Pearls | Care for your Pearls
This is the most familiar type of pearl sold in necklaces. The
image that comes to mind upon hearing the word "pearl"
is most likely that of an Akoya pearl. Nearly all of the pearls
cultured in Japan are Akoya pearls, and most necklaces are strung
with this variety. The mother oysters are usually palm-sized,
so the pearls themselves are not so large, averaging between
2mm and 10mm. 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.
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. South Sea
pearls are taken from white-lipped oysters, the largest of the
pearl oysters. They are a lovely silvery-grey color, and while
they can be up to 15mm in diameter, South Sea pearls of this
size are very rare and expensive.
South Sea Half
Pearls these thick-nacred pearls are a handsome
hemispherical shape, similar to Mabe pearls. The color is the
same beautiful silvery-grey as the spherical South Sea pearl
Large (10mm and up) cultured pearls grown in black-lipped
oysters in French Polynesia (especially Tahiti). Colors range
from silvery gray and green to deep purple and black. Also quite
popular, and valuble, is the "peacock green" variety,
a deep green with a reddish tinge. Their large sizes and unique
colors command premium prices. Other varieties of pearls may
be dyed and called "black" pearls, but real, natural
black pearls are those taken from black-lipped oysters.
Large, hemispherical cultured pearls grown against the inside
shells of oysters rather than in the oysters' bodies. These
are taken from Mabe oysters, and give off a unique rainbow-colored
sheen. Thanks to developments in pearl culturing technology
in recent years, we have been able to cultivate a few spherical
Mabe pearls, in addition to the original hemispherical shape.Though
Mabe and South Sea half pearls are the same shape, we make a
clear distinction between them, as they are cultivated from
different species of oyster. Less expensive than round cultured
pearls due to their half-round shape, they are most popular
in earrings, rings and brooches.
Pearls cultivated in mussels, not oysters, in
freshwater lakes and rivers in China, Japan and the United States.
These are cultivated chiefly from the bivalve known as the IKECHOUGAI.
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
as well as orange and wine. Recently pearl culturing technology
has succeeded in producing specimens so large and spherical
that many people mistake them for Akoya pearls at first glance.
When this pearl is brought into existence in the
gonad of the mother oyster, it is very small, resembling a poppy
seed. The finished pearl is also quite small, and is produced
without a man-made nucleus. During the cultivation period, the
mother oyster takes in some foreign particle, such as a tiny
pebble, and this becomes the core of the pearl. The pearl's
shape can be oval, or distorted according to the shape of the
foreign matter forming its core.
Also known as seed pearls, these tiny pearls can be as small
as a grain of sand and form accidentally in many cultured pearl
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.
to top | Types of Pearls | Care
for your Pearls
There is no official
quality grading system for pearls like the four C's for diamonds,
but there are characteristics that affect their value: color,
luster, surface, shape and size. Contributing greatly to the
value of your cultured pearl jewelry is how well matched each
pearl is in a strand or earrings. They should all be the same
size, shape, color and luster. The more they match, the higher
produce pearls in a wide range of hues. The general color of
a pearl is called the body color. White, cream, yellow, pink,
silver, gold or black are typical. Whatever color you choose,
look for pearls with a deep, rich hue that seems to come from
within the gem. Finer quality pearls have a hint of secondary
color, or overtone, which is visible when light reflects off
the surface. An overtone can be pink, rose, green or blue. So,
a pearl necklace may appear white, but when you examine it more
closely, you may notice a rosy overtone. While color does not
affect the quality of a pearl, it is important that the base
color and overtone of all the pearls in a piece of jewelry should
match. Sometimes pearls are dyed to meet personal preference
or to achieve a desired color; however, the product description
should mention this.
seem to favor some colors over others. White pearls are the
most popular in America, while Asia prefers silver. Regional
color preference often relates to the skin tones of the wearers.
Experts agree that a buyer should base color choice on what
will look good on the person who will wear the pearls. Generally,
yellow or golden pearls look best on darker skin tones, while
pink pearls favor fairer skin tones.
Lustre is the inner brilliance that deepens and grows as
the number of pearl layers increase. This brilliance is the
single most important factor in selecting pearls! Just as advocates
of finely cut diamonds stress the brilliance and fire of properly
proportioned stones; advocates of fine pearls stress the brightness
and glow of high lustre pearls! Like the radiance of diamonds,
this glow is what first strikes the casual observer of pearls
when they are viewed from a distance and none of their other
quality characteristics are or can be conspicuous.
This effect is created
by light reflected from the pearl's surface and from the many
layers of tiny calcium carbonate crystals within the pearl nacre,
producing brilliance and sheen. The larger the pearl, the more
nacre it has, and the greater its luster.
Like diamonds or other gemstones, pearls are seldom
flawless. All natural or cultured pearls are expected to have
some surface imperfections, but the fewer and less noticeable
they are, the better. The highest-quality pearls are those with
the smoothest surfaces, but do not underestimate the beauty
of a lustrous pearl with a few tiny wrinkles, bumps, welts and
As a mollusk creates
a pearl, sometimes the layers of nacre do not adhere smoothly,
so spots and bubbles can appear. These imperfections may be
small and unnoticeable or large and distinct. The number and
visibility of marks on its surface determines the quality of
a pearl. Lustre can drown out pearl blemishes the same way brilliance
can drown out diamond flaws. Just as someone will often need
a microscope to see diamond flaws, they will often have to peer
at a pearl close up to see its blemishes. Stand a few feet back
and you will need the eyes of a hawk to see the same flaws especially
if the lustre of the pearl is good!
pearls come in many different shapes, those that are perfectly
round are the most rare and therefore the highest quality and
most valuable. Only about 1% are actually perfect spheres. To
find out if your strand has perfectly round pearls, just roll
it on a flat surface. If it rolls smoothly and evenly, the pearls
are round. Small imperfections of shape can sometimes be desirable
as long as they are symmetrical. Teardrop-shaped pearls are
often used in pendants and earrings.
Jewelers can make
beautiful jewelry out of less symmetrical shapes as well. The
irregular shapes of baroque pearls work well as necklace accents;
a half sphere pearl called a "mabe" is often used
in bracelets, necklaces and earrings. However, it is important
that the shape of each pearl should be consistent in a strand
These shapes are
all desirable and can be evaluated for the own aesthetics and
affordability. While these exotic pearls give the individual
a way to express uniqueness round pearls continue to be a classic
and a highly sought after shape. In regard to monetary value
the more perfectly round the pearl the higher it's market price.
come in a variety of sizes. Although pearl size like color is
a personal preference, the larger the size the more expensive
and valuable the pearl. Assuming all the other factors are equal,
the size of a cultured pearl is the most important factor in
determining its worth. Large cultured pearls are more rare,
and price rises significantly with size.
Even though a pearl
is large, it may not be so valuable if it lacks nacre thickness.
In time, a pearl without many layers of nacre may crack and
discolor, diminishing its value. Only an expert can determine
the true thickness of a pearl's nacre.
Millimeters are to
pearls what carat weight is to diamonds! Cultured pearls are
measured in millimeters; rounds by their diameter, baroques
by their length and width. Depending on the type of mollusk
that produces them, cultured pearls come in a wide range of
sizes, from 3mm freshwater pearls to 15mm Australian or Tahitian
pearls. Average pearl diameters: 6 to 8mm Akoya, 5 to 6.5mm
freshwater, 11 to 13mm South Sea, 11 to 12mm Tahitian.
for your Pearls
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Taking proper care
of your pearls is not difficult if you remember that they are
organic--produced by a living thing. Pearls are soft and delicate,
but if cared for with common sense, they will maintain their
luster for centuries.
- Pearls should
not come in contact with cosmetics, hairspray, perfume, chlorinated
water, or other harsh chemicals.
- To keep them clean,
they should be the last item put on when dressing and the
first item removed at the end of an evening.
- The best way to
maintain their luster is to wear the pearls often and wipe
them down with a soft cloth afterward--pearls absorb the oils
from skin, which helps keep them moist.
- To avoid nicks
or chipping, separate pearls from other jewelry by storing
them in a cloth pouch or jewelry bag. Don't toss them carelessly
into a purse or jewel box where they can become scratched
by hard metal edges or harder stones.
- Pearl strands
should be restrung periodically because the silk thread used
to tie the pearls together breaks down over time.