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Learn Everything about Pearls and its Different Varieties

From cleopatra to Michelle Obama, almost every woman has been seen adorning her pearl jewellery. Choker, Rope, Matinee, Opera are just some of the very popular names given to pearl necklaces. Famous companies like Coco Chanel have contributed towards making pearls as everyday jewellery. From earrings, pendants, rings to charms on bracelets, it has been a widely used gemstone. Internationally acclaimed jewellery designers like Amit J Ghosh have built an entire collection around pearl chokers with diamonds. Pearl has always been, and will always be one of the most sought-after gemstones in the world due to its unique formation process.

How is the pearl formed?

Pearl formation actually happens when an Oyster, Mussel or Clam tries to protect itself from an outsider object. So basically, when the object enters and starts irritating the oyster, it secretes a fluid called nacre to coat the irritant as a defence mechanism. However, over the years, layer upon layer of this nacre keeps depositing around the object which looks shiny and lustrous. This is what we call a Pearl.

What are the different types of pearls?

Real v/s Imitation pearls:

Real pearls are formed by a living oyster as part of its natural defence mechanism process. Imitation pearls are made out of glass or plastic bead coated with synthetic substances. The factory-made imitation pearls, though widely available in the market doesn’t have the lustre as real ones, and are subject to wear and tear with usage.

  • Natural pearls

    Natural pearls are extremely rare. Historically, pearl diving or hunting used to be prevalent in the Persian Gulf and Japan. The process of reaching the pearl bearing oysters has been a very difficult process both in terms of depth of the sea as well as time taken to find it underwater. Hundreds of pearl oysters have to be opened, and therefore killed, to find even one natural pearl. Moreover, the rise of pearl farming and cultured pearls has essentially put a stop to pearl hunting. As a result, natural pearls are mainly found at upscale auctions where the value of these pieces reaches staggering numbers. Their value is determined by size, shape, colour, surface and symmetry. Natural pearls are graded differently than cultured pearls; they are graded by carat weight and not by millimetres. It is critical to avoid buying natural pearls without official gemmological x-ray certificate. Only that can prove that the pearl is in fact natural.

    Interesting fact: Bahrain is a country that deals with only natural pearls. The government of Bahrain has been very keen on preserving pearl hunting as a part of their heritage. Only natural pearls are allowed there for import, display and selling. A customer who is visiting Bahrain, can go to any pearl trader’s shops and know without a doubt that what he is selecting is a genuine natural pearl. The country’s laws control the borders, and no import or export of cultured pearl is allowed.

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    Cultured pearls

    Cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms. In 1905 Japanese Tatsuhei Mise and Tokichi Nishikawa applied for the patent for the method they used to cultivate pearl. It became popular as the ‘Mise-Nishikawa method’ and is still used today. Cultured pearls are the most sought-after pearls ever since. An estimated 99% of Pearls in the market today are cultured. A cultured pearl undergoes the same process. The mollusks are raised until they are old enough to accept the nucleus bead which is also called as the ‘mother of pearl’. There are different types of mollusks that produce different looking pearls. Through a delicate surgical procedure, the pearl farmer implants the bead and then the mollusks are returned to the water and cared for while the pearl forms.

    Not all mollusk produce a pearl and not all the pearls are high quality. Almost 10,000 pearls need to be sorted before a 16-inch single strand of beautifully matched pearls is assembled. Pearls can be farmed in Freshwater or Saltwater.

  • Freshwater Pearls


    Freshwater Pearls are grown in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds mainly in China. Most of them are white and they resemble their high value cousin Akoya pearls. Though the biggest difference is, freshwater pearls can be produced in a higher quantity using same mollusk which make its price much more affordable. They can also be produced in various shapes, sizes and in an array of pastel colours. Many freshwater pearls don’t have a bead nucleus, only a piece of tissue, resulting in a pearl with thicker nacre than the Akoya. Most jewellery made today is of Fresh water pearls.

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    Saltwater pearls

    Saltwater pearls are created by oysters in oceans. Using the round bead nucleus, they are made to perfect their round shape most of the time. There are 2 most popular and widely used types of saltwater pearls.

  • Akoya pearls


    Akoya pearls are cultivated in Japanese and Chinese waters. They range in size from 2 mm up to 10 mm, with the bulk of production being in the 5 - 8 mm range. Akoya pearls naturally occur in hues of white, grey, blue, pink, rose, cream and silver. Common overtones are pink, green and silver and linked to the nacre structure of the pearl. The misshapen variety also called as baroque pearls can rarely come in blue hues with pink and silver overtones. The Japanese variety of these pearls bear more value than the Chinese ones.

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    South Sea pearls

    South sea pearls are cultivated in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They are produced to be the largest of all the pearls. They range in size from 9mm to 20mm and can be naturally white, cream, or golden in colour.

  • Tahitian pearls


    Tahitian pearls are the type of south sea pearl that are grown in the black lipped oyster. They are interestingly not exclusively from Tahiti but grown in several of the islands of French Polynesia as well. Their typical sizes range from 8mm to 16mm. These naturally coloured pearls are collectively called black pearls, but their colours include grey, blue, green, and purple. These pearls are used in High End jewellery pieces.

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    Mabe pearls

    Mabe pearls, also known as half pearls or blister pearls are cultivated inside of a mollusk’s shell. Mabe is a Japanese name for a winged oyster in which these pearls are usually grown. They range in the size of 12mm to 20mm and mostly comes with round shape, however, drop, heart and ovals are also available.

  • Keshi pearls


    Keshi pearls are the by product of pearl cultivation. They are quite unique in the way they are formed. Sometimes an oyster either rejects the bead nucleus or that the nucleus gets fractured and forms separate pearl sacs without nucleus. However, the oyster still continues to form layer upon layer as long as it is alive. This results in formation of a Keshi pearl which is without a nucleus and consists entirely of nacre. They are generally small in size and hence called Keshi which means ‘poppy seed’ in Japanese. There is usually a large degree of variance in the shape of Keshi pearls. They also come in a variety of different colours and shades and are known for their bright lustre.

Whether you go for a natural or one of the cultured pearls, it is important that you own a design which you can cherish for a lifetime. Do check out some beautiful designs of pearl chokers on Amit J Ghosh - Pearl Choker .They offer a complete design to product package to individual clientele as well B2B. And they also offer free first designer consultation. Go ahead and send them an enquiry on Contact Us Or call/WhatsApp them on +971 504240285

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