Pearls are one of the most fascinating choices to craft stunning jewelry with.
Every day, every place and every occasion provides the perfect reason for a woman to wear pearls. Yesterday, they complemented the whiteness of a wedding gown. Today, they contrast smartly with business blue or black. Tomorrow, they will add brightness or color to the earth-toned casuals at lunch and add the final touch to formal wear at the theatre.
It is not surprising, this love affair between women and pearls. These mysterious orbs have charmed women –and men—for millennia. A lovely strand of classic Akoya pearls serves as a reminder of the landmark occasions of our lives; each pearl is a glistening and perfect moment, linked together in a string of days.
Pearls have been a symbol of beauty and purity for centuries. Today, they are regarded as both classic and contemporary, coming in many more fashionable styles than your mother’s traditional strand of pearls. Pearls, natural or cultured, are formed when a mollusk produces layers of nacre (pronounced NAY-kur) around some type of irritant inside of its shell. In natural pearls, the irritant may be another organism from the water. In cultured pearls, a mother-of-pearl bead or piece of tissue is inserted (by man) into the mollusk to start the process. For both, the equality of nacre dictates the quality of the luster, which is very important to its beauty and its value. The surface of the pearl should be smooth and free of marks while the overall shape could be round, oval, pear shaped, or even misshapen. Misshapen pearls are called baroque pearls.
Types of Pearls
Natural vs. Cultured
Natural pearls are extremely rare. Historically, many were found in the Persian Gulf; unfortunately, today, most have already been harvested. You may be able to purchase small, natural pearls, but they will be costly.
Cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms. The mollusks are raised until they are old enough to accept the mother-of-pearl bead nucleus. Through a delicate surgical procedure, the technician implants the bead and the mollusks are returned to the water and cared for while the pearl forms.
Saltwater vs. Freshwater
Pearls can be found in saltwater and in freshwater. There are also different types of mollusks that produce very different looking pearls.
Saltwater pearls- these include the Akoya cultured pearls grown in Japanese and Chinese waters. They range in size from 2mm (tiny) to 10mm (rare) and are usually white or cream color and round in shape. Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines produce South Sea pearl – the largest of all the pearls. They range in size from 9mm to 20mm and can be naturally white, cream or golden in color. Tahitian pearls are interestingly not exclusively from Tahiti – they are grown in several of the islands of French Polynesia, including Tahiti. Their typical sizes range from 8mm to 16mm. These naturally colored pearls are collectively called black pearls, but their colors include gray, blue, green and purple.
Freshwater pearls- these pearls are grown in freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds predominately in China. Although many are white and resemble the Akoya cultured pearls in shape and size, they can also be produces in various shapes and in any array of pastel colors. Many freshwater pearls do not have a bead.
These popular pearls are farmed mostly along the coasts of China and Japan. Akoya pearls usually have a high luster, near –perfect roundness and high quality all around. White and cream are the most-requested colors, but many natural and treated colors are available, including black.
These pearls come in more exotic colors like silver, golden green and gray-black. They often have a metallic luster, and tend to be larger than Akoya and Freshwater pearls.