For about six centuries, the Pearl has been seen as a symbol of luxury, wealth and power. Only the very rich and powerful could afford to pay for Pearls. Before the era of the cultured Pearl, the so-called Pearl divers dared their lives to show up natural Pearls. They had to stay under the sea level for a long time and open the oyster’s one by one, hoping to find a Pearl. Most people talked about Natural Pearls, Cultured Pearls and Imitation Pearls
Well-known regions where people used to live in Pearl diving were the Middle East (Bahrain, Emirates, Oman - Persian Gulf), South India and Sri Lanka, the Japanese seas and in the Pacific.
A Pearl is formed when an intruder penetrates into the shell. The oyster shell will resist and push the intruder against the shell wall and encapsulate it. This is done by depositing layers of mother-of-Pearl around the intruder. A naturally formed Pearl is rare and nowadays very expensive: prices for a necklace start at about a few thousand euros for the very small specimens (2-3mm). For the very special ones you have to count on amounts with 4 or even 5 zeros, up to considerable millions for the very special ones, which are only available at special auctions. Also for old or antique Pearls applies: often only available at specialist jewelers or specific antique auctions. The real natural Pearl usually has a diameter of approx. 2 to 7 mm. Nowadays, the Pearls are (for cost-technical reasons) largely cultivated. The pear cultivation was developed by the Japanese Kokichi Mikimoto and patented in 1896.
Where do Pearl oysters occur?
Pearls are mainly made by Pearl oysters that occur in the Red Sea, the waters around Sri Lanka, the Malaysian Archipelago, North and Western Australia, Japan, and the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean. In fact, all bivalve shellfish can make Pearls. If someone finds a Pearl in cooked mussels, that is almost always in the news. Freshwater Pearl mussels also occur in freshwater, in Northern Europe and in China. In the past, the European freshwater Pearl mussel also occurred in the Netherlands. Because of the water pollution and the disappearance of clear streams, it is now extinct here.
Distinguish the freshwater Pearl and the saltwater Pearl
The freshwater Pearl usually grows in a mussel shell or sometimes in a snail shell, the saltwater Pearl often in an oyster shell. The method used with cultured Pearls differs for freshwater and saltwater Pearls. In the case of freshwater Pearls, a piece of donor shell is placed in the shell in the shell. This donor coat then makes so much mother-of-Pearl that after two winters and three summers a beautiful Pearl has been created. Several pieces of donor shell can be applied per shell, so that growing freshwater Pearls leads to more production (per shell) than saltwater Pearls. To date, freshwater Pearls are (usually) nuclear-free.
In saltwater Pearls, a core - also of mother-of-Pearl - is inserted into the reproductive organ of the animal itself, together with a piece of the mantle. This jacket ensures that a layer of mother-of-Pearl is formed around the core. Within the saltwater Pearls we distinguish the Akoya Pearl, the Tahitian Pearl and the South Sea Pearl, the latter of which is generally the largest and often most expensive variant. The beautiful Akoya Pearl traditionally still comes from Japan, preferably even now including certificate of authenticity.
In China, saltwater Pearls are grown, especially the Akoya, but these are not comparable with the Japanese saltwater Pearl in terms of quality. China has slowly but on a very large scale, taken over the pear cultivation from Japan. Freshwater Pearls are also grown (more than 90%) in China.
As far as the quality of Pearls is concerned, the following can be said in general:
the bigger the Pearl, the more expensive;
the rounder the shape, the better;
natural colors (pink / skin color / cream / white) are generally more valuable than hard colors;
the degree of gloss (or luster) of the Pearl is also decisive;
the better sheen comes from "inside" as it were, several Pearl layers that were formed in the Pearl often give a better luster
the surface of the Pearl is preferably completely smooth, so without flat pieces on which the Pearl has its shell or growth rings;
the thickness of the mother-of-Pearl layers of a few millimeters thick is more valuable than 1 to 2 mm.
The quality indication of Pearls is as follows: C, B, A, AA, AA + and AAA, of which the AAA is the most perfect and valuable Pearl. The standard size for the valuation of a Pearl is approx. 7.5mm. The value often goes up twice per millimeter. Saltwater Pearls are generally much more expensive than freshwater Pearls. Within the category freshwater Pearls, however, there are also considerable differences in price, which are mostly related to size, color, luster, surface, etc, in short the quality indicators as mentioned above and which apply to saltwater as freshwater Pearls.
Modern shapes and colors
Although Pearls should preferably be round in shape during the last century, other forms such as the grain of rice, baroque Pearl, and the Keshi Pearls are very well known today. In particular, the larger Baroque Pearl - preferably in large drop form and the Keshi Pearls are sought after and more expensive forms.
The original keshis are Pearls that have accidentally originated during the insertion of the core into an Akoya oyster. It is a Japanese name, which stands for: Poppy Seed. The keshis are found in the mantle of the oyster. The Keshis Pearls consist of pure mother-of-Pearl and have no core. Keshis Pearls can also be created in other shells. It also happens that the shell emits the implanted core or because it damages the tissue during the insertion of a core. In both cases, mother-of-Pearl is deposited and an erratic, in the form of 'chips', formed Pearls. Usually these Pearls have a high gloss (luster). Only few Keshis are formed by improved techniques. There is therefore a great demand for 'keshis' and they are therefore usually not cheap.
In addition to the cultured Pearls, you nowadays see plastic and glass beads more and more often, in large shapes and individual colors. The advantage is that these Pearls are a lot cheaper, but they are obviously not comparable to the cultured Pearl, let alone the truly naturally formed Pearl. A special form of artificial Pearls is the so-called "shell Pearls" or "Shell Pearls". They are made from the shell of the Pearl, (lesser grades are sometimes first pulverized and some glued or made with binder to solid substance or an ordinary shell is used as a base) and cut to round shape and cut from a large piece of shell. Then they are provided with a shiny (Pearly) layer as the natural Pearl has. It is therefore not a Pearl that has originated or grown itself and it is also not a cultivated/cultivated Pearl. There are very nice Shell Pearls that cannot really be distinguished at first sight; they can be very beautiful and usually (too) perfectly round. The shine of such a "Pearl" is often (too) consistent and the size can also be very large. A shell Pearl therefore exists - except for the color layer - from natural materials, but may not be called a real Pearl.
Pearls and fashion
After the Pearl ripple at the beginning of this century, the tear of the sea slowly got out of fashion in the sixties and seventies. Although the classic Pearl necklace remained a cherished jewel for many women, the Pearl was given an old-fashioned image. That image changed drastically in the nineties, Pearls are again in full attention. Every film star wears and a bride who does not wear Pearls almost belongs to the exceptions. Pearls have shaken off their dusty reputation and because of the modern way they are worn today; they combine just as well with jeans as with a classic suit. Especially the larger Pearl is very popular. The time that the lock of a Pearl necklace was worn out of sight at the back of the neck is over: many contemporary Pearls have beautiful locks that are worn in the middle. Incidentally, changing the lock is a great tip if you have a somewhat older Pearl necklace in the closet by the Pearls to let it knot again and have a modern lock in between, the necklace gets a whole new face. It is very fashionable to have gold beads placed between the Pearls or use colored stones in that connection. Pearls adapt effortlessly in every new context. A Pearl always bears witness to understated chic.
Maintenance of your Pearls
Pearls are precious and require careful treatment. The best thing you can do for your Pearls is wear them a lot: the natural fat of the skin increases the shine of the Pearl. Never store Pearls in a box or case that also contains other jewelry. They can easily scratch. A Pearl necklace can be ruined by hairspray or perfume. Always apply your cosmetics before you put your jewelry on. If your Pearls are dirty you can clean them with lukewarm water and a chamois cloth. Never use a chemical cleaner! Let your Pearl necklace, if you wear it a lot, once a year again. In addition, a button must be placed after each bead. This prevents you from losing Pearls if the cord could break unexpectedly. Also for the maintenance of your Pearl jewelry: ask your jeweler or goldsmith for advice, he or she will be happy to answer all your questions
Purchase of Pearls
When you consider the purchase of a Pearl jewelry for yourself or as a gift for someone you love, you invest in timeless beauty. With such a purchase, it is important that you receive the correct advice. Your jeweler or goldsmith is the designated person for this. He or she can answer all your questions about Pearls and can help you determine your choice. The professional experience combined with your personal taste will result in the choice of exactly that jewelry that suits you and that you will cherish the rest of your life.