Pearls


Pearls


SOUTH SEA BLACK PEARLS

South Sea Black Pearls are very large naturally black pearls. They are also referred to as Tahitian Pearls.

Colour

Black South Sea Pearls occur naturally in a range of colours from grey to black. Black pearls are very rare and should not be confused with artificially coloured pearls.

Black lipped oysters have a rainbow like mantle which exhibits many colours. Tahiti and the Cook Islands produce the most rare, natural black pearls in lagoons in the South Pacific.

Size

Black South Sea Pearls start at 7mm diameter. The average size is 9-14mm. Pearls over 16mm in size are rare and considered to be very large.

Shape

Five basic shapes are defined at production.

  • Round – a perfectly round sphere
  • Semi-round – slightly imperfect shape
  • Semi- baroque – pear shaped, teardrop, oval or button
  • Baroque – irregular with no symmetry
  • Ringed or circled – bands around the pearl circumference
  • Only 5% of black pearls produced have a perfectly round shape.

Location

Tahiti now produces the most natural black pearls, but they are also grown in the Cook Islands and other islands in French Polynesia.


SOUTH SEA WHITE PEARLS

South Sea White Pearls are very large round pearls.

Colour

Australian South Sea pearls are famous the world over because of their exceptional lustre and creamy colours. The colour of the pearl depends on the colour of the mother of pearl lining inside the shell of the Pinctada maxima oyster.

Silver lipped generally produces pearls with white, silver, aqua and blue overtones. The gold lipped varieties develop cream, champagne, vanilla and deeper golden pearls. The rarest and most expensive colour of South sea Pearl is pinkish-white, but the silvery-white is also in high demand and very expensive.

Fancy intense yellow and a variety of golden tones are also available. Golden pearls generally come from the Philippines and Indonesia. The Indonesian golden pearls are usually lighter than the Philippine golden pearls.The Philippine Golden South Sea Pearl has a natural rich dark golden colour and excellent luster.

Size

South Sea Pearls start at 9mm diameter. The average size is 11-12mm. Pearls over 16mm in size are considered to be very large. In very rare cases, South Sea Pearls have been known to exceed 20mm.

Shape

Because South Sea Pearls are cultivated for longer, they aren’t perfectly round.

Five basic shapes are defined at production.

  • Round – a perfectly round sphere
  • Semi-round – slightly imperfect shape
  • Semi- baroque – pear shaped, teardrop, oval or button
  • Baroque – irregular with no symmetry
  • Ringed or circled – bands around the pearl circumference

Location

Most South Sea Pearls are now cultivated in Australia, mainly in Western Australia on the North West Coast. Indonesia and the Philippines also produce South Sea Pearls. Burma was once the most important producer of the rarest and finest South Sea pearls in the world.

Australia supplies unique South Sea Pearls. They are well-known for their size, rich, satiny lustre and creamy white colours which is a product of the tropical waters of the South Sea.


AKOYA PEARLS

Akoya pearls are considered the classic cultured pearl, the smaller size balanced by a renowned lustre. They are generally white or cream coloured, with overtone colours of rose, silver, or cream.

Culture

Japan’s presence in the international pearl market began in 1907. A team led by Kokichi Mikimoto became the first to successfully cultivate pearls. They inserted a round bead and a small piece of tissue into a Pinctada fucata martensii oyster. The result was a small, round pearl with stunning lustre. The Chinese began culturing saltwater Akoya pearls in the 1960’s, but had limited success until the late 1980’s. While once considered inferior to their Japanese counterparts, China is now producing Akoya pearls of qualities that rival that of the Japanese in every quality factor. Akoya oysters rarely produce more than 2 pearls per harvest. They take 6-18 months to grow.

Colour

Akoya pearls produce naturally radiant pastel shades of pearl. Most Akoya pearls are white to grey with pink, green or silver overtones. Japanese Akoya pearls usually have a rich pink overtone. They cost up to four times as much as Chinese Akoya pearls. They also have thicker nacre which gives them a truly deep lustre. Akoya pearls are never naturally black. These pearls have undergone radiation treatment or have been dyed.

Size

The Akoya oyster is the smallest pearl producing oyster farmed today. Their pearls also tend to be small, ranging in size from about 2 to 9 mm.

Because of pressure from Chinese pearl farmers, many Japanese pearl farmers have focused their attention on culturing large Akoya pearls. China rarely produces Akoya pearls greater than 8mm.

Shape

Using a bead as a nucleus results in a pearl with a more perfectly round shape. Akoya pearls are rounder than freshwater pearls.

Location

The Akoya oyster is famously found in Japan where it has formed the basis of a multi-million dollar pearling industry.


FRESHWATER PEARLS

Freshwater pearls are the most common type of pearl. As the name suggests they are grown in freshwater rather than saltwater, usually in mussels that live in lakes and rivers. As opposed to South Sea and Akoya cultured pearls which are grown in saltwater in oysters. The process used to produce most freshwater pearls doesn’t require a shell nucleus. Tissue grafting techniques are used.

Culture

Freshwater pearls are cultured by tissue nucleation. This means that the mussel is pried open enough for a technician to insert a small piece of tissue into the gonads of the mussel. This acts as an irritant and begins the production of nacre which starts the formation of the pearl.

This is why it is rare to find a round freshwater pearl. It also means that a freshwater pearl is virtually all nacre which gives a freshwater pearl outstanding lustre and makes them great value for money. Freshwater pearls also quite durable and resist chipping, wear and degeneration.

Thanks to advances in pearl farming technology, one mussel is capable of producing as many as 50 pearls at a time although current production limits each shell to 24-32 pearls. This mass production has made freshwater pearls more affordable. Culturing takes 2-7 years.

Colour

Freshwater pearls come in a wide range of colours. This is a big advantage over saltwater varieties and it makes them highly versatile for jewellery. Natural colours include orange, peach, aqua-silver, mauve, lavender, pink and white.Freshwater pearls may also be dyed. Dyed colours include purple, blue, gold, green and grey. It is important that you ask if the colour of your pearls is natural before you buy them.

Size

Sizes range from tiny seed pearls of 1-2mm in diameter to 15mm in diameter.

Shape

It is very rare to find a round freshwater pearl. Even the most round of freshwater pearls will never be completely spherical, although it may appear so to the naked eye.

Shapes are varied and include:

  • Potato shaped
  • Biwa
  • Rice shaped
  • Button
  • Coin shaped
  • Drop
  • Off round
  • Round

Location

Primary sources of freshwater cultured pearls are China, Japan and America. Commercial production of freshwater pearls originated in Japan but factors such as pollution and viral disease have hampered their production. At the moment, however, China is a world leader in the production of freshwater pearls.


MABE

Mabe are half round pearls, they grown on the inside of the oyster or mussel shell. The Mabe pearl is cultured by a half piece nucleus rather than a round one (often plastic or crushed up oyster), by implanting it against the inside of the oyster shell, rather than within its tissue. The mollusc secretes nacre over the bead; the Mabe pearl is then cut from the shell, and replaced with a resin. The back of the pearl is then capped with a piece of mother-of-pearl to complete the Mabe pearl. They are often used for jewellery items such as rings, earrings and pendants.


KESHI

A Keshi pearl is a non-beaded pearl formed by accident as a by-product of a pearl culturing operation. Keshi may form in either saltwater or freshwater pearls. They are generally small in size, and because there is no nucleus to guide the shaping of the pearl, their shapes vary. They are renowned for their high lustre and iridescence and unique shapes due their solid-nacre composition. Keshi pearls are made up entirely of pearly layers and range in diameter from 2-8mm. They are typically baroque in shape and are used mainly to decorate earrings, bracelets, necklaces and brooches.

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