For decades, pearls have been the ultimate piece of jewelry and the most unique of all gemstones. Whether a woman is wearing a pearl necklace, drop earrings, or beautiful pearl bracelets, pearls are gemstones that every woman should have in her jewelry box.
Not only are pearls mesmerizing because of their beauty and luster, but they’re also fascinating because of the way they’re formed. Learning more about pearls, their origin, and the various types will not only be an interesting read for you, but it will also make you a better pearl buyer once you decide to pick something from a shiny pearl collection.
Below, we share our own beginner’s mini guide that will leave you feeling like a pro when you go out to buy top-quality pearls.
Where Does the Pearl Come From?
Pearls are formed by mussels in freshwater and by oysters in saltwater. Natural pearls are the result of a reaction that happens in the mollusks. Something slips between the shells and rubs and irritates them and sets in motion a defense mechanism in the animal that starts to smoothen it out by layering nacre. In very thin layers, the spherical shape is finally formed. It’s not angular or sharp and stays in the mussel/oyster like a pearl.
Many people believe that pearls are formed from grains of sand and that’s probably a myth. The mollusc needs to have a much higher degree of irritation for the process to start and form a pearl. Mollusks often live in the sandy bottom and there is likely a lot of sand inside their shells at any given moment. If all the grains of sand that rolled in formed pearls, there would be pearls in every single mollusk you find.
Types of Pearls
There are different types of pearls, including natural or wild pearls, cultured pearls which are grown inside real oysters at pearl farms, and fake pearls, which are mainly made of synthetic materials.
Natural pearls are grown in wild mussels and as we said, they are extremely rare. The pearl’s growth must then be spontaneous, and not induced by a human. Natural or wild pearls with beautiful shapes, colors, and luster are very rare and valuable. With rare exceptions, all pearls in commerce today are cultured pearls.
There are many different ways to grow pearls, and new methods have been developed over more than a hundred years. Freshwater pearls are typically grown by inserting tissue from a donor mussel into the tissue of a pearl mussel. The host mussel protects itself from foreign tissue by covering it with layers of nacre. This method is most common for freshwater pearl farming.
There are also variations where a pearl made of mother of pearl is inserted into the mussel which is then encapsulated by the mussel which continues to create layer after layer of natural nacre. This is how saltwater pearls are formed. There are also combinations of these methods and cultivation methods are constantly being developed.
Cultured pearls are real pearls even though they’re grown on pearl farms.
Fake or imitation pearls are man-made beads, usually made from glass or plastic. Majorica pearls are the most commonly known name of imitation pearls and are produced by dipping a ball into a solution made of fish scales.
Choosing the Right Type
Knowing the main difference between the types of pearls listed above will help you understand their uniqueness and worth. Also, when you go out to buy pearls, you’ll be better prepared and know what to expect. The most common and most affordable pearl is the freshwater pearl. It comes in various colors and shapes, yet the baroque pearls are the most common.
The Akoya pearl is the first pearl that was successfully cultivated with high quality. It’s somewhat smaller than freshwater pearls and can be found in cream or white colors.
The South Sea pearl is known for its incredible colors and size. It’s available in different shades, ranging from ivory white, snow white, silver tones, and intense gold tones. Finally, the Tahitian pearl is among the most sought-after and highly valued due to its rarity, incredible colors, and luster.
No matter how pearls are worn, these high-coveted objects radiate allure, giving women a touch of glamour and confidence. Educating yourself about pearls will allow you to choose the right type of pearls and make you a future proud pearl owner. We hope that our beginner’s mini-guide will serve as a great starting point for your exploration of pearls.