Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Pearls have been used in jewelry for thousands of years. Their unique beauty and variances span across the world. Pearls naturally exist in freshwater and saltwater oysters, however the odds of finding a pearl naturally are very small. This is because a pearl is formed only if a foreign substance (usually a parasite) invades the oyster's shell and irritates the soft tissue. The oyster forms layers of nacre material around the foreign substance as a way to defend itself from this substance. Over the course of many years, the pearl grows as many layers of nacre are formed. Natural pearls are the rarest and most expensive type of pearl. However, natural pearls do not make for an effective means to produce pearl jewelry as they are usually irregularly shaped and difficult to harvest.
Here are some types of pearls;
Types of Pearls
Only 20 species of mollusks out of an estimated 7000 have the ability to produce pearls. The most prized and beautiful pearl types currently used in pearl jewelry are as follows: Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls, South Sea Pearls, and Freshwater Pearls.
Akoya Pearls are farmed primarily in China and Japan and cultured in the Akoya oyster. These oysters are the smallest of the group and generally produce pearl sizes in the range of 3mm to 11mm. Akoya Pearls are known for their high luster and slight pink or yellow hue.
Tahitian Pearls are farmed in the French Polynesian and around Tahiti by the "black-lipped" oyster. These oysters can grow in excess of one foot in length and tend to produce larger sized pearls up to 14mm in diameter. Tahitian Pearls are silver or charcoal in color usually with a slight green tint. Tahitian Pearls that are black are very rare and thus more expensive.
South Sea Pearls are cultured in two mollusk varieties: "silver-lipped" and "gold-lipped" oysters (Pinctada maxima). They are farmed in their natural water habitat around Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia and surrounding areas. These large oysters produce pearls in the range of 9mm to 20mm and are among the largest pearls. Color varieties are typically white, silvery or golden with a satin luster.
Freshwater Pearls are cultured in mussels that live in non-saline water environments, such as lakes, rivers and ponds. Most Freshwater Pearls are farmed in China and it has been the country's tradition since recorded over 4000 years ago. Freshwater Pearls are made of pure nacre thus tend to be more durable and less prone to chipping than their salt-water counter parts. These pearls usually range in size from 6mm to 12mm and come in a variety of colors and shapes and tend to have slightly less luster and usually less expensive than salt-water pearls.