Issue #9, 17 July 2013


Pearls have been used in jewellery for thousands of years and for a long time were considered the premier gemstone due to their rarity.

Today, particularly with the creation of cultured pearls, there are many types available such as the South Sea, Freshwater and Tahitian. Each has its own unique attributes, value and beauty.

This newsletter is dedicated to the only precious gem that is found in a shell.

Happy Reading,
Aurea Designs

Can I Eat the Oyster That Makes Pearls?

ImageStraight off the top, these are not the same oysters that we buy at the local seafood restaurant. Pearl oysters are said to not taste very great, they are extremely gritty and quite unpleasant to eat.

As mentioned, pearls are the only gemstone made by living animals. Simply, molluscs, a group of animals that include oysters, clams and mussels produce the pearl within the soft tissue of the mollusc. These oysters are specifically bred for the sole purpose of producing pearls. Each type of oyster produces a different type of pearl. These include – South Sea, Freshwater, Tahitian, Akoya, Mabe, Keshi.

South Sea pearls tend to be the largest and most expensive pearls available & are grown in tropical and semi-tropical regions called the South Seas. Usually in the areas around the coast of Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines and come in the colours white, silver, cream, champagne and gold.

Regardless of type, pearl farmers culture a pearl by placing a nucleus, usually a piece of polished mussel shell, inside the oyster and in three to six years, the oyster can produce a perfect pearl.

These pearls are not as valuable as natural pearls but look exactly the same. In fact, since the beginning of the 20th century, when several researchers discovered how to produce these pearls, the cultured pearl market has far outgrown the natural pearl market. The reason for this is natural pearls are extremely rare in nature, hundreds, if not thousands of oysters must be checked before a pearl of the required quality is found and for this reason, the natural pearl has all but disappeared from the world market.

So Many Types of Pearls to Choose From!!

South Sea Pearl
Produced by the rarest and largest oysters in the world, the giant silver lip and gold lip. The South Sea pearl has an array of colours from white through to silver, and from cream through yellow to deep gold. The pearls may also display a lovely “overtone” of a different colour such as pink, blue or green.

Freshwater pearls are implanted tissue and contain no bead. They have a beautiful lustre and a very durable surface that will not crack or peal to reveal any inner bead. Freshwater pearls come in white, cream, pink, peach, rose and lavender and generally range from 3mm-12mm in size.

Tahitian pearls, which are also referred to as black pearls are highly valued
because of their rarity. The Tahitian/ black pearl is second only to the South
Sea Pearl in value and this is simply down to rarity. Black pearls are very
rarely black: they are usually shades of green, purple, aubergine, blue, grey,
silver or peacock (a mix of several shades, like a peacock's feather) and range
in size from 8mm-18mm

The Akoya pearl's origins date back to Japan in the early 1900's and are considered the original cultured pearl. Akoya pearls are also loosely known as Japanese pearls as they are mainly cultured in Japan. Akoya pearls colours range from white, cream and pink to silver pink and generally range from 4mm-10mm.

Mabe pearls are considered to be “semi-spherical cultured pearls” in that they have a flat side, as opposed to at least being rounded like standard pearls and mabe pearls are frequently called “half pearls”. They span from light pinks, to more bluish shades. The unique nacre of the mabe oyster allows for hues that are quite brilliant and rainbow-like. The rarest colour consists of pink with gold swirls. It is this type of colour which brings the value to the mabe
pearls, as well as their rare superiority in texture and luster.

Pearls are as close to a natural pearl possible from a cultured pearl. These
very individual pearls are usually irregular in shape and are graded by weight
as opposed to size and which are very rarely more than a few millimetres in
diameter. Perfectly round and tear-drop shapes are extremely rare and therefore highly sought after. The popularity and rarity of Keshi pearls is because they are made of solid nacre (the stuff that pearls are made of) and usually have a bright lustre. Their irregular shape creates some of the most exquisite jewellery.


A Little Bit of The Pearl's Story

ImageThe south sea oyster which produces the largest and most valuable pearls is a solitary shell and can wait up to half a century for the circumstances to be right for it to weave its magic and produce the most beautiful of pearls.

In 1916, Jacques Cartier of Cartier fame, bought his 5th Avenue store by trading two natural pearl (not cultured) necklace and $100 cash for the store which became Cartier’s headquarters. At the time, the necklace were valued at $1 million. In 1957 the same necklace was auctioned for just $157,000.

Quality natural pearls are very rare jewels. The actual value of a natural pearl is determined in the same way as it would be for other "precious" gems. The valuation factors include size, shape, colour, quality of surface, orient and lustre. Every pearl is unique, no two are alike and all have some

There are several legends and myths in regards to pearls. The Greeks and Persians believed pearls to be tears from the gods and that wearing pearls stopped brides from crying and helped marital bliss. In the early Chinese culture it was said that when dragons fought, pearls fell from the sky. The pearl is also the birthstone of the month of June as well as amusingly, margarine (the spread) is named after the greek word for pearls, “Margaritari”.


If you would like any further information on this topic or any other jewellery related manner, please contact us and we will provide all the assistance we can.


Aurea Designs

Makers of Fine Jewellery

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