What makes the perfect pearl?
27th Jun 2016
If there is one thing on earth that sums up the mother nature’s ability to create unimaginable beauty then the pearl must be it. Pearls are unique amongst jewellery, in that most is made of precious metals and gemstones that are mined from the earth’s crust; whereas pearls are created by a living creature. This month’s birthstone has been labelled the ‘Queen of gems’, and it’s not difficult to see why. It’s even said to attract wealth and luck, which makes pearls worth purchasing in itself! The question is, how do you choose the perfect pearl? Pearls have been considered as the world’s oldest gem, and have a wealth of history. It was said that the first pearl was discovered by people searching the seashore for food! In the early 20th century natural pearls were said to be the most valuable of all the gems; natural gems are still very expensive due to their rarity. Pearls have been mentioned in various lores and legends including Greek mythology and Asian philosophies, as well as being mentioned in Rossman’s story of Cleopatra. Unlike most gemstones that are mined, pearls are created by living organisms and their existence is one of nature’s greatest phenomenons known as ‘the teardrop of the gods’. A pearl is produced when a foreign object is introduced into a mussel or an oyster, and it is a defence mechanism for the soft shellfish to protect itself from something that may damage it. The animal coats the irritant with a substance called nacre, the same material with which it makes it shell. Layers of nacre build up to make a pearl! Natural pearls are becoming increasingly rare, and most pearls that are sold today are cultured. Cultured pearls are man-made, and created by placing a tiny bead into the oyster’s shell. Gradually, over time, the oyster coats the beads in many layers of nacre. It is the nacre that gives the pearl it’s fabulous lustre. Choosing the perfect pearl There are three main types of cultured pearls that are commonly sold today; these are Freshwater, South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls. Freshwater pearls Freshwater pearls are derived from freshwater mussels and are mainly produced in China. Freshwater pearls come in an assortment of pastel shades; whites, pinks, peaches, purples and tangerines. The typical size of a freshwater pearl is 2mm – 16mm, with 7mm – 8mm being the most common. The larger a pearl is the longer it has been cultivated; also meaning that more layers of nacre have been applied by the mussel, which is often reflected in the price. Tahitian pearls Tahitian pearls come from those warm tropical waters of French Polynesia. (White sand beaches, azure blue seas, cocktails at sunset and hula skirts come to mind!) Tahitian pearls are grown in black lipped oysters and are the only pearl that can achieve a black body colour naturally. Tahitian pearls are often quite large between 9mm – 16mm. The hues vary from black, grey, blue and purple. South sea pearls The most expensive pearl on the market! South Sea pearls are saltwater pearls cultivated from oysters found in the South Seas off Northern Australia and South East Asia. They are large in size, 10mm - 20mm, and have stunning silver and gold tones. These are the creme de la crème of pearls as they are extremely rare and have a stunning lustre due to the thickness of the nacre. Things to consider when looking for perfect pearl jewellery Colour There is such a huge range of colours and tones available today that this is extremely tricky. Personal preference is, as always, key. White will always be the classic, timeless, choice and is extremely versatile. It is said that Persian princesses would adorn themselves in white pearl necklaces. Think Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, elegantly embellished with a multi strand white pearl necklace and pearl earrings. Black pearls are a great alternative choice made up of grey, green and blue tones. Black pearls have a beautiful exotic appeal. Pink, peaches and lavender shades are great fun, and perfect for summer. Make sure if you buying a strand pearl necklace or bracelet that your pearls are all colour matched for that extremely sophisticated look. Pearl Shape When you are looking at cultured pearls there are a few factors you should consider that will help you determine the value of your pearls. If you are looking at pearls that are perfectly rounded, then expect those pearls to be of high value. A perfectly rounded pearl is the ideal. That is not to say that unique and baroque off round pearls aren’t extremely beautiful! You can purchase beautiful pearl bracelets with baroque pearls and they look fabulous, but at a fraction of the price! Pearl surface This is a key factor to consider when choosing the perfect pearl; the cleaner the surface the better the pearl. As with everything natural there will always be some imperfections; look out for scratches and scruffs and minor colour variations, tiny bumps on the surface and wrinkles where the nacre hasn’t formed smoothly. Slight imperfections will not detract from the pearl, nor will the pearl lose any value, however anything extremely noticeable should be taken into account as these will lower the value of your purchase. Pearl Lustre We’re sure everyone has heard lustre and pearl mentioned in the same sentence! This is because they go hand in hand. When choosing pearls look for a high lustre and a high sheen, as the better the lustre the more the pearl will glimmer and shine. If the pearls you are buying have a high lustre you should be able to see yourself reflecting in them. It is so important that your pearls do not look dull because ideally you want them to glimmer and sheen in the light. A poor surface will affect the lustre of your pearls. Pearl size Size does matter when it comes to pearls! But remember, bigger isn’t always better. A good rule is to go to opt for around 7mm for women and slightly smaller for teenagers. As you get older then you are more likely to suit slightly larger pearls. However, find a size that suits you and is to your taste, there is such variety of sizes you can’t fail to find something that is perfect for you. Make sure you purchase your pearls from a reputable company, don’t get hung up on brands when it comes to pearls as you will end up paying a lot extra for the branding rather than the pearl itself. We have saved the best test for a great pearl for last! The “tooth test” is the perfect way to test if a pearl is real or just a good imitation. Grab hold of that pearl and get your nashers out; gently rub the front of your tooth across the pearl, if the pearl feels smooth then it will be fake, the pearl should feel gritty on the tooth. This antique pearl necklace is one of our favourites in 18 carat yellow gold set with two rows of cultured pearls that have a wonderful creamy iridescence with fabulous silky undertones and a great lustre. These stunning antique pearl earrings have been crafted from 18 carat yellow gold. The earrings feature mabe pearls with a lustrous rich creamy colour that shimmers magically in the light. I hope this blog has helped you with your search to find the perfect pearl! If you have any questions about pearls, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Feature Image: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/511651207647945802/