Pearls and Pearl Jewelry
Pearls are an exquisite object of rare beauty, made in what seems to us a very improbable way. An irritant, such as a small grain of sand, finds its way into the mantle of an oyster causing the creature to secret a material called Nacre to coat the irritant and make it smooth, thus curing the irritation of the soft inner tissues. The material is deposited in concentric layers, and the pearl grows in size and iridescence. Pearls are still discovered in the wild today, and those with good shape and color are considered the most valuable kind of pearls. Pearls are also produced on farms, and they provide the most abundant pearls found in jewelry today. These farm produced pearls are known as cultured pearls. Because of their unique, irridescent beauty, pearls have been given gemstone status for centuries, and are now the birthstone for the month of June. It is not widely known that pearls come in a variety of incredible colors, including pristine white pearls, elegant black pearls, breathtaking golden pearls, and every color in between. Pearls come from waters all across the world- Tahitian, South Sea, Chinese and Japanese Akoya pearls, and even some freshwater pearls from right here in the US. Each type exhibits its own luxurious aura of light and unique characteristics.
Pearls are graded for their luster above all else. Luster is hard to define, but very evident when you see a highly lustrous pearl against an average pearl. Light seems to radiate from a pearl with good luster. Secondly, pearls that are perfectly round in a well-matched strand are graded more highly, than egg shaped, irregular, or assymetric pearls. Color is a big part of the value of a Pearl. The specific color is not the issue. White pearls are not necessarily more valuable than black, for example. It is the depth and vibrancy of the color that matters, with the richest tones being the more highly valued. When it comes time to collect enough matching Pearls to make a necklace, extremely fine qualities may be almost impossible to match, so the value goes up many many times that of an individual pearl of that same quality. A smooth surface is crucial to a good rating, as well. A prize pearl should be free of pits, ridges, grooves, bumps, anything other than perfect smooth skin. Finally, a large pearl that exhibits all of these qualities will be considered truly special. There are very real physical limitations to what the poor oyster can produce! When shopping for pearls, most lovers of these radiant wonders pursue a group of nicely matched medium-sized pearls with outstanding color and luster to create their necklace or bracelet, rather than larger pearls with inferior characteristics. If an individual pearl is being considered for a ring or a pendant, connoisseurs of beauty choose luster and color over size every time.