Pearls

An Insight

Like most living organisms that have evolved over millions of years certain molluscs have derived a natural way to protect themselves from threats of the environment on the sea or river bed. These living shelled molluscs produce and secrete a substance called calcium carbonate, allowing the mollusc to entomb a harmful foreign body such as a piece of debris or perhaps a parasite which if left, could cause serious health issues for the mollusc. The end result of this natural process is the formation of a pearl.

 

Pearls have been the objects of admiration and desire throughout history, from the earliest civilisations such as the Egyptian dynasties through to famous periods of Empire. Pearls have also been sort and demanded by royalty in Europe and the Middle East and continue to be one of the most prized gemstones today.

 

A natural pearl is produced by a wild mollusc. This type of pearl is extremely rare and will tend to be small and misshapen. Natural pearling is generally confined to countries like Bahrain. Today, most pearls we see in the Jewellery market are termed as Cultured. These pearls are grown under the guidance of scientific research first discovered by an English biologist and then implemented and perfected by Japanese pioneers over a hundred years ago.

 

The concept of the cultured pearl has allowed this gemstone to be made available to a much wider market due to the large farming yields from China who use the robust freshwater mussel Hyriopsis Cumingii. In comparison to natural pearls these cultured pearls exhibit a larger choice of shape, colour and size.

Chinese Freshwater Pearls

Cultured freshwater pearls are farmed and produced using freshwater mussels. China is responsible for the majority of this type of pearl in the commercial market today whilst Japan and the United States also contribute.

 

Today, most Chinese freshwater pearls are grown from a donor mantle tissue transplant technique often resulting in a solid pearl. A large healthy mussel can produce up to twenty pearls over a harvest season in various shapes and colours.

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Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls are predominately produced in Japan and China using the salt water oyster, Pinctada Martensii. This pearl is grown using the original pioneering research alongside modern perfected techniques. These small oysters may produce one or two pearls over a harvest season and are known for their lustre and round appearance due to a bead nucleus. Today, the majority of the commercial smaller Akoya pearls originate from China with Japan concentrating on growing larger pearls. In recent times, Vietnam has also produced this type of pearl.

Tahitian Pearls

The Tahitian pearl or often referred to as a black pearl is grown in the robust black lip oyster Pinctada Margaritifera. This cultured pearl comes in various shapes, often larger sizes and colours which can vary from dark grey to shades of green and into silver tones. The Tahitian pearl is French Polynesia’s largest export with lagoon farms located throughout the pacific region, including Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Fiji. These rare pearls are much admired for their diverse colours.

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Southsea Pearls

These magnificent pearls are some of the largest and rarest. A South Sea pearl is produced by the Pinctada Maxima mollusc. They are cultured in areas throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans, primarily in Western Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. Southsea pearls from Australia often exhibit high lustre shades of white and cream, whilst their close cousins from waters around Indonesia and the Philippines display alluring gold tones. The sizes of South Sea pearls can range from 9mm up to 20mm. These pearls can grow to such large sizes due to the size of the host oyster and  implanted bead nucleus, the growth period allowed and crucially the clean, plankton rich warm water environment.