A Beginner’s Guide to Pearls

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Know Your Pearls

Companies like The Pearl Source know that pearls are a timeless symbol of rareness and beauty. They’re all at once classic and contemporary, and come in greater varieties and styles than just your grandmother’s string of white pearls. The making of a pearl is a fascinating, amazing process in itself. It’s helpful to know the different types of pearls when shopping for the next addition to your jewelry collection.

How Pearls are Made

Pearls are made when a mollusk such as a clam produces a material called nacre (pronounced NAY-kur) in response to an irritant inside of its shell. For instance, if a small fragment of shell annoys the mollusk, it will produce nacre in layers around the fragment until it becomes pearl.

Mollusks produce cultured pearls when a person purposely places an object, such as a mother-of-pearl bead or a piece of tissue, inside of a mollusk’s shell for the purpose of creating a pearl.

Types of Pearls

Natural Pearls: These are extremely rare, and very costly pearls. Traditionally, natural pearls were often found in the Persian Gulf. Today, most of them have been harvested.

Cultured Pearls: These are far more readily available, and come from pearl farms. Farmers raise the mollusks until they’re mature enough to produce nacre around tissue or the mother-of-pearl bead. The pearl technician carefully places the bead inside of the mollusk, and then returns it to the water where the mollusk will be cared for as they produce a pearl. Not all mollusks produce a pearl, and not all of them are high quality. It takes sorting through thousands of pearls to produce one strand of perfectly matched pearls.

Freshwater Pearls: These come from mollusks founds in lakes, rivers, and streams, mostly in China. They’re predominantly white in color, though they can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and pastel colors.

Saltwater Pearls: These come from mollusks raised in bodies of saltwater. They include the famous akoya cultured pearl which comes from Japan and China. Australia, Indonesia, and Philippines are famous for South Sea Pearls, which are the biggest of them all at 9mm to 20mm in size. Tahitian pearls are also called black pearls, though they also come in blue, green, gray, blue, and purple.

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