Cultured Pearls

An emblem of modesty, chastity, and purity, the pearl symbolizes love, success, and happiness. Centuries ago, it was thought that a single drop of rain, falling from the heavens, fell into the open oyster and produced a pearl. The pearl's classic beauty is universal, flattering, and perfect for all ages. Pearl is the birthstone for June.

Cultured Pearls

Cultured Pearls

An emblem of modesty, chastity, and purity, the pearl symbolizes love, success, and happiness. Centuries ago, it was thought that a single drop of rain, falling from the heavens, fell into the open oyster and produced a pearl. The pearl's classic beauty is universal, flattering, and perfect for all ages. Pearl is the birthstone for June.

Pearl

Characteristics

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.


Treatments

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.

Pearl and Diamonds

Pearl Flower

Care

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 ultrasonic machines.