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Pearl Information

Saltwater pearls are much more valuable than freshwater pearls, with the notable exception of Kasumi Pearls.  Think of it this way:  saltwater pearls are Princess Grace, freshwater pearls are available at the discount centers that have groceries too.

My Akoya pearls are comparable to Mikimoto in quality, but without the Mikimoto price.  Values are based on pearl shape, color, size, surface texture, luster, and 'nacre', which is the depth and thickness of the 'skin' of the individual pearl.  If the person from whom you are buying pearls cannot give you this information, then you may want to shop a bit more.  The gradations are from A to AAA in the categories of surface texture, luster, and nacre. 

Shapes are from nearly round to round to perfect round, and then there are the baroque, which range from a slight drop shape all the way to shapes which have no other name besides baroque.  I will have many baroque pieces because I have had so many requests for them.  Baroque Pearls are not 'defective' or 'second grade' Pearls; they are an entirely separate category to which all of the same standards apply for quality.  Baroque Pearls are for those Pearl lovers who want to be certain that their Pearls will be noticed and recognized as genuine at a glance.

Most of my Pearl strands will fall into the 'perfect round' group, with an occasional foray into 'round' if the rarity of the color justifies it.  All of this information will be listed with each pearl item.  Virtually all other Pearl jewelry will be custom designed for you; only occasionally will Earrings, Rings or Pendants be available as stock items, so if you see one on the Pearls page, grab it quickly!

The Makings of a Pearl

Pearls begin when a grain of sand, another piece of pearl or any other irritant enters the oyster’s shell. To protect itself the oyster secretes multiple layers of a calcium carbonate substance called ‘nacre’ around the foreign object to isolate it from the rest of the oyster. After a few years, the original irritant is covered in a silky coat and that is a pearl.

The term 'natural' is questionable when it comes to Pearls.  Cultured Pearls are natural too, not synthetic in any way.  The correct term is rarely used, and that term is 'wild,' meaning that the oyster is not part of a Pearl farm.  Both wild (natural) and cultured pearls are born and grow inside live oysters. The difference between the two is that natural (wild) pearls are formed by  chance, and cultured pearls result from man’s assistance by deliberately introducing an irritant into (nucleating)  the oyster. Today, most pearls are cultured; the only way to tell the difference is to drill the Pearl and examine the center to see what started the process.  The occasional Pearl found in an oyster at a seafood restaurant is wild, and generally not gem quality although myths still abound regarding the 'big perfect pearl' that someone supposedly found in a restaurant oyster.

The colors of my Pearls are always NATURAL.  This means that I do not carry Pearls that have been taken from their hosts and then dyed or externally colored.  The colors of my Pearls are the natural result of the water conditions in which the oysters live.  Different levels of various minerals account for the differences in color.  Changes in the levels of these factors will sometimes result in Pearls with more than one color present.

How to Buy Pearls:

When buying Round Pearls, there are six key factors that one must consider:

LUSTER – Luster is the brightness, sheen and/or glow of the pearl. Bright luster is the combination of surface quality and the inner glow of the pearl. With high quality pearls a glow will seem to emanate from within the pearl, especially when light reflects from its surface. Pearls that appear dull, too white, or chalky are not high quality pearls.

SIZE – Usually, the larger the pearl the greater its value is.

SURFACE- A clean surface is a sign of a high quality pearl. The more flawless a pearl is, the greater value it will have. A Round Pearl should be clean of bumps, cracks, and blemishes.

SHAPE – The shape of a Round pearl can be round, oval, pear shaped, half round, button-type (one axis flattened) or circled. The chances of an oyster producing a perfectly round pearl is very low and the value of a pearl is adjusted accordingly. Asymmetrical “Baroque” Pearls have appeal of their own and are generally less expensive for their size, but are not considered defective, or ‘throwaway’ pearls.

COLOR- when purchasing a pearl always look for a brilliant color. The color range of a cultured pearl is white to black, golden to pink. When deciding on what color you want your pearl to be it is best to choose according to your own skin tone. Overtones of green, blue, and pink can complement the right skin tone color, but look unattractive on the wrong skin tone. There has been somewhat of a general consensus that pink, black, grey, blue and silver white pearls complement fair skin tones, while cream, rose-gold and gold pearls complement darker skin tones.

UNIFORMITY – When selecting more than one pearl, uniformity matters. Since every pearl produced is one of a kind the more uniform a strand or pair of pearls the greater its value.  This axiom applies of course to Round Pearls; the rules change rather dramatically when applied to Baroque Pearls.

Types of Pearls

Akoya Pearls –

Akoya pearls come from the Akoya oyster, which usually come from Japan or China producing a saltwater cultured pearl. Akoya pearls are the most difficult to grow due to the low survival rate of the host oysters, only 5 out of 10 will survive the nucleation process.

Baroque Pearls –

The name baroque refers to irregularly shaped cultured pearls that are very lustrous and quite attractive. Because of the shape these pearls have their own appeal as well as their own intensely loyal admirers.

Freshwater Pearls –

Produced in great abundance these pearls are the most  common and moderately priced of all pearl because they are cultivated from freshwater mussels rather than saltwater oysters. What determines the tone of a freshwater pearl is the original shell the pearl was cultivated in. The most famous type of freshwater pearl is the Biwa pearl, which is grown mostly in Japan, China, and the United States. 

Kasumi Pearl, Also Kasumiga, Kasumigaura, Kasumiga-Ura –

Grown only in Lake Kasumi, or Kasumiga-Ura in Japan, these Pearls in my opinion are the finest of the Freshwater Pearls, often rivaling the extremely Baroque versions of some of the South Seas Pearls.  Extremely limited in availability, they command both high prices and envy.  I will present them for you whenever they are available to me and you may be assured that these, as with all my gems and pearls, will be authentic and genuine, not auction-site fakes. 

Biwa Pearl –

Originally named after a lake in Japan these pearls are the first cultured pearls without nucleus, or with an organic nucleus, They are obtained from a freshwater mussel.  Biwa will only appear on my website should examples from the actual Biwa Lake be made available to me. 

Keshi Pearls-

The word Keshi in Japanese means “poppy seed”. Keshi pearls are sub-products of a pearl; they form accidentally on cultured pearl oysters and mussels.  They are composed entirely of nacre and have no nucleus with the exception of the "reborn" variety, where a tiny Keshi Pearl is used as a nucleus to encourage the growth of another, larger pearl.  Both Saltwater and Freshwater versions exist and only the highest quality ones will appear on my pages.  I do not carry 'reborn.'

Mabe Pearls –

Mostly grown in Japan, Indonesia, or Australia these pearls are not grown within the oyster's body, but rather against the inside of the shell of the “Penguin Wing,” or Peteria Penguin oyster. Until recently, any semi-hemispherical, flat-back, or ‘button’ pearl was called Mabe, and there are still unscrupulous sellers who blatantly use the term on those lesser pearls.  Mabe pearls are mostly used in settings that hide their flat back and reverse side.  Colors are White and Cream, with occasional Pink and Blue available along with the very rare Black. 

South Sea Pearls (also called White South Sea Pearls)

These pearls are cultured in warm salt water in tropical or semi-tropical oysters in the South China Sea, which include the Polynesian Islands, Borneo, Australia, Indonesia, and other Pacific countries. The diameter of these pearls usually ranges from 9 to 14 millimeters.  Colors range from silvery white and platinum to cream and golden with occasional examples of blue or pink overtones; there are also rare examples of bi-colored, which are indicative of changes in the oyster's environment while the pearl was growing.

South Sea Tahitian Black Cultured Pearls (sometimes referred to as Giant South Sea Pearls)

– Grown in a variety of large oysters that are primarily found in the waters of French Polynesia, the unique color and large size of these pearls demand a high cost.  The color of these pearls can range from gray to black with green or blue and with iridescent overtones. These are the largest of all the black pearls, usually ranging from 8 to 14 millimeters.

Care of Pearls

Pearls are very soft and need special care and attention. You should never store your pearls in a jewelry box next to other jewelry, because both the box and other pieces of jewelry can damage pearls by scratching and nicking, so keep them in a fabric lined box or fabric pouch.

Skin produces acids that can harm your pearls with constant exposure, so if worn regularly pearls should be wiped down with a soft cloth after every wear. A pearl necklace will gradually absorb acid from the skin that will eat into the pearl causing it to lose its luster. Wiping pearls of with either a wet or dry soft cloth will prevent dirt from accumulating and keep perspiration, which is slightly acidic, from eating away at the nacre.  Showering with your pearls on is actually a pretty good idea, so long as you gently wipe them dry.   If you wish you can even use a drop of olive oil on your cleansing cloth to help maintain your pearl’s luster.

Along with being soft and easily scratched, pearls can be damaged by chemicals and heat. Only use jewelry cleaner clearly marked safe for pearls. Never use ultrasonic cleaners. Never use dish or laundry detergents, bleaches, baking soda or ammonia based cleansers. Never use toothbrushes, or any other abrasive materials to clean your pearls. Always take off your pearls before you apply any cosmetics, hair spray, or perfume. Avoid heat and dry air (blow dryers) because both can cause pearls to turn brown, dry out, and crack.