest cultured pearl in the world.  In the early 1900s, Sea of Cortez pearls were in high demand. Because of this, the natural pearl beds were fished constantly for pearls and pearl-shell, resulting in a permanent fishing ban in 1939. These pearls were highly sought after because of their vibrant overtones. 

PEARL SHAPES

ROUND

Round Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

Round pearls are formed naturally within the mollusk into a perfectly spherical shape, making them the most desirable.

DROP

Drop Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

Drop pearls get their name from their resemblance to a teardrop shape. These pearls are elongated, symmetrical, and extremely valuable if they are harvested with no flaws.

BAROQUE

Baroque Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

Baroque pearls are formed when nacre is produced and layered unevenly. Although they are not as desirable as a round pearl, no two baroque pearls are the same, making them an interesting focal point to a piece of jewelry. 

MABÉ

Mabe Pearls

Source: Pure Pearls

Mabé pearls, also known as half pearls,  form on the shell of a mollusk. After accumulating nacre for roughly 2-3 years, they are cut from the shell and have their nucleus removed, leaving a hollow pearl. The pearl is then filled with colorless resin to reinforce its shape. Because these pearls hold an external material, they are less desirable. However, they are a more affordable option to look for when searching for pearl jewelry. 

KESHI

Source: Etsy

Keshi are uniquely shaped pearls that are accidentally formed during the culturing process. These pearls have no nucleus, which contributes to their abstract shape.
It is important to note that although the shape of Keshi pearls is formed naturally without external manipulation, it is a mistake to call them natural pearls. They are also not cultured pearls. Cultured pearls, by definition, are pearls that are formed due to human intervention. Although humans do not always instigate the formation of Keshi pearls, without the cultured pearl industry, keshis would not exist.

*Fun Fact: The word keshi comes from keshinomi, the Japanese word for poppy seed.*

LUSTER

Pearl Luster

Source: Pearl Wise

Luster is the way light interacts with the surface of a pearl and is an important factor when determining its quality. The luster of a pearl is graded on a scale from excellent to poor; excellent meaning the reflections in the pearl appear bright and sharp, and poor meaning reflections are dim and diffused.

SIZE

Pearl Size Range

Source: American Pearl

Pearl sizes range from 8.0 – 9.0 mm through 15.0 – 16.0 mm and sometimes larger depending on the variety. Typically, larger pearls are more valuable because they are harder to find. However, if a pearl is lacking in other respects, this is not always the case.

CARE

Pearl Size Range

Source: Phuket Pearl

It is important to note that pearls are one of the softest gemstones out there, only a 2.5 to 3.0 on the Mohs Scale of hardness, so it is essential that you store them separately from other gemstones and metal jewelry to prevent scratching. Their chemical composition is also very different from other stones. Keeping this in mind, you should never store your pearls in plastic bags (plastic can emit a chemical that will damage their surface), as well as wait to put your pearls on until after you've applied perfume, hair products, cosmetics etc. Lastly, cleaning your pearls with a damp cloth after each wear will keep them looking new.

BIRTHSTONE MEANINGS + HEALING PROPERTIES 

Pearl Size Range

Source: Crystals and Jewelry

Pearls are one of the three birthstones for June (alexandrite and moonstone being the other two) and are associated with purity, humility, and innocence. They are also believed to possess many healing properties. In Asia, they were believed to help alleviate indigestion and hemorrhages while some 19th-century Arab physicians credit pearl powder to improving eyesight in patients as well as calming nervous tremors and easing depression.

FAMOUS PEARLS

Pearl Size Range

Source: Internet Stones

The Pearl of Allah is believed to be the largest natural pearl in existence. The pearl was found in the Philippines and weighs more than 14 pounds.

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