Deep Diving Into Everything About Pearls
A pearl starts as a foreign particle (a pebble, shell , or sand) in an oyster or mollusk. The particle irritates the mollusk and it secretes a substance called nacre. The nacre protects the mollusk from the particle.
Over the years, layers upon layers of nacre adhere to the particle, which results in a pearl.
What Should We Be Looking For in a Pearl?
Did you know that pearls are probably the most unique of all birthstones and gemstones in general, as they are the only gemstones that are made from a living organism?
Quality Characteristics of Pearls include:
The closer a pearl comes to being perfect in these characteristics, the more valuable the pearl.
Types of Pearls
The pearl gemstone comes from many body of waters globally, including oceans, lakes, and rivers. These organic gems grow from the inside the tissue of living creatures either in saltwater or freshwater. These creatures, known as mollusk, could either be an oyster or a mussel, and their pearls are formed from a substance called nacre that is secreted when an irritant, such as sand or a parasite, invades its shell.
There are also two general different types of pearls: natural and cultured.
Natural pearls are very rare and extremely expensive, as only one oyster in forty may contain a pearl. A natural pearl is created in the oyster by chance! Natural pearling can be found in the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean.
Cultured pearls were developed as a response to the extreme rarity of naturally formed pearls. By seeding an oyster with an irritant, layer upon layer of nacre forms until a lustrous cultured pearl is created. Cultured pearls are frequently bleached and polished for uniform color and shape. Some cultured pearls are dyed or irradiated to achieve to change or enhance the color.
These cultured pearls account for many of the pearls that are on the market today, making natural pearls the rarest, and therefore, the most expensive.
As there are many different environments in which pearls can grow, there is a result of different pearl gemstones in various shapes, colors, and sizes! Pearls can come in colors such as white, silver, yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, and black; because natural black pearls are so rare, these are mostly cultured.
Akoya and Freshwater
The 2 most common types of pearls are Akoya Cultured Pearls and Freshwater Cultured Pearls.
- Akoya Cultured Pearls are cultured in saltwater. Japan is known to produce the highest quality Akoya cultured pearls. They tend to be more expensive than Freshwater cultured pearls since they are less available.
- Freshwater Cultured Pearls are cultured in rivers and lakes primarily in China, They are less expensive than the Akoya cultured pearls since they are more readily available.
The History of Pearls
The English name of this gemstone “pearl” comes from the French word “perle,” which was originally derived from the Latin word “perna.” This Latin word means “leg,” which is referencing the shape of an open mollusk shell.
But did you also know that the scientific name for the pearl-bearing oysters is “Margaritiferidae,” which comes from “margarita,” which is the Old Persian word for pearl? If your name is Margaret, then this is where your name stems from!
As previously mentioned, natural pearls are very rare and extremely valuable, as only one of forty oysters produces a pearl in the natural process. Therefore, in 1893, Kokichi Mikimoto, invented a viable technique for producing hemispherical “cultured pearls” in Japan. Mikimoto helped advance the science of pearl cultivation and has remained synonymous with harnessing the allure of pearls for more than 120 years.
Throughout this time, Mikimoto has become the world’s foremost producer of fine cultured pearls, not to mention a global leader in exceptional jewelry design incorporating these top-shelf gems of the sea.
Pro Tip: If someone happens to be selling a Mikimoto piece, make sure that they have a certificate of authenticity.
Mikimoto Pearl Island, Japan
Mikimoto Pearls Piece
These beautiful gemstones are known to symbolize wisdom, integrity, purity, loyalty, and serenity. In ancient times, they were also associated with healing properties to promote serenity, protection, security, confidence, and enlightenment, which ties in very similarly to its current symbolism. Pearl gemstones were a sign of high status and wealth in ancient Rome, and were used as protective amulets by some knights during the crusades.
Pearls have a hardness of 2.5 to 3.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness. To put this in perspective, quartz has a hardness of 7 – 7.5 and are present in the particles of dust seen floating in the air and settling on uncleaned objects in your home. These particles have the hardness that is able to remove the polish from your table and the finish from your car. Diamonds have a hardness of 10, which is the hardest gemstone, and the softest includes talc, which is a gemstone that even your fingernail can scratch.
These minerals can only be scratched by the hardness level above it, so pearls most definitely need special care and maintenance to keep it looking as pretty as possible.
Types of Pearl Jewelry
Pearl jewelry is available in many different styles and designs:
- Pearl Rings
- Pearl Earrings
- Pearl Necklaces & Pendants
- Pearl Bracelets
- Pearl Brooches
The most traditional styles of pearl jewelry are the classic Pearl Strand and Pearl Stud Earrings. These pearls definitely require a skillful jeweler to restring them.
Please visit our Pearl Restringing Services page to receive premier restringing services and have your pearls restored back to its pristine condition.
ALTERNATIVE GEMSTONE OPTIONS
Our Professional Parts Sourcing Team is able to source out any type of pearl of any color, shape, size, and type, including natural or cultured. If you wish to source out an alternative gemstone to pearl, we recommend looking into the other June birthstones, which are Alexandrite and Moonstone.
How to Properly Care for Pearl Jewelry
Thinking about restoring a loved one’s sentimental birthstone piece? You’re in the right place to restore their precious memories.
It is recommended to have your pearls serviced and restrung by professional and experienced jewelers, just like the ones that we have here at My Jewelry Repair. However, in order to have your pearls looking as good as possible on a daily basis, there are several steps that you need to consider while caring and maintaining your pearl jewelry.
Pearl Jewelry Care and Maintenance
Proper care for your pearls is very important since they are an organic gemstone that is vulnerable to acid, alkaline and extremes of humidity. To protect your pearls and preserve their luster, avoid contact with cosmetics, hair spray, or perfume.
Always put on your pearls as a final touch, after applying cosmetics, perfumes, and hair spray. Pearls can also be damaged by perspiration, so always wipe them with a soft damp cloth before storing them.
Pearls also have a soft surface, and can easily be scratched. Store them away from other jewelry and use a protective jewelry pouch when carrying them. Pearl strands should be restrung as part of the basic care and maintenance, the frequency depends on how often they are worn.
If you would like information on our pearl jewelry services, please click here.
We Specialize in Sparkle and Brilliance
Clean & Polish Services
“A basic clean, polish, and inspection is part of the routine care and maintenance needed to keep your jewelry looking like new. The inspection process includes looking for loose stones, bent prongs, and any damage to the metal or stones that need to be repaired.”
Stone Setting Repair
“A stone setting repair can be a simple re-tipping of a worn prong (which is considered routine care and maintenance) or the complete rebuilding/replacing of a damaged prong. In the case of severe damage, the entire head of the ring may need to be replaced.
Regardless of whether or not the prongs are compromised due to normal wear and tear or a result of accidental damage, we can provide the routine care and maintenance in order to ensure you do not lose a stone in your setting.”
Pearl Replacement Services
“The process of a Pearl Replacement is simple enough, yet requires trained eyes to be able to make a flawless switch. We aim to leave no trace of our work, which means not only will your setting be perfected, but the sapphire we choose will complete your jewelry piece effortlessly.”
“If you were born in June, your month’s birthstones are Pearl, Alexandrite, and Moonstone.
If you didn’t already know, there are some months that have multiple birthstones, whereas some only have one. Traditional birthstones are gemstones that were most commonly associated with its respective month in the early 20th century and even beyond, with Ancient Greek and Roman philosophers associating these gemstones with the star signs. Those that are more commonly known in this day and age are the modern birthstones, which were officially named by the Jewelers of America in the 1950’s.
If you would like to learn more about birthstones in general, visit our Ultimate Birthstone Guide!“
Want to look into our Pearl Services?
We are proud members of the
Our team includes gemologists certified by