A Guide to Buying Pearls
The world's oldest known gem. A symbol of purity and hope.
About the Pearl
The only gem grown in a living organism, real pearls can occur naturally or cultured with human intervention.
A Short History
With its lustrous and distinctive shimmering appearance, few gemstones have fascinated us to the extent that the pearl has, creating myths and legends around the world. The mysterious pearl was first thought to be created by the teardrops of a mermaid, a dewdrop from the moon or a gift to dedicate to the goddess of love.
Recent evidence suggests than mankind was diving for natural pearls almost 7,500 years ago. Ever since, pearls have constantly adorned our fine jewellery, art and fashion. The most beautiful natural pearls extravagantly decorated the gowns of European royalty and were coveted for their rarity and value. Today, natural pearls are rare and highly sought after.
With the introduction of the cultured pearl from Japan in the 1920s, the pearl has achieved broader luxury and fashionable appeal.
Natural pearls have been found throughout history in mussels and oysters. The creation of a pearl is believed today to be the result of an intrusion of a parasite or an injury to the mollusk, not with a grain of sand as many once believed. It will take years for the mollusc to slowly deposit concentric layers of an organic material called nacre to form a natural pearl.
Mollusks such as abalone, clams, melo melo and conch can also produce natural pearls.
Almost all the pearls available today are now cultured with human assistance. These cultured pearls are still classed as real pearls as they are grown in mollusks. Most cultured pearls are grown in varieties of freshwater mussels or saltwater oysters. Once the pearl culturing process has been started, the pearl farmer has little direct control over of the final size, shape and colour of the pearl produced.
One of the unique qualities of a pearl is its mother-of-pearl like substance called nacre. Concentric layers of nacre reflect and diffract light from the pearl's surface to create its characteristic lustre and overtones. These shimmering reflections are a pearl's most important quality.
White, Cream, Golden, Pink, Silver, Grey, Green and Black are naturally occurring colours.
Some pearls may also be treated with bleaching, irradiation or dye to change their colour.
Where it's found
Cultured pearls today are grown in freshwater lakes, remote coastal and ocean areas, mainly in Australia, China, French Polynesia, the Gulf of Mexico, Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar (Burma) and the Philippines.
2.5 (1 soft to 10 hard)
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