A Comprehensive Guide on Pearls

We love Pearls; they exude class, elegance, and grace. In the golden age of cinema, yesteryear actresses captivated audiences with their radiant presence, often seen wearing lustrous pearl strands that accentuated their screen presence. They can swiftly and effortlessly transition from a glamorous evening affair to a sophisticated daytime ensemble.

As much as we love them, there are just so many of so many kinds and at varying costs. Some are highly affordable, so you start to wonder about their authenticity, and some others are too expensive that you wonder if they are worth the buy. More often than not, this dilemma forces us to look in another direction. 

For you, we are going to talk about them simply and easily. 

They come from certain species of mollusks, primarily oysters and mussels. When an irritant, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, enters the soft tissue of a mollusk, it triggers a defense mechanism. 

Why and How Pearls are formed? 

They are formed as a defence mechanism in certain mollusks (marine oysters and mussels) when an irritant, like a grain of sand or parasite, tries to enter their fragile body. 

To protect themselves, they secrete nacre, a combination of calcium carbonate and protein, which they deposit in layers. Over time, these layers build up, forming a pearl. 

The nacre is a protective barrier and gives them a lustrous appearance.

Types of Pearls 

There are two types mainly, Natural and Cultured. 

  • Natural pearls are formed entirely by chance, without any human intervention. They occur when an irritant, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, enters the soft tissue of a mollusk.
  • Cultured pearls, however, are intentionally created with human intervention. The process involves inserting a foreign object, typically a bead or a piece of shell, into the mollusk to stimulate pearl formation.

Natural are incredibly rare and hence are rarely found. Mostly you get cultured in the market. 

Main categories of Natural and Cultured Pearls: 

  • Saltwater Pearls – Lakes, rivers, ponds, reservoirs   
  • Freshwater Pearls – Bays and inlets in Asia and Australia

Some other Natural Pearls are 

  • Conch Pearls – Attempts have been made to cultivate conch, but the process has not been commercially successful, so the vast majority of this type are natural
  • Abalone Pearls: They have vibrant colors and iridescent patterns, making them highly sought after. While some efforts have been made to culture them, they are still primarily natural. 
  • Melo Melo Pearls: They are produced by the Melo Melo sea snail, and are primarily natural as the commercial success of cultivating has been unsuccessful.

All about Saltwater Pearls 

  • Saltwater pearls are created by implanting mollusks within an oyster that lives in saltwater.
  • They are found in Thailand, Indonesia, Tahiti, Australia, China, Japan, and Vietnam. 

Types of Saltwater Pearls 

  • Akoya Pearls: These are found in saltwater primarily cultivated in Japan and China. They are known for their round shape, high lustre, and classic white or cream color. Akoya is commonly used in fine jewelry.
  • Southsea Pearls: These are large, luxurious kinds produced by Pinctada maxima oysters. They are cultivated in the waters of Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They range in color from white to golden and are prized for their size, lustre, and rarity.
  • Tahitian Pearls: They get their name from the region where they are found. Cultivated in French Polynesia, around the islands of Tahiti, they come in various dark colors, including black, grey, blue, green, and peacock. They are highly valued for their unique and exotic beauty.

Are Saltwater Pearls expensive? 

Saltwater takes longer to cultivate and hence is more expensive than freshwater. 

All about Freshwater Pearls 

  • Freshwater is formed within freshwater mollusks, mainly mussels.
  • They come in various shapes, sizes, and colours, including white, pink, lavender, and peach.

Are Freshwater Pearls expensive? 

Freshwater takes less time to cultivate and are more affordable than saltwater. 

Types of Freshwater Pearls

  • Baroque Pearls: They have irregular or non-symmetrical shapes. These are found in saltwater and freshwater varieties and are known for their unique and organic beauty.
  • Keishi Pearls: They are tiny parls produced as by-products during cultured pearl production.

Which Pearls are the best? 

“Best” pearls are often determined subjectively and depend on quality, rarity, and value.

However, specific characteristics are frequently taken into account when assessing pearl quality:

Lustre: High-quality and exhibit a lustrous, reflective surface with a bright and radiant glow. 

Size: Larger in size and are generally considered more valuable, as they are rarer and require more time to form. 

Shape: They come in many shapes, including round, near-round, oval, button drop, and baroque. Round are often considered more valuable as their cultivation naturally can be more challenging.

Color: They can occur in various colors, including white, cream, pink, silver, black, and various shades in between. 

Surface quality: Those with few blemishes, spots, or surface irregularities tend to be considered higher quality; however, natural with unusual surface features are highly sought-after by collectors.

Ultimately, the “best” pearls often possess desirable characteristics, including exceptional lustre, size, shape, color, and surface quality. 

Bottom Line 

There are many types, you may need to understand all types before breaking down the pricing aspect. We recommend going to a jeweler you trust. 

Btw, if you didn’t already know, they are certified by GIA and some other labs too. If you are investing in an expensive natural pearl, we recommend investing in a pre-certified one or getting it certified to verify claims made by your jeweler.

You know you can always write us connect@firstgenjeweller.com 

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