January 25, 2011
If you hear a pearl described as real or natural, remember that there is a significant difference in meaning.
A natural pearl is a real pearl formed in a wild mollusc living in its natural habitat and without any human intervention. Cultured pearls are also real pearls, but the pearl farmer stimulates the development of the pearls in the mollusk.
Natural pearls have been collected and used in jewellery for centuries. Until the introduction of techniques for culturing pearls in the early 20th century, the world’s main natural pearl fisheries could be found in the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Mexico, the Mannar Straits between India and Sri Lanka, and off the coast of California.
The image of a diver searching for pearls in azure blue tropical waters is a symbolic one, as today there are few fisheries left due to over-fishing, pollution and competition from the cultured pearl industry.
In response to increasing demand and limited supply, the value of rare natural pearls has been rising steadily over the last ten years. A natural pearl necklace can be priced at between 100 and 10,000 times the value of a cultured pearl necklace of the same size, weight and lustre.