Small is Beautiful - What are Seed Pearls?

This example of an exquisite Fabergé Egg, made for Nicholas II of Russia in 1901, stands just 12cm tall and is adorned with seed pearls. The famous French jeweller to the Russian Tsars crafted his jewelled masterpieces with precious metals, enamel, gemstones and delicate pearls.

A FASHIONABLE PEARL

The use of seed pearls in fine jewellery throughout the latter part of the 19th century was immensely popular, with elaborate decorative brooches, tiaras, pins and earrings being very representative of Victorian fashion at the time.

Prestigious jewellers such as Tiffany, Cartier and Boucheron studded their designs with these tiny gems to match the sensual decadence of La Belle Époque fashion.

THE FORMATION OF SEED PEARLS

A seed pearl is a small natural pearl, formed in either a saltwater oyster or freshwater mussel, that is usually less than 2mm in diameter.

These pearls would have been found when divers searched for natural pearls in the Persian Gulf and Asia, or closer to home in streams and rivers of the USA, Europe and the British Isles.

Seed Pearls

Today the term "seed pearl" is more widely used to describe a small pearl that has been created as a result of a pearl farmer trying to stimulate the formation of a cultured pearl in a mollusc.

These cultured seed pearls are formed with the accidental help of a loose piece of tissue in the mollusc, perhaps when the implanted bead has been separated from the pearl sac or has been expelled by the oyster.

Traditionally, these first cultured seed pearls would have been formed in Akoya oysters or Lake Biwa freshwater mussels in Japan.

Learn about the different Types of Pearls in our Buying Guide here.

SEED PEARLS IN JEWELLERY

Preparing such a tiny seed pearl for use in jewellery requires precision and a careful eye, particularly if the pearl is to be individually drilled and strung in a necklace or tassel earrings.

The famous Baroda Pearl Carpet, sold at auction by Sotheby's in 2009 for $5.5m, was covered with around 1.4 million seed pearls, all drilled by hand and sewn decoratively onto the fabric.

Alice Cicolini Beau Seed Pearl and Diamond Ring

Our new collection of pearl jewellery and pearl rings, influenced with seed pearls, is being designed by Alice Cicolini for launch in 2013.

We hope you will agree that Small is most certainly Beautiful!