Pearls that are carefully looked after can last for several hundred years. Here are some tips on how to wear and look after your pearls correctly.
As they originate from calcium carbonate, pearls are sensitive to atmospheric agents. They may dry out or crack, in intense heat.
Anything that impairs limestone and organic material can also affect pearls. For this reason it is essential to avoid direct contact with fragrances (a pearl necklace should always be worn after spraying perfume on your neck, never before), sweat, detergents or chemicals of any kind, especially chlorine, deodorants or acids.
Pearl jewelry needs to be cleaned regularly using a soft, slightly-moistened cloth. Each pearl should be cleaned individually and thoroughly, including the hard to reach corners. Store your pearl jewelry in its own case, or wrap it in a soft cloth to prevent it from coming into
contact with other gems.
Nacre is the very essence of a pearl.
As it has a direct influence on the luster, the nacre is an essential criterion when classifying pearls: the thicker the nacre, the more resistant the pearl.
There are no universally-recognized criteria for cataloguing and classifying pearls, as is the case for diamonds. This lack of a universal standard is one reason why there is little knowledge of pearls. There can sometimes be confusion about the difference in price between one pearl and another, as the differences may appear unjustified in some cases.
Gemologists deem that small differences in quality can lead to big differences in price.
South Sea pearls are easy to recognize thanks to their large size. In general, they range in diameter from 9 mm to 15 mm, but in rare cases can be even larger (16-20 mm).
South Sea pearls do not need to be artificially dyed or treated before being sold. Thanks to their beauty and distinctive qualities, South Sea pearls are known as “the Queens of Pearls and the Pearls of Queens”.
The first step is culturing the oyster. It takes approximately two years to culture a South Sea pearl. A single nucleus is implanted in each oyster. After the first harvest, the oyster is returned to the water (at a depth of around 10 m) in the hope that a new harvest can take place, two years later. In rare cases, this process can be repeated a third time, depending on the age and health of the oyster.
Only a small part of the harvested pearls are round. Most of them have different shapes: semi-round, teardrop, button, circle-shaped or baroque. This diversity of shape, together with the unlimited variety of natural colors, is what makes each pearl unique.
South Sea pearls usually have a higher value than other varieties, for various reasons: their limited availability, large size, the length of the cultivation process, the thickness of the nacre (nacre, or motherof-pearl, is a substance that the mollusk or oyster secretes to form the inside of the shell), and the variety of natural colors.
There are two types of South Sea pearls.
WHITE SOUTH SEA PEARLS
These pearls are cultivated inside the Pinctada Maxima, a mollusk whose shell can reach a diameter of 25-30 cm.
The color varies from silver white to dark gold, enriched with nuances of pink, cream, yellow, green and blue. Australia is the main producer of this type of pearl, followed by Indonesia and the Philippines.
BLACK SOUTH SEA PEARLS
These pearls are cultivated inside the Pinctada Margaritifera, which has a diameter of 12-15 cm. Black South Sea pearls are the only naturallyoccurring black pearls and are found in a huge range of shades. The colors range from black to peacock green, grey to blue and brown. This type of pearl is cultured in the Southern Pacific, which stretches eastwards from the Cook Islands towards Tahiti (the main producer), the Tuamoto Archipelago and the Gambier Islands in French Polynesia.
Akoya pearls are cultured inside a bivalve mollusk, the Pinctada Fucata Martensii.
As this oyster is smaller in size (approximately 7-8 cm), the diameter of these pearls is between 2 and 9 mm, and they rarely reach 10 mm.
Originating from Japan, the Akoya is cultured according to a tradition that dates back more than a century.
The Akoya oyster can be implanted with 3 to 5 nuclei, depending on the size and condition of the shell and the diameter of each nucleus.
As Akoya pearls spend less time in the sea than South Sea pearls, the mother-of-pearl around the nucleus is thinner.
Generally, the percentage of round or semi-round Akoya pearls is significantly higher than the pearls cultivated in the South Seas.
The main colors of Akoya pearls are white, silver grey, pink and champagne.
As with other pearls, the price of Akoya pearls is based on their availability, size and quality. Their quality depends on the shape, color, luster,
surface and thickness of the nacre.
Japan, China and Vietnam are the major producers of Akoya pearls.
Freshwater pearls come in an almost infinite variety of shapes, colors and sizes.
They range in diameter from 2-3 mm to more than 10 mm.
The mollusks used to culture them come from the Unionidi family. They can be found in many rivers, lakes and ponds.
Externally, they are generally brown in color and oval in shape, reaching lengths of up to 30 cm, and widths of up to 20 cm.
Unlike sea-cultured pearls, most freshwater pearls do not have a nucleus. Depending on age, the size of the shell and the size of the pearls, growers can inject between 20 and 60 mantle fragments from another mollusk, under the oyster’s mantle.
The more time that passes, the larger the pearl becomes. After harvesting, the shells can be returned to the water, to yield new pearls a few years later.
FRESHWATER PEARLS SHAPE
Freshwater pearls come in an infinite number of shapes, although the most popular are the semiround, oval, egg, button and teardrop shapes.
The range of colors is vast, incorporating different shades: white, champagne, cream, pink, orange, purple, lilac, blue and brown.
Despite their quality, beautiful colors, shapes and sizes, freshwater pearls do not have a very high value. This is due to the large quantity of pearls produced, which makes them less rare, and therefore less sought after.
Today, China is the world’s primary producer of freshwater pearls, followed by Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.