The beauty and magic of pearls have been a source of fascination and desire since their discovery in ancient times. Pearls are one of the oldest known gems, the only one produced by the sea and the only one to develop perfectly with no need to be either cleaned or cut. A natural product which generates instinctively inside some molluscs which react to the presence of a foreign object, for example a grain of sand that becomes coated by layers of an glistening substance called nacre resulting in a shimmering iridescent creation. Yielding molluscs are extremely delicate creatures and just a very small percentage of them produce pearls. The culturing process developed by man mimics nature. Pearl farmers implant a fine bead into the oyster where it cannot be dislodged. The oyster does the rest and creates it’s lustrous masterpiece. Therefore a pearl, whether it is cultivated or natural, is considered to be a miracle of nature by a jewellery designer.
The value of a cultured or natural pearl is based on various factors besides its size. Factors such as shape, colour and surface appearance are guides as to the value.
Shape: a perfect sphere makes an exceptional and rare pearl. However, pearls with glorious unique shapes are admired as well.
Colour: differs according to the type of mollusc, their nutrition and home waters. The colour can be observed under two different bases; underlying colour and the tonal colour. Pearls have infinite combinations and variations of colour which makes them difficult to categorise. None the less, it is important to consider the colour’s uniformity and the harmony of the colour spectrums. Not so long ago, the pearl world was one of black & white…mostly white! Colour rarely entered into discussion since they came in just one shade…white. The whiteness had variations to it, some were neutral while others had a touch of pink, silver, yellow or champagne. Lately, however, you will notice a new spectrum of pearl types and tints. The Akoya pearl has been joined by black and gray pearls from Tahiti, golden and cream pearls from Indonesia and the Philippines, as well as purple and orange pearls from China.
Surface Appearance: to estimate a pearls surface you consider outside signs such as scratches, cracks, convex or concave points in the pearl. Pearls with smooth skins free of rings, ridges, pits, dimples and other surface imperfections are the most highly regarded. But a perfect complexion is a lot to ask for from an often-jostled organic gem grown in the innards of a mollusc.
Orient: this is the natural lighting of the pearl with reference to optical phenomena such as dispersion of light, reflections, and refraction. It is a function of the size of crystal of which it is composed and the thickness of the nacre. Nacre is observable by x-ray analysis or if you have experience with a microscope looking towards the drill hole.