Gemstone Focus: Pearls

World’s oldest Pearl carbon dated to 5500BC – found in Umm al Quwain in 2012

If you were born in the month of June, you are lucky indeed because you have four birthstones to choose from, pearl, moonstone, bloodstone and alexandrite. But by far the most popular is the pearl. The pearl is special in that it is  produced by a living organism in response to an iritant, usually a small grain of sand or piece of mollusc in the case of cultured pearls.  They have been used to adorn jewellery for thousands of years and are considered to be the worlds oldest gem.  

The pearl has also come to be associated with  wisdom, and purity, and with the moon and water. Pearl is also the gemstone of the 30th anniversary

Pearl Facts, Care & Value:

Almost all pearls available on the market today are cultured and farmed pearls. Natural pearls are extremely rare and astronomically expensive.

You may hear terms like baroque, keshi, mabe, Akoya, Southsea, Tahitian and so on to describe pearls. The first three describe the shape of the pearl.  Essentially, all pearls that are not round are baroque – that includes keshi, drops, coins etc. Keshi pearls are made entirely of nacre (the outside coating) and are an anomaly. Mabe pearls are a type of blister pearl that forms on the inside shell of the mollusc and is then cut away, filled and backed with mother of pearl.

Cultured Pearl Strands
These Akoya cultured pearls have a fine lustre and illustrate the array of natural colours pearls come in.

Akoya, Southsea and Tahitian refer to the area/type of mollusc.  They come in a vast array of subtle colours from white to pink to black.  Natural undyed pearls will tend to exhibit subtle pastels with the exception of the golden pearls and black pearls. Dyed pearls can be found in bright and bold colours or sometimes they are dyed to enhance or mimic natural colours. Ask your seller if their pearls are natural colour or dyed.

If you aren’t sure your pearls are genuine, one way to check is to rub them against your teeth. Because the surface of the pearl, the nacre, is actually made of fine crystals, they will feel slightly rough or “gritty” against your teeth whereas glass or other fake pearls will feel perfectly smooth.

The Pearl is a very soft gemstone, falling at about 4-5 on the Moh’s scale. This means it can scratch easily and they are particularly sensitive to chemicals. Thus, you should never put your pearls in the ultrasonic cleaner and you should always take your pearl jewellery off when washing dishes, swimming or doing anything that will expose it to chemicals. To clean pearls simply wipe them down with a clean soft cloth and store them in a separate pouch to keep them away from other jewellery. Finally, if you have a string of pearls, check the stringing periodically for wear. If you wear your pearls a lot, think about having them restrung every 5-6 years. If you do that, your pearls will last a lifetime.

9ct Gold Baroque Pearl Earrings – Maru

All pearls used to be natural and that made them very rare and expensive. However with the development of cultured Pearls by the Japanese, beautiful pearls have become more readily available. However, not all cultured pearls are the same. Pearls develop their beautiful lustre and glow over time as layers and layers of nacre cover the grain of sand. The longer they are grown, the more deep the lustre grows. But cheap cultured pearls will tend to have been harvest after only a couple of years or as little as a few months. The result is a pearl of low value and low lustre, they may look flat and dull. Good cultured pearls will mimic natural wild pearls in colour and lustre as they have been given several years to grow and mature. So, in terms of value, natural pearls can cost up to $1500 for an individual pearl depending on size. Fine AAA cultured pearls can range from $50 to$300 plus per pearl, again depending on size. Smaller pearls will be more readily available so up to 6-8mm will be most affordable.

You have a lot of choice with pearls so take your time to find what you love. Thanks for reading!!

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