Freshwater Cultured Pearl
A cultured pearl cultivated in a freshwater mollusk.
Similar in color to pink coral, these pearls are produced by a conch, which is a saltwater mollusk from tropical waters.
Saltwater Cultured Pearl
A cultured pearl cultivated in a oyster or mollusk.
Man or machine-made.
A dome-shaped cultured pearl cultivated on the inner shell of a mollusk rather than within its body.
South Sea Cultured Pearl
Ranging in hues of white, gold, silver, cream and champagne, these cultured pearls are quite large and are cultivated in the white-lip oyster.
Tahitian Cultured Pearl
Cultured pearls cultivated in the black-lip oyster found in French Polynesia, and producing pearls in natural tints of black, silver, gray, green, orange, gold, blue and purple.
All About Pearls
The pearl is the only gem that comes from a living creature.
Cultured pearls are a natural product, produced by a mollusk in the same way natural pearls are produced but with the help of science. As natural pearls were becoming extinct, the Chinese were perfecting techniques to raise and produce cultured pearls, also called cultivated pearls. China is now the world leader in the production of both freshwater and saltwater varieties.
As new implantation techniques were applied, near round to very round cultured pearls are becoming much more common. They occur in a wide range of colors, including white, gray, and pastel shades. The finest are exceedingly beautiful, many of which are all nacre (the crystalline substance which the mollusk secretes around the foreign object that forms a pearl) exhibiting a very rich luster. Sizes ranging from 6-9 millimeters are becoming the norm, and pearls reaching 15 millimeters are now being produced.
Pearl shape is a quality evaluation describing the shape of a pearl. Round is the most prized shape in the industry, but saltwater and freshwater pearls are produced in a variety of shapes, just as they exhibit a variety of colors. Pearls can be divided into four basic shape categories:
Semi-baroque and baroque are considered off-round and can be very asymmetrical.
Pearls are measured across their diameter in millimeters. All things being equal, the larger the pearl, the more rare it is and the more valuable.
Pearl Necklace Lengths
|Collar||10-13 inches in length|
|Choker||16-18 inches in length|
|Matinee||20-24 inches in length|
|Opera||26-36 inches in length|
|Princess||17-19 inches in length|
|Rope||Over 45 inches in length|
|Baroque:||A cultured pearl that is asymmetrical and free-form in shape.|
|Blemish:||A defect found on the surface of the pearl. Non-damaging blemishes include spots, bumps, pits and wrinkles, and can affect a pearl's price. Damaging blemishes, which may worsen, and can affect the durability of a pearl as well as its price, include cracks, holes and chips.|
|Button:||A dome-shaped pearl with a flat bottom.|
|Circles:||Concave, concentric rings on a pearl's surface.|
|Color:||An evaluation of quality used to describe the color of a pearl.|
|Grafting:||The insertion, through human intervention, of an irritant into the body or the mantle tissue of a mollusk, in order to produce a cultured pearl.|
|Luster:||The combination of surface shine and the depth of inner light refraction in a pearl. Luster is one of the great determinants of a pearl's quality.|
|Mantle Tissue:||The layer of thin tissue adhering a mollusk to its inner shell.|
|Matching:||Using luster, surface, shape, color and size to match one pearl with another to create a piece of pearl jewelry, such as a necklace.|
|Millimeter:||The metric measurement used to determine the size of a pearl. One mm equals 1/25 of an inch.|
|Nacre:||A calcium carbonate-based crystalline substance secreted by a mollusk as a defensive device against the intrusion of a foreign irritant into its body.|
|Nucleus:||A small bit of polished shell from an American freshwater mollusk used as an irritant and inserted into the body of a saltwater mollusk. By the same token, a small bit of soft mantle tissue from one freshwater mussel is inserted as an irritant into the body of another freshwater mollusk.|
|Nucleation:||Also called grafting or implementation, this is the process of inserting an irritating nucleus into the body of a mollusk so that it will secrete nacre to cover it, consequently producing a cultured pearl.|
|Sorting:||Separating pearls by surface, shape, color and size prior to the jewelry matching process.|
|Surface:||A quality evaluation of the amount of blemishes on a pearl, ranging from clean to heavily blemished.|
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I tell an imitation pearl from a genuine pearl?
Some imitation pearls can be very convincing; even being mistaken for fine cultured pearls. One easy, reliable test is the "tooth test." Run the pearl gently along the edge of your teeth. The genuine pearl will have a gritty feel like feeling the sand at the seaside, while the imitation will be slippery smooth. Of course, the other way to ensure you are buying genuine pearls is to purchase them from a reputable source such as The Pearl Strand.
What's the difference between natural and cultured pearls?
Natural pearls are formed when irritants, such as a piece of sand, enter the oyster by accident. Since this is a fairly rare occurrence, few all-natural jewelry quality pearls become available. Cultured pearls are formed by the use of science along with man's help inserting the item within the mollusk, which will eventually produce the pearl.
What's the best way to care for my pearls?
To keep your pearls in like-new condition, avoid contact with harmful substances such as hair spray, perfumes, bleach, ammonia and chemical cleaners.
- Wipe pearls gently with a warm damp cloth before storing to remove body oil.
- Wash in a mild liquid detergent and dry with a soft cloth.
- Polish a damaged pearl to restore luster.
- Store in separate pouch.
How can I learn more about becoming a Pearl Strand consultant?
Visit our Consultants page to learn more about joining our team