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Pearl - 411

Copyright (c) 2006-2019 PearlsOnly
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You walk into a jewelry store and head over to the pearl showcase. More often than not, there is only one display case and at first glance, most of the pearls look the same.

After a few minutes with the sales person, you see that there the pieces vary greatly in price.

Why does one cost almost twice as much as the other? How do you find the best pearls for exactly what you need?

Here are a few tips to help choose pearls:


What Is A Pearl?

To start, let's look at pearls themselves. Pearls are an organic gem and are formed entirely with the oyster or other mollusk. These mollusks are filter feeders. This means that they open their shells slightly to allow water to flow in. The mollusks then take nutrients from the microscopic particles and organisms in the ocean water.

Small irritants, such as small ocean animals, can also float in. In addition, water parasites can also drill right through the mollusk's hard shell. To protect itself, the mollusk encloses the irritant in a sac and then secretes layer upon layer of nacre around the irritant. This slow and gradual build up of nacre creates the pearl.


What Are Cultured Pearls?

Today cultured pearls are grown using a similar process where the irritant and pearl nucleus are placed into the mollusk by skilled technicians. This procedure is basically mollusk surgery. Freshwater cultured pearls are nucleated with tissue so they are closest to natural pearls in growth. Saltwater Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea cultured pearls are bead nucleated. This means that the nacre is formed on the round bead resulting in rounder pearls. Today, most of the pearls you'll see in jewelry stores are cultured.


Cultured, Freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea – What Is The Difference?

Where the pearls are grown as well as the mollusk further subdivides the pearls you'll see. There are significant and subtle differences in each type of pearl.


To start, here are pearl specifics:

1. Freshwater

a. Average size: 6mm to 7mm range

b. Colors: White and pastels

c. Nucleation: Tissue

d. Environment: Freshwater ponds

e. Cultured in: Triangle shell mollusk (Hyriopsis cumingi)

f. Growth time: 2 to 6 years

g. Notes: Since these are tissue nucleated, rounder freshwater cultured pearls are valued more. In addition, the pearls themselves can be considered to be 100% nacre.


2. Akoya

a. Average size: 6mm to 7mm range

b. Colors: White with subtle overtones

c. Nucleation: Bead

d. Environment: Saltwater protected bays, lagoons and other similar bodies

e. Cultured in: Akoya oyster (Pinctada Fucata)

f. Growth time: 8 months to 2 years

g. Notes: There are two major regions for pearl growth – China and Japan. The Japanese created pearl culturing and has almost a century of experience. Chinese cultured pearls are newer to the market and tend to grow faster. There are differences in the resulting pearl. As a result, Japanese Akoya do command a higher and prestige value while Chinese Akoya are a great bargain buy.


3. South Sea

a. Average size: 12mm to 13mm range

b. Colors: White and golden

c. Nucleation: Bead

d. Environment: Saltwater protected bays, lagoons and other similar bodies

e. Growth time: 20 months to 2 years

f. Cultured in: Silver and Gold Lipped oyster (Pinctada maxima)

g. Notes: These are the largest of cultured pearls. Also they are the most valued for their rarity. With respect to color, the more saturated the golden color, the higher the value.


4. Tahitian

a. Average size: 10mm to 11mm range

b. Colors: Metallic colors ranging from silver to dark black

c. Nucleation: Bead

d. Environment: Saltwater protected bays, lagoons and other similar bodies

e. Cultured in: Black Lipped oyster (Pinctada margaritifera cumingi)

f. Growth time: 22 to 28 months

g. Notes: Tahitians are also seen as mainly black and large pearls. Some experts combine them with South Seas as they are grown in the same general part of the world. However, their appearance is much different and grown within a different species.


Pearl Appearance

Next, here are a few specifics about a pearl's appearance and value.


Pearl Color

Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors natural from brilliant white, colorful pastels and dark blacks. There are treated pearls as well. This treatment is permanent and allows for pearl options that were not previously available. As a matter of fact, treated black Akoya have been available in fine jewelry houses since the 1930's.

The overtone of a pearl is the color the color the pearl reflects. Color and overtone can be effected by ambient light as well as the light source. Fluorescent light can bring out more greens and blues while incandescent bulbs will bring out more reds.

Certain colors and overtone command higher values. However, the choice should be made based on the wearers' own coloring and preference. Here are a few preferred colors:

a. Freshwater – Brilliant white and pastels

b. Akoya – White with pink, beige or silver overtones

c. South Sea – Deeply saturated golden

d. Tahitian – dark with peacock green overtones.


Pearl Size

The old adage is that the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. This is true, a larger pearl with similar value factors will be more valuable than a smaller one. However there are size ranges where value increases exponentially. For example, Akoya average 6mm to 7mm. As a result, pearls within or under that range are more available than those that are larger. Larger than average pearls are rarer – Sweet spots where the value and size are best are:

a. Freshwater – 7mm to 8mm range

b. Akoya – 7mm to 8mm range

c. South Sea – 12mm to 13mm range

d. Tahitian – 10mm to 11mm range


Very rare and valuable pearl size ranges are:

e. Freshwater – 10mm and larger

f. Akoya – 9.5mm and larger

g. South Sea – 15mm and larger

h. Tahitian – 14mm and larger


Luster

Luster is one of the most important factors in evaluating a pearl. The shine or luster is how well a pearl reflects both light and images. An example is comparing luster to a mirror. An outstanding luster will have a mirror like shine and very sharp image reflection. Reflected images will have clean lines. A pearl with good or excellent luster will be valued more.


Roundness

Cultured pearls are valued on roundness as well. Roundness is determined by a visual inspection. Since freshwater cultured pearls are nucleated with tissue, they will tend to be less than round. However, less than 20% to 50% of bead nucleated pearls, such as Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea, will be considered round.

Baroque or pearls with different shapes can also be very unique. Many also prefer these shapes.


Surface

The surface or body of the pearl should be relatively free of blemishing. As pearls are natural gems, some minor surface blemishes should be accepted. A pearl with good luster will appear to be less blemished.

We hope this will give you just a bit of extra information when you walk into a jewelry store to choose your pearls. Ask questions to be confident that you have the right pearl for you. Also, for a bit more regarding pearls take a look at our online pearl education pages here – http://www.pearlsonly.com/pearls/customer/pages.php?pageid=313

Happy pearl shopping!!!


About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
Norma Jones is a GIA certified Pearls expert and the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at www.PearlsOnly.com. PearlsOnly is an internet based eCommerce business that provides high quality pearl jewelry direct to consumers. Our goal is complete customer satisfaction with the best selection of the finest pearls anywhere. We leverage our multinational presences to offer our clients high quality pearls, with above-and-beyond customer service at incredible prices. Visit us online at http://www.PearlsOnly.com or call us at 1(888)834-4148.

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