Pearls have been a source of fascination for centuries. They have been considered the most magical and feminine of all gems and are the only one created by a living organism. Pearls emanate a certain warmth and glow not found in other gems, due to their unique beginnings.
Pearls are found in pearl oysters. However, the origin of the pearl mystified humans for centuries. Many theories were put forward regarding the origin of pearls however, it wasn't until the turn of the twentieth century that the relationship between pearl oysters and parasites was discovered.
Pearls were created when a foreign body of some sort, such as a grain of sand or a parasite, found its way into a pearl oyster. The oyster reacted by coating the irritant with layer upon layer of the pearly substance known as 'nacre', that gives the pearl its unique appearance and iridescent beauty. This unique relationship gave birth to the natural pearl.
The cultured pearl was created as a way of guaranteeing a steady supply of pearls and satisfying the demands of the consumer. Cultured pearls are formed with a helping hand. In this case, humans rather than nature introduce the irritant: a bead or nucleus is inserted into the oyster by a technician to create a pearl which turns out every bit as natural as one that originated in the wild.
Due to the rarity and high price of natural pearls, cultured pearls feature predominantly on the market. Side by side, it is very difficult to tell the difference between a natural pearl and a high quality cultured pearl with the naked eye. The pearl is the birthstone for June, and also the anniversary gem for the Third and Thirtieth Wedding Anniversaries. Recognized as the emblem of modesty, chastity and purity, pearls have also come to symbolize a happy marriage.
Types of Pearls
South Sea Pearls There are two basic groups of South Sea cultured pearls: white and black. Pearls from the white group are primarily cultured in the northern waters of Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia. Their rarity and exceptional sizes, from 8 to 20mm, make them highly prized. Their colors range from white and silvery blue to pale gold - the golden or light-yellowish varieties abound in Philippine and Indonesian waters while white or silvery hues occur mainly in Australian waters.
Tahitian Pearls The cultured pearl of Tahiti is synonymous with magic and perfection. Most come from the atolls and lagoons of the South Pacific. They tend more toward drop shapes than round and vary in size from 7 to 15mm. They can be black, silver, dark or light gray. The rarest color is "peacock green"the greenish black color of a peacock feather.
Akoya Pearls Considered the classic amongst cultured pearls, Akoya Pearls are primarily round or oval in shape and measure 2 to 10mm. They are cultured in southwestern Japan and China. Their colors range from pinkish white to creamy shades and silvery blue.
Chinese Freshwater Pearls are grown in an amazing variety of delicate shapes ranging from round and oval to button, drop and baroque. Their colors vary from pure white to orange and rosy violet.
Mabé Pearls are attractive half pearls with beautiful, rainbow-colored iridescence. The pearl was named after the mabé pearl oyster which is found mainly in the tropical seas of Southeast Asia and in the Japanese islands around Okinawa. Mabé pearls are available in round, oval, cushion, drop and heart shapes.
Keshi Pearls Possessing a whimsical charm entirely different to the perfectly round, large pearls, seedless keshi pearls arise spontaneously in the culture of Akoya, and South Sea pearls. These small freeform pearls make fascinating necklaces in colors ranging from silvery white to silvery gray.
Type of Pearl Strands
Pearl Choker – 16 inches The pearl choker is a classic and can be worn to any occasion, with any style. As this is the shortest style of pearl necklace, it would be better not to wear this style of pearl necklace if you have a short or long neck as it draws attention to the neck.
Pearl Princess – 18 inches The length of this pearl necklace falls right around the neckline and accents the collar-bone. This is a great style of pearl necklace for office attire as it falls right around the neckline of a blouse.
Pearl Matinee – 24 inches As a longer and more dramatic style of pearl necklace, the matinee is great for more formal events. This is also a good style of pearl necklace for girls with larger chests as it draws attention to the neck and shoulders and ends right above the cleavage.
Pearl Opera – 32 inches This style of pearl necklace can be more versatile as it is long enough for a dramatic evening effect, and also can be double up to be worn as a choker for daytime events.
Pearl Rope – 46 inches The pearl rope can be styled into numerous fashions. This strand can be double or tripled, twisted and knotted, and falls somewhere around the waistline. This style of pearl necklace is definitely an important piece for the fashion-forward.