Arlecchino jewelsAbout pearls and pearl care

 

Natural and Cultured Pearls

Since the Hindu god Vishnu searched the seas for a pearl to adorn his daughter on her wedding day, pearls have been symbols of love, happiness and good fortune. During the time of Queen Elizabeth I, the pearl came into its own as a major gemstone. Elizabeth often wore seven strands of pearls at a time, some strands reaching down to her knees.

Both natural and cultured pearls form when an irritant is embedded in an oyster, clam or mollusk. Prior to the late nineteenth century, all pearl jewelry was made from natural pearls. In 1893, the era of pearl farming was born when Kokichi Mikimoto was first able to induce pearl growth by manually implanting the irritant into the oysters. This first success was a single, semi-round pearl. From this modest start, today there are nearly 5000 pearl farms in production around the world. While traditionally farms were found in Japan and the South Seas, today's farms can be found in Australia, China, French Polynesia and even the United States. Both natural and cultured pearls are routinely permanently lightened or dyed or irradiated to achieve a desired luster. While pearls continue their popularity in fashion, the classic pearl strand still dominates. Pearl earrings and pendants are always a gift that is appreciated for any occasion.

The price of pearls has been fluctuating recently, due to huge mortality rates of the oysters in Japan. While Japan's dominance in the market is strong, it is by no means permanent. China has become the "new" farmer's field for both salt water Akoya and the new freshwater, near round pearls. In the years to come, most in the industry predict a further blurring of the line with respect to country of origin and the salt water versus freshwater pearl.

 

Common Pearl Types

Akoya
Primarily cultivated in Japan and China, these saltwater pearls typically range in size from 6 to 8 millimeters, however they can be raised as small as 2 millimeters (mm) or as large as 10mm. While the most common body color is white to cream, they can naturally occur in yellow, gray and blue. The Akoya pearl generally takes 6 to 18 months to form a pearl.

South Seas
These saltwater pearls are larger in size than the Akoya, typically 8mm to 18mm and range in color from white to golden. They are farmed principally in Australia. Indonesia and the Philippines and take generally 24 months to produce the pearl.

Tahitian
Along with the South Sea pearl, the Tahitian pearl is one of the most prized in the pearl family. They range in color from white to black to other colors including green and purple. The average size is from 8mm to 14mm. While larger millimeter sizes have been produced, they are done so in limited quantities. It takes approximately 18 to 20 months to produce a Tahitian pearl.

Freshwater
Today's freshwater pearls bear little resemblance to the freshwater pearls of a decade ago. The Chinese have developed a pearl that rivals the Aki pearl. The sizes range from 3mm to 8mm without losing the roundness. In the future, larger sizes should also be on the market. The freshwater pearl also comes in various other shapes and sizes. The primary sources for freshwater pearls are China and the United States. Blister pearls are formed on the side of the mollusk's shell. One side is flat and without nacre. They are cultured both in saltwater and freshwater.

Mabe
Mabe pearls are blister pearls that have been filled with epoxy resin and glued to a mother-of-pearl backing.

 

Seven Value Factors

Size
Pearl sizes are stated in millimeters. For round pearls, this indicates the diameter of the pearl. If it is another shape, such as teardrop, then the length, width and depth are usually given. If all factors are equal, the value of the pearl increases with size.

Shape
There are three basic shape categories for pearls: Spherical - round or near round is the most popular; Symmetrical - drop, oval or button, is popular for fashion pieces; such as earrings and pendants; Baroque refers to any oddly shaped pearl. The baroque pearl is ideal for someone looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind look. If all factors are the same, round pearls typically command a higher price.

Color
Because pearls come in many colors, they are one of the few gemstones that can be said to truly complement any customer's complexion. White pearls simply "glow" against paler skin, while the dark-haired beauty might be better suited to creamy pearls. Rose pearls tend to highlight anyone's complexion, and as a result are always popular.

Luster
Luster is defined by the light reflections from the surface of the pearl. The more lustrous a pearl the more valuable and beautiful it is.

Blemishes
Since pearls are a naturally grown gemstone, no two are alike. Natural conditions such as water temperature and pollution impact the smoothness of the surface of the pearl. Some blemishes affect a pearl's appearance; others affect the durability, too. Surface condition is judged by considering size, number, location, visibility and types blemishes.

Nacre Quality
Nacre is the surface layer of the pearl. It is the result of the oyster coating the irritant with a substance that hardens and thickens with each layer. The deeper the layers, or nacre, the more lustrous and durable the pearl. If the nacre is too thin, the original "seed bead" may show through or the nacre may chip off.

Matching
Matching refers to the uniformity of appearance of the pearls in a piece of jewelry or strand. The more closely matched the pearls, the more pearls had to be sorted through, and therefore the more expensive the item.

Interesting features
Pearls have a timeless quality of style and class. Every generation marks special passages of life - graduation, weddings, and anniversary - with a gift of pearl, either strands or pearl jewelry such as rings earrings and pendants. Since a strand coordinates with most all styles, it is a staple to any wardrobe at any time of life.

pearls bracelets

 


Protection

Pearls are a chemical and organic gem that require a more specialized care than most other gem materials. They deteriorate in contact with chemicals like household cleaners, perfumes, cosmetics, and hair care products of all kinds.

A good rule of thumb is that your pearls are The Last Thing You Put On when dressing and The First Thing You Take Off when you get home. Never apply perfume or hair spray when you are wearing pearl jewelry.

The surface of a pearl is soft and can be easily damaged. Pearls set in rings and bracelets are subject to more cuffing and scratching than pearls set in brooches, earrings, necklaces or strands.

Main Care Tips
Never clean pearls in an ultrasonic cleaner. Never use detergent or bleaches or baking soda or ammonia based products. Do not use scouring pads or abrasive materials to clean the pearls. Take your pearls off when applying cosmetics and perfumes. Do not keep pearls near heaters or in places that get strong sunlight, such as a windowsill: they'll dry out. If your strand becomes dirty or loose have your jeweler clean it professionally or restring altogether.

Cleaning Tips
Caring for your precious pearls is easy. It is best to put your pearls on last. Cosmetics, perfumes, and hair spray all contain chemicals that can dull the luster of a pearl over an extended period of time. Periodically wipe your pearls with a soft damp cloth.

Washing Instructions
If you wear your pearls frequently, you should consider washing them approximately once a year. Although professional cleaning is recommended, self-cleaning can also be done. Place your pearls in a colander (plastic) to minimize handling your pearls. Dip the colander several times in a mild soap solution (use a clear liquid soap, Ivory). Rinse thoroughly in clean water. Pour the pearls onto a towel and allow to dry for at least 24 hours before handling them. Consider having your pearls restrung after three washings. Remember: Your pearls will last a lifetime with proper care and will only become more beautiful and elegant with age.

Storage
Pearl strands are stored separately from other jewelry because of the pearl's soft surface which can be easily scratched by other gems. A silk bag, velvet-lined box, pearl folder (a satin-lined leatherette envelope with snaps to hold a strand in place) are good places to store pearls. Your local jeweler is a good source for these items.
Never store pearls in a plastic bag. Some types of plastics emit a chemical that can cause the surface of the pearls to deteriorate.
Pearls should not be stored in a safe or safety security box for long periods of time. The ultra-dry atmospheric conditions that extend the life of paper documents dries out the pearls causing them to craze i.e. (to develope small fractures on the surface).
Pearl strands should be stored flat rather than hung to avoid premature stretching of thread. (thread type: either nylon or silk).


 

 

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