All About Pearls

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All About Pearls

Hello Friends! We are lucky to have two artists that make gorgeous handmade necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. To celebrate these makers, we like to discuss the different elements of their designs in our blogs. This month, we are going to talk about pearls.

All About Pearls

Hello Friends! We are lucky to have two artists that make gorgeous handmade necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. To celebrate these makers, we like to discuss the different elements of their designs in our blogs. This month, we are going to talk about pearls.

 

There are various types of pearls; freshwater, cultured, ocean, mother of pearl; and it can be confusing figuring out what you are actually buying, where they come from, and how they are made. We hope this blog will be insightful and helpful!

What are Pearls?

Pearls are cysts of calcium carbonate that form within mollusks/oysters as a protectant against an irritant – such as a grain of sand – for the mollusk. These come in round/oval shapes or misshapen; misshapen pearls are referred to as ‘Baroque’ pearls.

Natural vs Cultured Pearls

The majority of pearls on the market today are cultured pearls made in pearl farms. Most naturally occurring pearls have been harvested and are very rare. Cultured pearls are pearls that are made by oysters. When a mollusk (oyster) is mature, an irritant – sand, bead, mother of pearl bead – is inserted into the mollusk. Over time, the pearl is formed. Cultured pearls come in various shapes, sizes, and colors – these characteristics are dependent on the type of oyster and the type of water the oyster lives in.

Saltwater Pearls

Pearls cultured in saltwater can range from white to cream color – for akoya pearls (grown in Chinese and Japanese pearl farms), to white, cream, or golden for South Sea Pearls (grown in the Philippines), to gray, blue, green, or even purple for Tahitian pearls.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls typically range from white to cream color, much like the akoya saltwater pearl. Many freshwater pearls have thicker nacre than saltwater pearls; nacre is the calcium carbonate that surrounds the irritant in the oyster – the actual make-up of the pearl. The nacre gives the pearl its luster/shine and determines the value of the pearl.

Mother of Pearl

Mother of pearl are beads, jewelry, and veneers fashioned from the inner shell of mollusks/oysters. Mother of pearl still has the beautiful shine and looks as pearls, but it is not made of the nacre cultured pearls are.

Imitation Pearls

Imitation pearls are not cultured within a mollusk; rather they are typically a coated glass bead. Most imitation pearls have a high luster, but not the depth of luster seen on high quality cultured pearls.

It is possible to separate an imitation from a cultured or natural pearl; but it can be a challenge, to determine if the pearl is cultured or natural. And, many pearls undergo treatments to either enhance their luster or alter their color, which can make it even more difficult to determine whether a pearl is cultured or imitation. Always seek out the advice of an expert to make this determination.

 

CLICK HERE to checkout Liz Saile’s beautiful freshwater pearl collection at The Bear Den.

 

 

 

https://www.americangemsociety.org/page/pearls

Polk, Patti. “Collecting Rocks, Gems, and Minerals. Identification. Values. Lapidary Uses.” 2010

Krause Publications, Iola, WI

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