What are South Sea Cultured Pearls
South Sea pearls are saltwater cultured pearls grown in the south seas – the warm waters of Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar and Thailand. Using the oyster species Pinctada maxima, these pearls are the largest and rarest grown. They are usually large pearls with exceptional quality and a whitish, nearly silver color.
South Sea pearls are cultured, meaning they are formed by a pearl farmer implanting a mother-of-pearl bead into an oyster. The oyster then produces layers of nacre, forming the pearl. (Natural pearls are formed when an irritant finds its way into an oyster without human assistance.)
Where do South Sea cultured pearls come from?
The warm waters surround Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, and Thailand.
South Sea Cultured Pearl Characteristics
South Sea cultured pearls have distinct characteristics – most notably, their size. South Sea cultured pearls are grown in very large oysters – much larger than freshwater cultured pearl oysters and Akoya cultured pearl oysters. The resulting South Sea cultured pearls generally measure between 9 to 17 millimeters in diameter and come in round, semi-round, and drop shapes.
Not only are the oysters used to produce South Sea cultured pearls large, they are also either gold-lipped or silver-lipped resulting in pearls with a gold, white, or cream hue. The warm climate in the South Seas helps the pearls develop a soft, satiny luster. Their nacre is very thick, creating a mirror-like quality that makes the pearls look as though they are glowing from within rather than reflecting the light around them.
South Sea cultured pearls are never treated or bleached. This does not mean that South Sea cultured pearls are natural – only that they are untreated. Natural pearls are pearls that are grown without the help of a pearl farmer.
South Sea Cultured Pearls Value/Grading
South Sea cultured pearls are considered some of the rarest and extraordinary pearls you’ll find in jewelry. Prized for their satiny luster and thick layers of nacre, South Sea cultured pearls are generally considered more valuable than most other types of pearls.
So how much is a South Sea cultured pearl worth? That depends on its quality. Borsheims uses the jewelry industry’s standard grading system for pearls using a scale from A-AAA. The highest grade a pearl can receive on the A-AAA scale is Gem Grade – that is a pearl with excellent luster and no imperfections. A grade of AAA indicates a pearl is 90% flawless with very high to excellent luster. An AA grade indicates 70% flawless and high to very high luster. A grade of A means that 60% of the pearl’s surface may have flaws and that luster is poor to very high.
Because South Sea cultured pearls are known for their high luster, special care is taken in grading them. Borsheims expertly-trained staff can explain the differences between varying pearls.
South Sea Cultured Pearl Care
South Sea cultured pearls need the same level of care as other pearls. They are organic gemstones – meaning they were formed by an organism – and so their care is different than that of other gemstones. South Sea cultured pearls, like other pearls, like to be worn. Sitting in a jewelry box for too long can cause them to get dehydrated. When wearing the pearls, though, follow the rule that pearls should be the last thing put on and the first thing taken off. Pearls can be harmed by things like cosmetics, perfume, and hairspray.
After wearing pearls, gently wipe them with a soft cloth and if they are soiled, very mild soapy water can be used. Pearl strands should not be submerged in water as this may weaken the silken threads.
South Sea Cultured Pearl Jewelry
South Sea cultured pearl jewelry is considered some of the most beautiful and rare pearl jewelry available. It provides a classic look that never goes out of style and is an ideal gift for every person – not just the lucky ones with June birthdays!
Borsheims carries a wide variety of South Sea cultured pearl jewelry, from antique pearl rings to gorgeous brand new pearl strands.