For centuries, pearls have been known for their purity and beauty. In today's fashion, pearls are a symbol of classic and contemporary. Learning about pearls is important if you are planning to add them to your jewellery collection. Natural pearls are extremely rare and scarce. In various cultures throughout the ages, pearls were much sought after. Historically, the most important source of natural pearls was the Persian Gulf. People still consider the creamy white pearls from these oysters as the finest in the world and command great prices.
Mollusks, also known as oysters, are the natural creators of pearls. Most pearls available on the market are cultured pearls. To create a cultured pearl, one needs to introduce a bead or a grain of sand within a mussel or an oyster. This irritates the mollusc, instigating a response that aids in the coating of the bead or sand with smooth layers of nacre. This crystallised element forms the shell that gives the pearl its unique colouration and splendour.
The origin of a cultured whole-pearl determines the group it belongs to. Four areas factor into determining these categories:
- Geographical Location
- Species of molluscs
- Fresh Water
Here are the four types of cultured saltwater pearls that are the most popular variants in the world.
Akoya pearls: They originate in China and Japan. The common name of the oyster that produces Akoya os Pinctada Fucata. Their reflective appearance is white with a rose hue. The average diameter of these pearls is six to seven millimetres and are in a range from two to nine millimetres. Most harvested Akoya pearls are spherical. Due to the consistent shape and size of these pearls, it brings forth perfectly matched strands.
South Sea cultured pearl: These pearls are known to Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines. The common name for the oyster here is Pinctada Maxima. There are two kinds of such oysters - silver-lipped and gold-lipped. They appear silver, golden or pale with a satin finish. In Australia, we can find south sea pearls in the wild. They range from ten to fifteen millimetres in diameter, with an average of thirteen millimetres. Whereas in Indonesia and the Philippines, these pearls are hatchery-bred and are about two millimetres smaller in size. Compared to the Akoya pearls, the South Sea pearls are more expensive. So they are not usually grouped in largely matched strands. South Sea pearls are more suitable for rings, necklaces and other jewellery designs that require fewer pearls.
Tahitian cultured pearls: Another popular variety of pearls, the Tahitian cultured pearls, come from the French Polynesian lagoons. Cook islands is another well-known source of these pearls. The common name of the oyster creating the Tahitian pearl is Pinctada Margaritifera. It is also known as the black-lipped oyster. These pearls range from eight to fourteen millimetres in diameter at an average of nine and a half millimetres. They produce a wide array of colours like aubergine, peacock, and pistachio. Mixing large Tahitians with unusual colour schemes is a very popular type of jewellery-making. Such jewellery pieces are expensive and in high demand. Tahitian pearls are affordable when it is on jewellery that highlight singles, sets or pairs.
Freshwater cultured pearl: It is native to China, similar to Akoya pearls. However, this pearl does not form from an oyster. Also, it is smaller and less spherical. The natural attributes of the mussel determine the colour of these pearls. Also, we can treat or irradiate them to achieve a fancier and unique colour. The molluscs producing these pearls are known as mussels. The primary source of Freshwater pearl is the Hyriopsis Cumingi. Majority of the world's supply of Freshwater pearls come from China. Japan also produces small crops of these pearls. We can harvest a mussel more than once, which means we can get several pearls at one time. So, China can generate a bulk quantity of these pearls in a single time. Since there is such a high quantity of this type of pearls, it is one of the most affordable pearls among other variants.
Biwa Pearls: Biwa pearls originate from lake Biwa in Japan, from where they get their name. They form in mussels and are freshwater pearls. They are famous for their unusual contours and unique shapes. A typical Biwa pearl resembles sticks or rice grains. Their natural colours are pink, white and black, although they also come in blue and natural green.
Baroque Pearls: Baroque pearls are different from conventional round pearls. They come in unique shapes and sizes. This makes them ideal for creating stunning pieces of jewellery. Some popular shapes in which Baroque pearls come in are coin, rice, egg, cross, square etc.
Pearls come in a wide variety of colours. Some of the popular options are pinkish, silvery-white, creamy, greenish-white, grey, golden overtones, black and cognac. Both coloured and white base pearls undergo colour enhancements.
We measure the diameter of a pearl in millimetres. Larger pearls are rarer and thus more valuable.
The more symmetrical and spherical the pearl, its value increases further. Baroque pearls are asymmetrical pearls and are unusually shaped. They are less expensive than round pearls and make for a unique look to your jewellery pieces.
A pearl becomes more expensive as the number of spots, cracks, discolouration and blemishes reduces.
Pearl Lustre is the brilliance and glow of the pearl to the human eye. Pearl lustre increases according to the time duration for which the pearl stays in the oyster to form. The longer the pearl stays there, the thicker the layer of nacre surrounding it and consequently the higher the lustre.