June 22, 2022
By Chelsea Reed
“Why wear one string when you can wear two?” That’s an excellent question asked by the famous pearl fashion designer Coco Chanel. Today, this June birthstone continues its timeless appeal. It’s the only gemstone that’s not actually a stone! A pearl forms when an irritant enters a mollusk. To protect itself, the mollusk covers the irritant with layers of a protein called nacre. There is much to learn about shopping for sophisticated pearls. Here are all the essentials you need to know.
Pearls on the market come from three primary sources. They can be natural, cultured, or synthetic. Natural pearls harvested from wild mollusks are rare to find. About one in 10,000 wild oysters have a pearl inside! They were once the only way to get pearls until cultured pearls became available. Unfortunately, overharvested oysters in the 19th century made natural pearls more scarce. Thus, natural pearls are much more expensive. If you find natural pearls in an antique shop, consider yourself lucky!
Farmers in Japan cultivated the first successful cultured pearls in the 1920s. There are sustainable pearl farms all over the world today. Most genuine pearls on the jewelry market are cultured. Like natural ones, cultured pearls come in many varieties, shapes, and colors. It takes about five years for an oyster to grow a pearl.
As the name implies, imitation pearls are man-made. They are actually glass or plastic beads coated with pearlescent material. Some imitation pearls are even made with cotton and mica! While these “pearls” are not as valuable, they are popular costume jewelry. Imitation pearls are useful for occasions when you want to protect your real pearls at home.
There are many things to consider when pearl shopping. You’ll want a set to enjoy for years to come. Take the time to learn about the qualities jewelers look for in a pearl. These qualities include the grade, color, luster, shape, and size:
Oddly enough, there is no universal pearl grading system. Most jewelry companies grade pearls with their own systems. Whether it’s A - AAAA or A - D, these systems are similar in format. They range from a few imperfections to imperfections that cover about 60% of a pearl's surface. When shopping, take the time to ask questions and learn what the jeweler’s grading system means.
White pearls are most common, but there are other natural variations. There are off whites, cream, silver, pink, and of course the famous black pearl. Tahitian pearls are black with gorgeous green and purple tones. Pearls are also dyed into other colors for a fun and fresh look.
This is a pearl's reflection and the most important quality to look for. A pearl gets its luster from the layers of nacre over time. More layers result in a warm glow and intense shine from within. The specimen is high quality if you can see your face in the pearl. It’s one of the best ways to tell a real pearl from a synthetic one.
Round pearl shapes are most desired on the market. A perfect round pearl is rare and can fetch a significant price. Saltwater pearls are rounder than freshwater ones. But pearls with “bumpy” and elongated shapes are growing in popularity and appreciation. Known as baroque pearls, they’re a great way to express your personality.
Whether real or imitation, a pearl's size can influence the look. Smaller pearls are ideal for Sweet Sixteens and coming-of-age gifts. 7mm is the best size for working women and weddings. 8-10mm pearls exude the finest luxury status. Unless they’re for costume purposes, this size is best sported by older wearers.
Pearls are the ultimate choice in a jewelry fan’s wardrobe. They go with almost anything and never go out of style. Not sure how to start your pearl shopping experience? Fear not. Seaside Art Gallery is the expert in genuine estate jewelry for every occasion.
Chelsea Reed is a copywriter who writes winning content, articles, blogs, and websites from her base in North Carolina. She might not be building sandcastles or swashbuckling with pirates these days, but the Outer Banks beaches continue to keep her young at heart.
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