The value of the Pearl has been appreciated throughout history. The Bible refers to “a pearl of great price”. Unlike other precious gems, the delicate Pearl is unique. It is created within an oyster. Pearl creation results when a grain of sand or small foreign body makes its way within the oyster shell. The oyster protects itself by covering the intruder with layers of calcium carbonate crystal—a substance known as nacre. The result is the beautiful and delicate Pearl.
Historically, Pearls were considered a financial asset, comparable to owning land or gold. The natural occurrence of Pearl was rare. Seldom discovered or possessed by man, this jewel was highly valued. Today, most Pearls are “cultured”. Oysters are cultivated in purposefully designed oyster beds. Tiny beads are placed inside each oyster. The oyster is returned to its “oyster bed”. In time, the Pearl which it creates is harvested. These pearls are referred to as cultured pearls.
Pearls occur in white, cream, yellow, pink, silver, green blue, purple, brown or black. A pearl can also have a hint of secondary coloring. A luster or deep shine may be seen when light reflects off the surface of a pearl. Pearls come in eight basic shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, and ringed.
Most cultured pearls are produced in Japan. Large oysters in the warm waters of the South Pacific produce large “South Sea Cultured Pearls” and “Tahitian Black Cultured Pearls”. Freshwater pearls are generally smaller in size. Freshwater mussels are used to produce them. China has developed a launch industry to produce freshwater pearls.
Pearl is the birthstone of those born in June. Pearl holds a place in folklore and religious belief. The twelve gates of heaven are reportedly each made of a single pearl – hence the name “The Pearly Gates”.
The Pearl is beautiful but fragile. They require special care. Pearls should be stored in a jewelry pouch. They are never tossed in with other gems or left atop a jewelry box. Pearls may be damaged by chemicals like perfume, vinegar or lemon juice. Excessive heat or dry air may dry pearls out, turn them around and make them crack. Those who have highly acidic skin should use a soft cloth to wipe down regularly worn pearls. This will preserve the pearls natural luster and the beauty.
The value of a Pearl is determined by a combination of luster, color, size, surface and symmetry. When considering a Pearl, please include the following criteria in your decision making process:
Pearls with the smoothest surfaces are the highest-quality, most sought-after pearls. However, perfectly round and smooth pearls should be approached with caution – chances are it may be an imitation.
As with any jewel, larger is often considered better. Freshwater pearls are usually the smallest; Akoya pearls tend to stay in mid-range sizes, while South Sea and Tahitian pearls are most often the largest.
The luster of Pearl is also a significant factor in determining its value. The larger the pearl, the more nacre it has. Larger pearls often exhibit more luster; for example, a 10 mm Pearl that is being compared to a 5 mm Pearl will not only be larger in size, most often will demonstrate more luster.
The highest quality, rarest pearl shape is round. Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls tend to be the roundest. Freshwater pearls are often oval or slightly off-round.
Cultured pearls are less valuable than natural pearls. Imitation pearls are least expensive. The seldom seen Black pearl (Black Tahitian Pearl) is highly valued because of its rarity.