Mr. Warren Buffett
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
3555 Farnam Street
Omaha, NE 68131
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A pearl is produced by a living organism, which makes it an
organic gem. Until about 100 years ago, all pearl jewelry was
made up of natural pearls (no intervention by man). Natural
pearls could take up to 10 years to grow to 7mm in size. This
changed, in the late 1800's, when pearl farmers began to harvest
pearls in crops. Now, there are about 5,000 cultured pearl farms
around the world. Therefore, today most pearls are created by
artificially inserting an "irritant" into a mollusk. The mollusk then
covers the bead with nacre, which takes anywhere from 6 months
to 2 years, forming a cultured pearl.
Pearls are grouped into two main categories-salt or freshwater
pearls. Cultured saltwater pearls come from oysters in oceans,
seas, gulfs, and bays. The most popular cultured saltwater pearl
is called the Akoya pearl, typically 6mm to 8 mm in diameter, and
usually white or cream in color. Australian South Seas and
Tahitian pearls are the largest in the world,
ranging from 8mm to 18mm or larger.
Freshwater pearls are generally more irregular in shape, and
more varied in color than saltwater pearls. They are found in
mussels or oysters in rivers, lakes or ponds.
Pearls are routinely treated to enhance their color by bleaching,
buffing, coating dyeing and irradiation. Bleaching is routinely
performed on most pearls to remove darker spots and it is usually
undetectable. Cultured pearls are buffed or polished to enhance the
luster, and this again is undetectable. Cultured pearls are sometimes
coated with lacquer, temporarily improving luster, but eventually it will
wear off. Dyes may also be used to change the color of a cultured
pearl, but are considered less valuable than one of the same color
occurring naturally. Irradiation can also be used to change
color-giving cultured pearls a metallic look.
Because pearls are an organic gemstone, special care must be
taken to maintain their beauty. The best care for pearls is wear.
Natural oils keep them lustrous. Avoid exposing pearls to
chemicals such as hairsprays, make-up and perfume, as well as
household chemicals. After wearing your pearls, make sure you
wipe them down with a soft damp cloth. Should they become
soiled with perfume or make-up, you may use very mild soapy
water. Do not submerge your pearl strand in water as this may
weaken the silken threads. Professional cleaning is
recommended. Never place pearls in jewelry cleaners or
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