GUIDE to the world of PEARLS – south sea pearl earrings
The pearl is one of the ocean’s rarest treasures. Since ancient times natural pearls have been used as jewellery and ornaments and the oldest known pearl necklace is more than 4000 years old. Pearls were often regarded as having a mystical quality and a life of their own because of their unique glow that seems to radiate from their very centre. In Roman times women would take pearls to bed in the belief that they would assist them to have pleasant dreams (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS A NATURAL PEARL?
It is an accident of nature. A natural pearl is produced when a minute foreign object, perhaps a tiny living sea creature, becomes stuck inside the shell and tissue of an oyster. When the oyster cannot get rid of the ‘irritant’ it
eases the discomfort by coating it in ‘nacre’. Nacre is made up of microscopic crystals; each crystal perfectly aligned with the others so that it reflects light to produce a glow of light and colour. The pearl is built up of layer upon layer of nacre. The more layers, the more lustrous the pearl. However, because natural pearls are so rare, they are expensive which is why ‘Cultured Pearls’ are a more affordable option (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
CULTURED PEARLS – GIVING NATURE A HELPING HAND
Most pearls sold today are cultured pearls. These are pearls that are made the same way as natural pearls in
so far as an oyster coats an ‘irritant’ with nacre. However the ‘irritant’ does not find its way inside the oyster by accident. It is implanted by technologists who then supervise the process so that the oyster produces the best pearl possible by ensuring it has the food it requires and that the water temperature remains constant and free of pollutants. Because there are a larger number of cultured pearls available than natural pearls, it is easier to match pearls that are much the same size and shape. So a necklace of cultured pearls will be more even in shape and colour than one made up of natural pearls.
IMITATION PEARLS ARE EXACTLY THAT
They are not real pearls. Both natural and cultured pearls are produced by an oyster, however imitation pearls are man made. A round glass or plastic bead is simply coated in a pearly substance – lacquered and wax filled to produce an instant imitation pearl. The best way to tell if a pearl is imitation or not is to place it directly alongside a real one and compare the lustre. The real pearl will have a depth of lustre that the imitation cannot match. An imitation pearl generally will have a surface shine but no inner glow. Also look in the shaded area, in the real pearl you will see a clearly defined reflection, in the imitation pearl you won’t. An easy way to test whether a pearl is an imitation or cultured pearl is to feel the difference. But not with your fingers, with your teeth. The ‘tooth test’ is a reliable way to separate real pearls from the imitators. Simply run the pearl gently along the edge of your upper teeth. If it is a real pearl it will have a slightly gritty or sandy feel whereas an imitation pearl will slide smoothly along (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
YOUR GUIDE TO THE PERFECT PEARL
Whether a pearl is natural or cultured, there are five factors that need to be looked at to determine its quality.
LUSTRE AND ORIENT
A pearl’s ability to reflect and refract light (lustre) creates an underlying play of colours within the pearl (orient) which gives a pearl its unique inner glow. The higher the lustre and orient the finer the pearl. To judge the lustre and orient look at the shadow area of the pearl not its shiny surface. (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
Colour is another important factor when determining value. There are two elements when considering colour: body colour and overtone. The ‘body colour’ refers to the basic colour; white, yellow or black. The ‘overtone’ refers to the slight tint that may be present. Very white pearls with a rose-coloured tint are the rarest and most expensive. The creamier the colour becomes the less costly they are. Cultured pearls are available in many colours including gray, black, pink, blue and gold. (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
How clean a pearl is depends on how free it is from surface imperfections. Small blisters, spots and cracks can all diminish a pearl’s worth. The cleaner the surface, the better. (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
The more symmetrical the shape, the more valuable the pearl. Perfectly round pearls are extremely rare however nicely proportioned round, oval and tear shaped pearls are all highly valued. Irregularly shaped (baroque) pearls are less costly but their unusual shape can make for quite a dramatic look. (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
As it is more difficult for oysters to grow large pearls, large pearls are more scarce and therefore more expensive. However two pearls of the same size may be valued differently because one may have a higher degree of lustre and orient than the other. (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
TYPES OF PEARLS
- AKOYA : Grown in pearl oysters off the coast of Japan and are one of the most familiar types of cultured pearls. They have a lovely orient and warm colour and rarely reach more than 9mm in size.
- MABE : Large half-round cultured pearls that grow against the inside shells of oysters rather than within the body. Because of their hemispherical shape are less expensive than regular round cultured pearls. They are usually mounted in earrings, rings and brooches.
- FRESH WATER : These are pearls that are cultivated in mussels rather than oysters and are found in fresh water lakes and rivers. Generally they have an elongated shape and a milky translucent appearance.
- KESHI : Small, irregular shaped seedless pearls that form naturally in many cultured pearl oysters
- SOUTH SEA PEARLS (AUSTRALIAN) : Rare and valuable large cultured pearls (10mm and larger) grown in the warm waters off the Australian coast. Found in a variety of colours including white, silver, gold, and rose.
- SOUTH SEA PEARLS (INDONESIAN) : Large cultured pearls (8mm and larger) slightly smaller and creamier than their Australian counterparts.
- TAHITIAN : Large gray to black cultured pearls (10mm and larger) with overtones of reds, blues and greens.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR PEARLS
Cultured pearls are precious gems and need to be treated as such:
- When storing them in a purse or jewel box place them in a soft gem bag or wrap them in a silk cloth to protect them from being scratched by harder stones, metal edges or other jewellery.
- Don’t wear pearls in the shower, in the swimming pool or while playing sport.
- Put your pearls on after you have applied your cosmetics, hairspray and perfume.
- To help prevent discolouration wipe them frequently with a damp, clean cloth.
- Never clean pearls with a harsh detergent or jewellery cleaner. A drop of mild detergent in warm water should be all you need.
- Restring pearl necklaces at least once every two years to keep your jewellery looking its best.
- Any questions? Your Showcase Jeweller: Miss Joaquim Pearls is the expert to ask (Refference: south sea pearl earrings).
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