A Guide to Pearls
There are two sources of pearls:
1) Natural Pearls: Only found in wild oysters, which have not been commercially harvested for nearly 100 years due to the threat of extinction of wild oysters.
2) Cultured Pearls: These are still "real pearls", and all pearls in today’s commercial market are cultured in oysters and are grown on Pearl Farms. Cultured Pearls are formed in exactly the same way as they do in nature, with the only human intervention being to stimulate the oyster to start the pearl creation process.
Types of Pearls:
Fresh Water Pearls
The most affordable pearls on the market today, Fresh Water Pearls are known for their white to pastel colours, baroque shape & soft luster. Fresh water pearls have the largest variety of shapes that range from round to button to free form baroque. There are no naturally black Fresh Water Pearls and those that are have been dyed.
Freshwater pearls are grown in mussels living in rivers and lakes. These days, most pearls formed in freshwater come from China.
Freshwater mussels are larger and can produce more pearls at a time than saltwater oysters can. The average time for freshwater pearls to cultivate is around 2 years. As a result, freshwater pearls are more abundant.
Saltwater Pearls (such as Tahitian & South Sea) are grown in inlets and bays. They are more expensive due to the growth period being longer than freshwater pearls and is more costly.
Tahitian Pearls are grown in French Polynesia and are the only naturally dark pearls. They come in a range of exotic luster. Round Tahitian Pearls are quite rare but other shapes are still quite valuable. If you would like a naturally dark pearls, Tahitian pearls are the best choice.
South Sea Pearls
Grown primarily in Australia, Philippines & Indonesia and ranging in colour from white to gold. These are the largest saltwater pearls grown. Due to their size, perfectly round South Sea Pearls are rare.
Grading of Pearls:
There is no officially recognized standard system for grading pearls (except for Tahitian Pearls where the grading system is controlled by the French Polynesia Government). Pearls are graded on luster, surface, shape and colour.
Luster is essentially the intensity and sharpness of the light reflected from a pearl’s surface. The more lustrous the pearl is, the brighter its reflection. Luster is probably the most important value factor when judging a pearl’s quality. Pearls with high luster are regarded as more valuable than those with poor luster.
Surface of Pearls
The surface condition of a pearl affects its value. When other value factors are equal, the fewer and smaller the blemishes are, the more valuable the pearl is. Most pearls have some degree of imperfections such as bumps, pits, spots and wrinkles. Tiny irregularities are acceptable. It is very rare to have a strand of pearls that have no imperfections at all.
Shape of Pearls
A perfectly round pearl is very rare. Most pearls come in a variety of shapes.
Colour of Pearls
Pearls come in an array of colours. From white, cream, pink, yellow, green, blue to black, there are so many shades in between. In addition, pearls often display slight overtones, such as green, blue and pink. Many trade terms, such as apricot, aubergine, golden, lavender, peacock and pistachio, are also used to vividly describe pearl colours.
Colours are a personal preference and do not affect the quality of the Pearl. However, Pearls with natural colours are generally more valuable than those that have been dyed.
Caring for Pearls
It is important to take care of your pearls. Here are some basic tips that we recommend
- Avoid perfume or hairspray making contact with your pearls as these chemicals can severely damage the luster of pearls
- After every wear, wipe your pearls with a soft cloth. This will help prevent any buildup of oils or other substances damaging the pearls
- Dry before storing to protect the silk strand and elastic
- Store them flat to prevent stretching and in a separate fabric bag/soft compartment to prevent scratching
- Wear them often! Not only do they look great, but are best kept in a moist environment to keep them from drying out. We do not recommend you keep them in safety deposit boxes given these have humidifiers to keep paper dry.
- NEVER place pearls in a ultrasonic jewellery cleaner and keep them away from steam. This will damage the outer layer of the pearl.