Created by a Living Animal
Pearls are the only jewels created by a living animal. A natural pearl of value is found in less than 1 in 10,000 wild oysters. All pearl oysters are born male, but then transform into females at three years of age.
There are three main types of saltwater cultured pearls:
- Tahitian, and
- South Sea.
These pearls account for approximately 5% of the global pearl population. Although they share many of the same characteristics, they look vastly different. This is because each pearl is sourced from a different species of oyster.
One pearl at a time is made.
Freshwater pearls account for approximately 95% of the global pearl production. These pearls are much less valuable than saltwater pearls. China produces the overwhelming majority of freshwater pearls in pearl farms. These farms range from a small personal fishpond, to massive lakes filled with millions of mussels. A single freshwater mussel can produce between 30 and 50 pearls at a time.
What to Know About Pearls: Pearls Facts
Even with farming, South Sea pearls are rare.
- For comparison, diamond production each year is 10 times greater than the annual Australian South Sea pearls harvest.
- Pearl oysters are used for their shell, known as mother-of-pearl, and their meat.
- Recently, a 2000 year old pearl was found in Western Australia.
- “La Peregrina” is one of the most famous pearls in the world. This 500-year-old pearl is pear shaped and the size of a large pigeon’s egg. Its previous owners included a King of Spain, Napoleon Bonaparte and Elizabeth Taylor.
- In the early days, pearl divers were faced with the threat of shark attacks, and the crippling effects of the bends with every dive. In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century, the mortality rate for divers was 50%. Today, there are strict regulations and protocols regarding industrial diving to reduce these risks.
Rare and Valuable
The name “pearl” comes from a Old French word “perle”, and from the Latin “perna” meaning “leg.” Referencing the leg-of-mutton shape of an open mollusk shell. Perfectly round, and smooth natural pearls are so uncommon, the word “pearl” can refer to anything rare and valuable.
Made in the Wild
The rarest and most expensive pearls are natural pearls made in the wild without human interference. The majority of pearls sold today are cultured or farmed by implanting a grafted piece of shell (and sometimes a round bead) into pearl oysters or freshwater pearl mussels. Meaning most pearls made involve human interference, making it less valuable.
Soft and Sensitive
Pearls are very soft, ranging between 2.5 and 4.5 on the Mohs scale. They are sensitive to extreme heat and acidity. In fact, calcium carbonate is so susceptible to acid that authentic pearls will dissolve in vinegar.
- The finest pearls have a naturally reflective sheen, making them appear creamy white with an iridescent luster that casts many colorful hues.
- Cultured freshwater pearls can also be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple or black.
- Black pearls are mostly cultured because they are rare in nature. They aren’t actually black but rather green, purple, blue or silver.
Where You Can Find Pearls
Pearls used to be found in many parts of the world, but natural pearling is now confined to the Persian Gulf waters near Bahrain. Australia owns one of the world’s last remaining pearl diving fleets and still harvests natural pearls from the Indian Ocean. Today, most freshwater cultured pearls come from China. South Sea pearls are cultured along the northwestern coastline of Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Here are Joseph’s Jewelry, we have made custom pieces around pearls. With statement rings, brooches, and bracelets, we are able to cater to everyone’s desired look. We carry numerous elegant pieces catering to every budget, and desired style. We are here to help you find your perfect jewelry piece, complete a set, or make a custom jewelry design as unique as you are! We will also repair and restore your jewelry pieces whether or not they were purchased through us. Come in anytime to check out our unique gold and diamond rings, pendants, bracelets, earrings, and watches in stock for a celebration, last-minute gift, or spontaneous surprise.