INTRODUCTION TO PEARLS

A Pearl strand, a South Sea Pendant, or Pearl Earrings. Akyoa Pearls, Golden Pearls or a deep rich Tahitian Pearl. These are perhaps the most elegant, sophisticated (yet simple) form of jewellery that can be worn and have an incredibly long and interesting history.

A Pearl is a living gem, and each Pearl is a miracle of nature. A Pearl is the accumulation of a slightly translucent material, called nacre or mother-of-Pearl, similar to the lining found on the inside of nacreous shells. This is what gives a Pearl its unique lustre and iridescence. It takes thousands of very thin layers of this nacre to make a single Pearl.

"Natural" Pearls are, by definition, any type of Pearls formed by the 'natural' process, or by an accident, (without human intervention). Natural Pearls do not have an implanted nucleus! Natural Pearls are a product of chance, with a beginning that is an irritant such as a burrowing parasite or plant or sand matter entering the Pearl at random. With no shell sphere as its nucleus, the natural Pearl is rarely round or of uniform size.

Before the depletion of natural Pearl beds, about a century ago, all Pearls that were discovered were "natural Pearls". Today natural Pearls are very rare and expensive. Because a natural Pearl would require a provenance to prove its origin natural Pearls are often sold at auctions in New York, London and other international venues at investment prices.

Long known as the 'Queen of Gems' natural Pearls were once the "exclusive domain" of the rich and powerful, of royalty! From the time of Cleopatra's famous Pearls through to Queen Elizabeth 1 of England, Pearls have been a symbol of incredible wealth and status.

Cultured Pearls are formed when humans intentionally introduce an irritant into the oyster. The first known examples of human 'intervention' date back centuries when ancient Chinese records describe the science of 'culturing' Pearls. However one man in particular has made the process famous. Mr Mikemoto had a dream that “every woman on earth could afford a Pearl”. ln 1921, at the World Exhibition in Paris, cultured Pearls from Japan were presented to an amazed world public for the first time. These Pearls were made famous by a court case that alleged that ‘cultured’ Pearls are not ‘real’. Mr Mikemoto won the case and Hollywood starlets such as Marilyn Monroe and Liz Taylor championed the newly famous ‘cultured Pearl’ and today all commercially available pearls are cultured.

To produce a cultured Pearl a technician skillfully inserts foreign matter into a healthy, mature oyster or mussel. To protect itself from this irritant, the oyster produces cells that secrete multiple layers of nacre that eventually coat the foreign matter to become the cultured Pearl. Traditionally, after one to three years beneath the sea, the Pearls are then harvested. The shape and size of the resulting Pearls depends, to a large degree, on the shape and size of their implanted irritant.

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