Info & facts

PEARLS are created

…as a defense mechanism when a foreign substance or irritant lodges itself in the shell of an oyster and cannot be expelled – accidentally in the case of natural pearls, and with human intervention in the case of cultured pearls. Body cells surrounding the irritant start secreting a substance known as nacre, which builds up over several years to form a pearl.

CHOOSING your pearls

There are five attributes to consider when determining a pearl’s quality and therefore its value:

It is difficult for oysters to grow large-sized pearls. As a general rule, larger pearls are therefore more valuable. Two pearls different in size, may however share a similar value if the smaller pearl is superior in quality.

See the chart for more details on SIZE.

The more symmetrical in shape, the more valuable a pearl. Pearls can be round, pear-shaped, tear-shaped or oval. Oysters can grow pearls in many different shapes from perfect spheres to long, flat angel wings. Those irregular or asymmetrical in shape are termed baroque pearls.

See the chart for more details on SHAPE.

The orient of a pearl will determine the extent of its luster and shimmering iridescence. The more prominent its luster, the thicker the nacre. A thicker coating, will fetch a higher price.

See the chart for more details on THICKNESS.

The surface of a pearl should appear satiny smooth. You do not need a magnifier to detect blemishes as they will be readily apparent to the naked eye. When viewed carefully, both natural and cultured pearls may appear to have irregular surfaces. This is quite acceptable, but the clearer the pearl the higher the value.

See the chart for more details on SURFACE.

Although colour is a matter of personal taste, evenness in tone is important. Colours range from pink to white, silver-white, creamy-white, gold, blue and black.

See the chart for more details on COLOUR.

  • AKOYA:
    Grown off the coasts of Japan, Akoya pearls are the best-known cultured pearls in the world. Rarely larger then 9mm in diameter, these pearls are known for the loveliness of their orient and colour.
    Large pearls grown off the coasts of Australia. They are silvery in hue and grow to 10mm in diameter and larger and are very costly.
    Cultivated off the coast of Tahiti, large in size with a range of natural darker colours varying from blues, to greys, to blacks.
  • MABE:
    Large hemispherical pearls grown against the inside shells of the oyster as opposed to within the body. They are more affordable than other large pearls, and are often mounted in earrings, brooches and rings.
    Cultivated in mollusks, rather than oysters, they are found in fresh-water lakes and rivers. They tend to be elongated in shape and have a milky translucence. Their wide range of shapes and affordability makes the ideal for fashion jewellery.

Proper care is necessary to keep pearls beautiful and lustrous. Pearls are organic gemstones, vulnerable to acid, alkaline and different humidity levels. Ranking only 3.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs scale, it may be scratched by contact with precious metals, other gemstones or sharp objects.

    Apply perfume, hairspray and makeup before wearing pearls. Protect pearls from perspiration by removing them before exercising. Remove your pearls before showering, bathing or washing your hands – the water may damage adhesives used to secure your pearls. Avoid situations where your pearls might be scratched or knocked.
    After wearing your pearls, wipe them with a soft, clean and moist cloth. This will prevent dirt from accumulating and keep slightly acidic perspiration from eating away at the pearl nacre. If your pearls are excessively dirty, add mild body soap to your moist cloth when wiping them. Pay attention to the areas around the drill holes where dirt may collect. Wipe the soap off with a clean moist cloth and lay your pearls flat on a moist washcloth to dry. When the washcloth is dry, your pearl strand should be dry. To prevent the silk cord from stretching, do not wear your pearls wet, or hang them to dry. Special pearl cleaner or jewellery cleaner labelled as safe for pearls may also be used.
    Never use heat-, steam- or ultra-sonic cleaning. It can dry your pearls out, lead to discolouring and cracking. Never expose pearls to dish- or wash detergents, bleaches, powdered cleansers, baking soda or ammonia-based cleaners.
    Pearls should be stored away from objects or jewellery that may scratch the pearls’ surface. Store pearls in a compartmentalized jewellery box or wrap them in linen, soft cloth or a soft pouch. Do not store pearls in an airtight package such as a plastic bag, as this may cause the pearls to dehydrate and crack. When storage in a safety deposit box or in a hot environment is unavoidable, leave a damp cloth nearby.
    Restring pearls periodically. Once a year is recommended if you wear your pearls often. Have each pearl knotted separately, preferably with silk, so they do not rub together and cause wear on the pearl nacre. Have a reputable jeweller verify that the pearls on your jewellery are securely mounted. Once every six months, is recommended.