Pearls are the only gemstones made by living creatures. Pearls are the oldest known gem, and for centuries it was considered the most valuable. Different cultures have believed that pearls were everything from a symbol of prosperity to heavenly dewdrops that fell into the sea. Historically, pearls have been a divine gift especially for royalty. Today pearls have been considered an ideal gift for the bride because they symbolize purity and innocence. A timeless gift for any milestone occasion! Pearls can have pearl enhancer (pendants with a hinged clasp) added for extra bling. As well as several versatile ways to wear the pearls!
Pearls have a hardness of 2.5-4.5 on the Mohs Hardness Scale. Meaning they are very soft! Pearls are formed when a mollusk produces layers of nacre around some type of irritant that breaches the inside of the shell. There are several different factors to consider when looking for pearls: luster, surface quality, shape, color, size, treatment, and pearl type.
Luster: Luster refers to a pearl's brilliance or shine and glow. The greater and deeper the luster, the more valuable the pearl. Pearls with high luster display strong and sharp light reflections and a good contrast between the bright and darker areas of the pearl. Pearls with low luster look milky, chalky, and dull.
Surface Area: The fewer and smaller the imperfections, the more valuable the pearls will be. It's normal for pearls to have flaws.
Shape: Normally, the more round and symmetrical the pearl, the most it costs.
Color: Pearls can come in a variety of colors. Typical pearl colors are white, cream, yellow, pink, silver, or black. Saltwater pearls that are yellowish usually sell for less than those which are white or light pink.
Size: Usually the larger the pearl, the more it costs.
Nacre Thickness: Nacre is an iridescent substance that mollusks secrete to form pearls. Nacre thickness affects both pearl beauty and durability.
Matching: The more seamlessly pearls blend together in terms of color, shape, luster, size, and surface quality, the more valuable they tend to be.
Treatment Status: Some pearls have been dyed and irradiated. These pearls tend to cost less than those of natural color.
Pearl Type: Before you buy a pearl, you should know for example if it's a saltwater or freshwater pearl. Good saltwater pearls normally cost more than freshwater pearls because of the rarity.
NATURAL VS CULTURED PEARLS
Natural pearls are extremely rare to find. Unfortunately, today, most have already been harvested. Natural pearls occur with no assistance of humans.
Most pearls sold today are cultured pearls. The only difference between natural and cultured pearls is that cultured pearls are created from mollusks that are bred in order to create pearls for harvest. A technician will implant an irritant or particle in the shell, the mollusk is returned to the water, and the mollusks produce the layers of nacre around the irritant as normal.
SALTWATER VS FRESHWATER
Any pearl that is cultivated in a lake, pond, or river is considered a freshwater pearl. Most freshwater pearls are created in China. Freshwater pearls can come in a wide variety of colors.
Saltwater pearls come from oysters in oceans, seas, gulfs, and bays. Some types of saltwater pearls include Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls, and South Sea Pearls.
TYPES OF PEARLS
South Sea Pearls: Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines are the leading producers of South Sea saltwater pearls. South Sea pearls range in size from 8mm to 22mm.
Akoya Pearls: Akoya pearls are saltwater pearls cultivated in Japan and China. They're the most popular type of pearls. Akoya pearls range in size from 2mm to 10mm.
Tahitian Pearls: Tahitian saltwater pearls are named after the tropical island of Tahiti; however, they are cultivated in many places around the French Polynesian islands. Tahitian pearls are the only naturally-occurring dark colored pearls. Tahitian pearls range in size from 7mm to 20mm.
Freshwater Pearls: China and the US are the leading producers of freshwater pearls. Freshwater pearls are cultivated in lakes, ponds, and rivers. Freshwater pearls range in size from 6mm to 8mm.
CLEANING AND CARING FOR PEARLS
Pearls are delicate, so they chip and scratch away rather easily. The luster of pearls can quickly be dulled too. The only way to clean pearls safely is to wipe them with a moist, soft cloth. For pearl jewelry, it is best to avoid direct contact with any chemicals such as, perfume, cleaners, chlorine, alcohol, make-up, hairspray, etc. As with your diamonds, it is important to store your pearls separate from other jewelry.