A beautiful pearl is considered one our most ancient and organic gems. Being formed of one of the most natural materials on Earth, it is the only gem extracted from a living animal that can be done without harming it.
Pearls are prized by jewellers the world over and more importantly by their customers. Here at Avalon Jewellery we feel the same way about them. We love them for their luxurious qualities as well as their luminescence and lustre (the rate of reflection from the surface of a pearl).
Pearls are graded according to their size, shape, nacre, colour and lustre, and whether they are natural or cultured. They are formed of nacre, which is a natural coating produced by the oyster or mussel to deal with an irritation within its inner shell. Nacre gives pearls their strength and iridescence. In cultured pearls, a small piece of material is inserted into the mollusc to begin this process.
Currently, there is no international system of grading pearls and so this varies from seller to seller. While one company might describe their most valuable pearl as AAA, another company might grade the same pearl as AAAA. Most pearls these days are cultured with freshwater and Akoya (saltwater) pearls being graded on the A-AAA scale while Tahitian and South Sea pearls are graded using the A-D scale.
Natural pearls found in Tahiti and the South Seas carry a premium. However, it is the pearls with the most beautiful lustre that are the most desirable.
Unsurprisingly, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. Their price jumps quite considerably once they reach 7mm. A perfectly round shape is important to some but others prize the asymmetry of Baroque pearls for their unique qualities.
Pearls take their colour from the colour of an oyster or mussel’s inner shell. They come in an amazing variety of colours from white to cream, pink, grey, grey/blue, purple, black and even gold.
Perhaps one of the most attractive characteristics of pearls is that no two are alike due to tiny imperfections and differences in colour. This only adds to their originality.
So, if you can’t resist these luminous and luxurious little orbs, and want to invest in something extraordinary from the natural world, why not treat yourself, or someone else, to something unique which will be admired for generations. It is no wonder that pearls have been gracing amazing jewellery for thousands of years and no doubt will continue to do so for many more.
Some fascinating facts about pearls:
Saltwater pearls are extracted from oysters while freshwater pearls are extracted from mussels.
All pearl oysters are born male and transform into females at around three years of age.
There are three major types of saltwater cultured pearls: Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea. They are more valuable than freshwater pearls. These oceanic oysters typically grow one pearl at a time.
Freshwater pearls account for approximately 95% of the total global pearl production.
Cultured pearl-farming is known as Periculture.
Pearls take their colour from the inner oyster or mussel shell around them.
In 1916, Jacques Cartier, one of the world’s renowned jewellers was able to trade two pearl necklaces, valued at $1 million, for his Fifth Avenue store.
One of the most famous pearls in the world is La Peregrina, Spanish for ‘the incomparable’. The 500-year-old pearl is pear-shaped and the size of a large pigeon’s egg. Previous owners have included a Spanish King, Napeoleon Bonaparte and Elizabeth Taylor.