A pearl is born....
Far below the surface of the sea, nearly half a world away, a miraculous event is taking place—the birth of a cultured pearl. Born from the womb of mother oysters, cultured pearls are truly a gift of nature. Unlike other precious gemstones which are cut and polished to release their inner beauty, cultured pearls come into the world naturally radiant. They emerge miraculously with a shimmering iridescence, lustre, and soft inner glow which is unlike any other jewel on earth.
A natural pearl occurs when a foreign object, such as a parasite or a bit of broken shell, accidently lodges itself in the soft inner body of an oyster, where it cannot be expelled. The oyster attempts to protect itself by secreting a smoooth, hard crystalline substance around the irritant. This substance is often referred to as "nacre." For as long as the irritant remains, the oyster will continue to secrete layer upon layer of nacre around it. After a few years, the irritant has become totally encased. The result is a lovely and lustrous pearl.
Nacre is composed of microscopic crystals, aligned perfectly, so that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by another to produce a warm and inviting glow of slight and subtle color. The nacre found in cultured pearls is formed by oysters in a nearly identical manner. The only difference is man surgically implants the irritant—a small, rounded bead of polished shell, or in the case of a freshwater pearl, a small piece of body tissue from another mussel. Then it's up to the host oyster and Mother Nature to create their miracle.
Information provided by the
Cultured Pearl Association of America, Inc.
Pearls should be evaluated on the basis of the following criteria:
Lustre - the combination of surface brilliance and a deep, almost three-dimensional glow, the lustre of a good-quality pearl should be bright and not dull. You should be able to see your reflection on the surface of a pearl. Any pearl that appears too chalky or dull indicates low quality.
Surface - cleanness of the pearl's surface refers to the absense of organic spots, bumps or indentations. A pearl that has a cleaner surface generally will be more valuable than a pearl with a blemished surface.
Shape - since cultured pearls are grown by oysters and subject to the whims of Mother Nature, it is rare to find a pearl that is perfectly round. While round pearls command the highest prices, asymmetrical, or baroque pearls have a unique charm at a more moderate price.
Color - cultured pearls occur in colors from white to black, and just about every color in between. Usually color is not a true indicator of pearl quality, though some colors command premium prices.
Size - generally the larger the pearl the more valuable it will be. Sizes of cultured pearls range from 1mm for a very tiny Keshi pearl to as large as 24mm for a baroque South Sea cultured pearl.