Pearls are undoubtedly the world’s oldest gems known to mankind. It’s believed that no one person has discovered pearls but was discovered along the seashore while hunting for food. Pearl has been loved and worn by royalties from ages ago. Pearls use to be a favorite gift that were often presented to the royalties and was often considered a status symbol. It is said that in the 1st century BC, Julius Caesar made it a law that only royalties could wear pearls. Pearls have a long ancient history and have been equally popular with the Arabs as well. There are many stories and legends associated with this royal stone. Pearl trade was a very important source of wealth before the oil was discovered in the gulf. Pearl has been a very important trade in lots of countries.
In Western Europe pearl became the number one choice of gem where royalties wore long strings of pearls, earrings, pearl tiaras, pearl bracelets etc. By 19th century the demand of pearl became very high and the oyster supplies began to become less and less. The evidence of this fashion choice can be seen in all movies from that age.
How is Pearl formed?
There are two kinds of pearls Cultured and Natural Pearls .All gemstones are mined from the earth but a living organism produces pearl. When some kind of outer body is lodged into an oyster and causes the nacre to be secreted from the oysters body and that secretion gets build up in layers around that lodged outer body and a natural pearl is formed. In the cultured pearl an irritant is introduced in the oyster’s body to form the pearl. The longer a pearl has a growing period the better the quality of nacre, though these kinds of pearls are more expensive as well. Contrary to what is a general belief most saltwater pearls are also cultured.
Origin of pearls
Pearls originate from two sources Saltwater and Freshwater.
Saltwater pearls come from oceans and are created by oysters in oceans and are mostly found in Australia, Tahiti, Indonesia and Thailand among others..Freshwater pearls grow in rivers and lakes. Saltwater pearls being the most sought after and expensive have a superior luster and nearly round shape. Akoya pearl, which are found in Japan as well as Vietnam and China are among the most popular.
What is the Difference between Saltwater and Freshwater Pearls
Freshwater pearls are less lustrous and not as glossy as the saltwater pearls because they have a thick Nacre . Though there have been many changes and improvements made in the farming technique and these days freshwater pearls are found whose luster is almost comparable to the saltwater ones. Saltwater pearls have a thinner nacre coating, ranging from 0.5mm to 6mm. Freshwater pearls, on the other hand, are made almost entirely of nacre.
Saltwater pearls are usually round and that’s the most popular and in demand shape. Freshwater pearls can be found in a lot of shapes (round, oval, etc.) and colors.
Initially Freshwater pearls used to be cultivated over shorter periods (less than 2 years) and they would have a inferior coating and luster. They were even smaller in size. Now many pearl producers have started following the practice of growing the pearls for a loner time nearly three to six years hence the pearls are bigger and almost comparable to saltwater pearls.
Though pearls are naturally occurring substance, they come in various shapes these can sometimes be interesting and unique. Pearls are commonly thought of being in round shape whereas it’s not true. On the contrary the rounder the pearl is expensive and rarer it is. The shape of the pearls is a very important factor when determining its value along with quality
The Three common shapes of pearls….
1. Round or nearly round shape. This is the most common and familiar shape.
2. Symmetrical shapes which are totally balanced and regular.
3. Baroque pearls are irregular shaped pearls. There is no symmetry in them.
There is more to this. Pearls fall into three broad categories and then further are divided into seven basic shapes
1. Round pearls: which are perfectly a sphere and are the most popular and sought after.
2. Near Round: These are not a perfect sphere but are almost round or sometimes a bit oval or flattened but they are almost round
3. Oval shapes pearls: As the name suggests these are narrow at the end and round in the middle hence forming the oval shape. These fall under the symmetrical category of pearls
4. Button Pearls: These kind of pearl resemble the buttons. These are mostly used for making earrings as the flat side can be attached to the setting and the mound can be visible.
5. Drop Shaped Pearls: As the name itself suggests these are shaped as a drop. The length of the drop can vary. These are often used in earrings or pendants
6. Semi-baroque: These kinds of pearls have some slight irregularity in their shape. It can be a drop, oval or button shaped.
7. Baroque Pearl: This is a type of pearl that is both non-symmetrical and irregular in shape. These can be in any abstract shape and can have resemblance to any shape.
8. Ringed Pearls: The above-mentioned pearl type sometimes will have some kind of ring encircling it. These are known as Ringed Pearls. A round pearl, which has a ring on it, will be called as a round ringed pearl.
Why one is more expensive than the other
Freshwater pearls are cheaper than the saltwater pearls. The reason behind this is that the freshwater mussels are larger in size than the saltwater oysters and hence can produce more pearls at a given time and hence the abundance. On the other hand saltwater pearls are mostly round and more lustrous than the freshwater pearls hence the higher price
Colors of pearls
Saltwater and Freshwater pearls both come in a wide variety of colors. The most common and recognized colors are cream and white. Black, gray and silver are also common. Pearls are found in mostly every hue and have overtones. Today’s generation likes to experiment with different colors of pearls studded in jewelry.
Which Pearl Should One Buy?
In the freshwater pearls since the layer of the nacre is thicker it makes freshwater pearls more durable than saltwater. Saltwater pearls are more prone to marks and chipping. The price and durability factor makes it a more popular choice. These days the freshwater pearls are made using very modern techniques and are equally lustrous as saltwater pearls and also cost considerably less. Though it’s entirely personal choice.
Pearl jewelry has become a very popular choice among today’s young generation also. It lends a certain charm and sophistication to the wearer. One can pair it with the most formal of outfits and even carry it off equally casually with a pair of denims. Pearl jewelry studded in silver makes an excellent choice as silver really complements the pearl.