About PearlsSpeak With a Specialist
Pearls are unique in the world of gemstones since they are the only gemstone made within a living creature. Since natural pearls are so rare and hard to recover from the ocean's depths, man invented the technique of culturing salt and freshwater pearls from mollusks by carefully seeding with irritants similar to those created by nature. The meticulous effort of culturing is one of the most dramatic examples of man's quest to coax beauty from nature.
In the early 1900's, a Japanese citizen named Mikimoto Kokichi was the first to perfect the art of culturing a pearl from an Akoya oyster. The process begins when a bead is inserted into the mantle of the oyster. Then it is placed back into the sea on large screened beds. The oyster scenses the bead as an irritant and begins to secrete nacre, a white milky substance. The nacre adheres to bead making it smoother and less irritating to the oyster and thus a pearl is born. As more and more layers of nacre adhere to the bead, the pearl becomes increasingly lustrous and valuable. The finest Akoya pearls, such as Day's Princesse pearls, are left in the oyster for 5 years or more.
Freshwater pearls are cultured in lakes, mostly in China. They are far more abundant and are much less costly than their Akoya cousin. Freshwater mollusks secrete nacre far more rapidly and multiple pearls can be cultured at the same time in a single mollusk.
The most valuable of all cultured pearls are South Sea pearls, found mainly in Australia and Tahiti. These pearls are cultured in giant mollusks and are typically much larger than than Akoya pearls. White and off white South Sea pearls are most often found in Australia. Gray or black South Sea pearls are sometimes refered to as Tahitian pearls because they are cultured primarily in Tahiti.
Cultured pearls come in many beautiful colors including: gold, yellow, champagne, pink, peach, lavender, gray and black. Honora is best known for their creation of colored pearls. Cultured pearls come in many shapes and sizes also. Pearl is the gemstone for June birthdays, as well as the third and thirtieth anniversaries.
Due to demand for perfectly matched white pearl strands, cultured fresh and saltwater pearls are often bleached to achieve a uniform color. They may also be polished in tumblers to clean and improve their luster.
Dyes, heat treatment, and irradiation are sometimes applied to produce a wide range of hues such as yellow, green, blue, purple, gray, and black in freshwater and Akoya cultured pearls. Some South Sea cultured pearls are bleached to lighten their hue, but most South Sea and Tahitian cultured pearls are not subjected to enhancements to create or improve their color.