Guide to the world of pearls
Pearls. The only gems that are formed by the action of a living organism, shrouded in many legends and known for several thousand years. Whether we’re talking about freshwater or saltwater pearls, we can safely say that each one is a unique work of art. It varies in colour, shape, size and lustre and its appearance depends primarily on the environment in which it was born. Their rarity is enhanced by the fact that out of 10,000 oysters, only one or two will produce a pearl.
How are pearls created?
They are born either spontaneously, when a grain of sand or other body enters the shell, or as part of breeding, when a fragment of another bivalve’s shell is inserted into the pearls. This gradually coats the inside of the shell with nacre, thus the animal defends itself against the unknown body.
What is a pearl?
We know what they look like and approximately where they originate, but what are pearls actually? This is a form of calcium carbonate, mainly aragonite, which gives them the desired smooth and shiny surface. On the Mohs hardness scale, they range from 2.5-4.5, making them a soft gemstone that is easily damaged, can easily lose its luster and flake off. On the other hand, contact with human skin is exceptionally beneficial, because they draw moisture from it, thanks to which they retain their shine.
Even with pearls, a rating scale is used to help determine the quality of the pearl, namely the A-D or AAA-AA scale.
An A-D or AAA-AA rating scale is used to express quality. For the first type of scale, A is the best rated, with D being the worst. In the second case, the best rating is AAA, while the principle remains the same. This scale also uses the + sign. The second best is rated AA+, followed by AA, A+ and finally A.
Most often pearls are divided into marine and freshwater. Marine, as the name implies, comes from the seas and oceans. Their appearance depends mainly on the environment and the shell in which they are born. The most famous pearls are the Tahitian, Akoya and South Pacific pearls.
Tahitian pearls are rightly called the queen of pearls. It boasts a very diverse colour range, an exceptionally thick layer of mother-of-pearl and magical reflections. They are formed in the shells of the pearlfish, or Pinctada Margaritifera. The colour spectrum of Tahitian pearls ranges from silver, green, iridescent to deep black. The colour is significantly influenced by the distance of the pearl from the inner shell – the further the pearl grows from the shell, the lighter it tends to be and catches more silver and silver-grey shades. In terms of shape, Tahitian pearls are very variable, they can have a symmetrical round shape as well as a drop, pear or button shape. They can be up to 1.8 cm in size, but in rare cases they can be larger. As the size increases, so does the price.
Tahitian pearls range in size from 8 to 18 mm. Some sources say that they may take on even larger proportions. In such cases, however, these are always very rare pieces. On average, pearls are between 8 and 12 mm and the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is.
Symmetry, shine and creamy white shades are the Akoya Japanese pearls. Unlike other pearlfish, oysters are found in cold marine waters, which causes the pearlfish to grow much slower. Akoya pearls are therefore exceptionally lustrous. On average, they reach a size of around 7 mm, which is smaller than other marine pearls. The colour of pearl is cream to silver white, rarely pink to blue-grey.
Pearls of the Pacific
South Pacific pearls are clearly the rarest of all pearl species, mainly because of their demanding environment. They are produced by the mollusc Pinctada Maxima, which can reach up to the size of a dinner plate in extreme situations. They are only productive at depths of around 80 m, from where they are caught and taken to areas where their development is carefully monitored. In terms of size, they range from about 8 to 22 mm. A rarity are the so-called Keshi pearls of typical irregular, baroque shape. They are made up only of mother-of-pearl and their size reaches 2-8 mm.
Jewellery with sea pearls can be found here.
Freshwater pearls are usually smaller in size than saltwater pearls and come in a wider range of shapes and colours. Their price is lower, making them a more popular choice for everyday wear. Their durability is less than that of sea pearls, they wear out more easily and should generally be handled with great care.
They are formed in the shells of freshwater mussels, i.e. in rivers, ponds and lakes. The most popular shape is round, but irregular baroque pearls, semi-round pearls and oval pearls are also popular.
Jewellery with freshwater pearls can be found here.