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All About Pearls (Glossary L – Z)

All About Pearls (Glossary L – Z)

wholesale pearlsLustre
The radiance of a pearl. The greater the lustre the greater the value. The highest lustre gives almost mirror-like or metallic reflections.

A blister pearl which has been hollowed out and filled with a substance and backing. Mabe pearls are often made into earrings A mabe is a hemispherically shaped pearl which is grown against the inside of the oyster’s shell, rather than within its tissue Blister pearls are worked by cutting the pearl out of the shell with a circle-bit drill. The nucleus is then removed and replaced with a resin. The back of the pearl is capped with a piece of mother-of-pearl to complete the mabe pearl.

This is a Japanese term which means before (mae) treatment (shori). It encompasses treatments used on all akoya, freshwater and some South Sea pearls. Maeshori treatments vary from factory to factory. The processes tighten the nacre and pull moisture out to enhance the lustre. This has a side effect of tending to make the nacre more brittle, so that freshwater, pearls that have been over treated will turn chalky very quickly Maeshori processing on South Sea pearls is very common in Japan. It makes the pearls whiter, brighter, and more saleable.

One basic maeshori process is tumbling in chips of walnut shell which cleans and burnishes. Majorica or Majorcan pearl A high-quality fake pearl manufactured in Spain by Majorica, S.A. These nuclei are dipped in high quality essence d’orient ( varnish made up of the scales from bleak, shad, herring and salmon. 2,000 fish make one litre of essence, which is an organic substance similar to uric acid.)

Mantle tissue
The special tissue inside certain molluscs which secretes nacre

Metallic Lustre
A pearl has a metallic lustre when the lustre is so shiny that it resembles polished metal. Metallic lustre is not a criterion in the usual grading system

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A momme is unit of weight, used for silk or pearls, and you will still sometimes see pearl prices quoted as per momme – with the price given against quality. One momme is 3.75 grams and one Kan is 1000 momme

is composed of layers of calcium carbonate (in a crystalline form) and conchiolin (an organic protein substance which provides bonding). The specific lustre, iridescence, and colouring of nacre — and, therefore, of any pearl which it forms — depends on the number and thickness of the various layers, as well as on whether or not the layers overlap one another. A freshwater pearl is made up of many layers of nacre and no bead. You can see the structure in this
pearl which split open:

A pearl which is ‘wild’ ie one which has grown without any human activity or intervention is called a natural pearl. Natural pearls are very rare these days and so command high prices. Scotland holds much of the world’s remaining population of freshwater mussels Margaritifera margaritifera, and they are protected by law under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Selling a Scottish natural pearl needs a licence. These molluscs can live for over 100 years. The earliest reference in Britain to freshwater mussels is by Julius Caesar’s biographer, Suetonius, who stated that Caeser’s admiration of pearls was a reason for the first Roman invasion in 55BC.

Orient comes from the thin-film interference and light diffraction caused when light passes through the nacre of a pearl. The iridescence, or lack thereof, is caused by the size of the aragonite platelets on the surface of the pearl

A matched set of jewellery, which might include earrings, a necklace, brooches, rings, and other pieces.

A peanut pearl is formed when two nuclei in a seeded pearl stick and then grow together to make something which resembles the shell of a peanut.

Resembling pearl or mother-of-pearl in iridescence and lustre (or, of course, an excellent source of all things pearl)

Pick a Pearl
A marketing ploy used in some tourist shops whereby the customer selects a shell which has been pre-seeded with a pearl of some sort, and lo – there is their pearl. Look closely and the mollusc is preserved in chemicals and long dead and the pearls usually freshwater. Pearlescence heard of one operation in the UK where someone got a dyed green potato pearl and was told it was green because the oyster was sick. Miss Joaquim Pearls knows where to buy these seeded molluscs for under $1 a time in China. But wouldn’t.

Pinctada maculata
This is possibly the smallest of the oceanic pearl producing oysters and possibly the direct ancestor of all of them. It produces bright, lustrous deep golden pearls but is too small to be farmed on a realistic commercial basis

Pinctada margaritifera
This mollusc produces the black Tahitian pearl in French Polynesia, the Cook Islands and Australia

A very common to routine treatment especially for akoya pearls whereby the pearl, after bleaching, is dyed so that it shows a tinge of pink.

Pondslime is the name given to pearls which show an unusual golden to brown coating to their natural colour nacre. These pearls used to be either discarded as junk or dyed dark colours to disguise what was seen as a failure in cultivation but now such natural effects are valued and desirable. The effect ranges from a dull nicotine brown to dazzling gold as if the pearl has a layer of gold leaf

Pearls are pearls of any shape on which the surface nacre has a granulated appearance so that they look like fresh popcorn. We call them granulated pearls. Also called rosebud or strawberry pearls and in China, mao-jyue or hairy pearls.

Any mis-shapen pearl is a potato pearl because it resembles a potato. Also called irregular pearls or nugget pearls.

Pteria sterna
The rainbow lipped oyster which produces the pearls of the Sea of Cortez, Mexico These pearls fluoresce red under ultra-violet light.

Oval shaped pearls

Rice Crispie Pearls
Chinese freshwater pearls were originally grown in the Cristaria plicata (cockscomb pearl mussel) and resembled rice crispies.

see popcorn

The more perfectly round a pearl is, the more valuable. A good quick way to assess roundness is to gently roll a strand of pearls. Irregularities will show easily to the eye

Scottish River Pearls
Highly prized and very rare wild natural pearls. So protected by law that a licence is needed to sell them. The species is Margaritifera margaritifera . They are believed to live for 250 years! It is said that one reason for the Roman invasion of Britain was to gain access to the pearls.

Sea of Cortez
One farm is producing mostly greys and blue shades in Mexico, re-starting a pearl history which was thriving when the Spanish invaded

Second Graft
What it says – a second graft happens when a mollusc is returned to the water after harvest. Its pearl sac is either re-filled, with a bead equal to the size of the pearl removed (so that the second pearl grown will be larger when that is harvested) or a keisi pearl will grow.

Seed pearls
Tiny naturals weighing under 1/4 grain, usually 33mm or less.

The rounder the pearl the more valuable it is.

Silver nitrate
This chemical, the same as used in photography, darkens the appearance of pearls. The chemical penetrates the layers of nacre and has a chemical reaction with light and hydrogen sulphide gas to create a rich black colour.

Generally, the bigger the pearl the more valuable, however a smaller more perfectly formed round pearl will be more valuable than a big baroque one

Souffle Pearls
Very large freshwater pearls are being produced with pearls nucleated with a lump of mud (!) these pearls, third graft, can have stunning lustre and a rather keishi appearance so far. When drilled the mud is drained away so that the pearl is hollow and light in weight. However most freshwater cultured pearls are still solid pearl nacre, even pearls up to 15mm. This means that they are arguably more durable but the chances of non-perfect round shapes are higher.

South Sea pearls
Large South Sea cultured pearls (up to 16 mm), farmed in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines, range in colour from white to gold and to black. They can have a perfectly round to slightly asymmetrical shape and medium to high lustre Price varies depending on lustre. South Sea pearls are harvested after at least 2 years. They have a unique, satiny lustre that comes from the rapidly deposited nacre and warm waters of the South Seas. South Sea pearls also have a subtle array of colours, typically white, silver, and golden, Gold south sea pearls come mainly from Thailand and white south sea pearls mainly from Australia,

baby oysters which are either artificially bred in a hatchery or spawn naturally and are attracted to collection points are called spat. They will be grown on until big enough to be implanted

Sterling Silver
Sterling silver is a mix of 92.5% by mass of silver and 7.5% by mass of other metals, usually copper. The copper is added to make the metal harder. All Pearlescence Sterling silver over the required minimum weight carries the London Assay office hallmark of owner Wendy Graham (Initials wmg in an oval cartouche). All silver from Pearlescence is nickel-free.

Any long thin and stick or twig like pearl, They can be drilled at the top or middle and through the wider or narrower faces to produce different looks.

The smoother and more perfect the surface of a pearl, the higher the value

Pearls are produced by the black-lipped oyster (Pinctada margaritifera). They have been produced for almost exactly 50 years now in French Polynesia, in the lagoons of remote coral atolls and islands – everywhere except on Tahiti Itself! Black Lip Oysters are now also being farmed in a small way in Australia.

The oyster itself is quite large — sometimes up to 12 inches across and weighing as much as 10 pounds — which often results in much larger-than-average pearls. The pearls are unique because of their natural dark colours. Most “black” Tahitian pearls are not actually black, but are instead grey, silver, charcoal, or similar shades. Truly black pearls are extremely rare. For reasons which are not known the black-lipped oyster produces circle pearls, which are usually
drop shaped and look as though the pearl has spun around in the pearl sac, so that there are banding patterns around the pearl in both colour and surface. Some prefer circle pearls because they are clearly real and not imitation. Tahitian pearls go through x-ray inspection before legal export (ask to see their export certificate and confuse most jewellers!) and have a different grading system A-D where A grade are the best pearls

Third graft
Sometimes molluscs yield pearls of such quality that farmers put them back in the water for a third time. Third graft pearls will be very large indeed, and the mollusc could be ten years old.

Top drilled
Asymmetrically drilled pearls, often oval. If strung un-knotted they tend to move around against each other on the silk and then are called dancing pearls

Vermeil is a plating of gold onto sterling silver. It is hallmarkable and a response to the high present cost of gold. All Pearlescence vermeil is nickel-free. Vermeil will be marked as sterling silver with metal. the gold must be at least 10ct (42%) and be at least 2.5micrometres thick. Nb American Vermeil often has a layer of nickel.

Wearing pearls
Do not put any hairspray, make-up, perfume or any other such substances where they could contact and be absorbed by the pearls. Pearls are a natural biological substance and are porous, so avoid anything which could be absorbed by them. We have reeled back in horror when opening envelopes for some pearls returned for re-stringing where they seem soaked in perfume.

Wish Pearls
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