Perhaps the best-loved gems of all time, is pearls. They represent purity and range in a wide variety of colors. The most familiar colors are white and cream (a light yellowish brown). Black, gray, and silver are also fairly common, but the palette of pearl colors extends to every hue.
What is a Cultured Pearl?
Natural pearls are so rare to find in nature that most pearls sold today are cultured. Natural pearls form in the bodies, or mantle tissue, of certain mollusks, usually around a microscopic irritant, and always without human help of any kind. The growth of cultured pearls requires human intervention and care. Today, most of the mollusks used in the culturing process are raised specifically for that purpose, although some wild mollusks are still collected a used.
To begin the process, a skilled technician takes mantle tissue from a sacrificed mollusk of the same species and inserts a shell bead along with a small piece of mantle tissue into a host mollusk’s gonad, or several pieces of mantle tissue without beads into a host mollusk’s mantle. If a bead is used, the mantle tissue grows and forms a sac around it and secretes nacre inward and onto the bead to eventually form a cultured pearl. If no bead is used, nacre forms around the individual implanted mantle tissue pieces. The nacre produces layers which the pearls their luster and color.
There are four major types of cultured whole pearls:
Akoya—This type is most familiar to many jewelry customers. Japan and China both produce saltwater akoya cultured pearls.
South Sea—Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines are leading sources of these saltwater cultured pearls.
Tahitian—Cultivated primarily around the islands of French Polynesia (the most familiar of these is Tahiti), these saltwater cultured pearls usually range from white to black.
Freshwater—These are usually cultured in freshwater lakes and ponds. They’re produced in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors. China and the US are the leading sources.
Choosing the Right Pearl
At I.D Jewelry we offer a variety of Freshwater, South Sea, and Tahitian cultured pearls and Akoya cultured pearls as well. Our pearl jewelry is available in a variety of different styles including studs, fashion earrings, strands, necklaces, pendants and bracelets. In addition, we offer our pearls in varying price ranges so that you can find the perfect pearl for your style and budget.
While industry wide there is no standardized grading for pearls, we ensures that each pearl meets our high quality standards. You will find education related to each pearl type we offer and encourage you to learn more about the differing qualities in each.
The general color of a pearl is also called the body color. Typical pearl colors are white, cream, yellow, pink, silver, or black. A pearl can also have a hint of secondary color, or overtone, which is seen when light reflects off the pearl surface. For example, a pearl strand may appear white, but when examined more closely, a pink overtone may become apparent.
Pearls produce an intense, deep shine called luster. This effect is created when light reflects off the many layers of tiny calcium carbonate crystals that compose the pearl. This substance is called nacre. When selecting a pearl, consider that the larger the pearl, the more nacre it has, so it will also exhibit even more luster. Compare a 5mm Freshwater cultured pearl with a 10mm South Sea cultured pearl and the difference in the amount of nacre is obvious. The difference in luster is as clearly visible as the difference in the pearl sizes.
We offer the highest quality, rarest pearl shape – round. Shapes that are not spherical or even symmetrical are considered lower quality. Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls found in jewelry have a tendency to be the roundest, while Freshwater pearls can be oval or slightly off-round.
As a mollusk creates a pearl, the layers of nacre do not always adhere smoothly. Sometimes spots and bubbles can appear in the layering process. Pearls with the smoothest surfaces are the highest-quality, most sought-after pearls. We offer pearls with a range of surface qualities.
The size of the pearl greatly depends on the type of pearl. Freshwater pearls range in size from about 3.0-7.0mm, Akoya pearls range from about 6.0-8.5mm, and South Sea and Tahitian pearls can reach sizes as large as 13mm.
When cared for properly, pearls can last a lifetime. The best way to care for pearls is to wear them often as the body's natural oils keep pearls lustrous. However, it's important to keep them away from household chemicals including perfume, makeup and hairspray. Chemicals found in these common products can dull the luster of your pearls. It is recommended that you put your pearls on last when getting ready and make them the first thing you take off when you come home. Before putting your pearls away, wipe them with a soft cloth and store them separate from other jewelry to avoid scratching their tender surfaces.