"The birth of a pearl is truly a miraculous event". Unlike other gemstones mined from the earth, pearls are created within a living organism.
The process begins when a foreign substance sneaks into the body of oyster or mussel and irritates the mantle. The mollusks immediately begin to produce a crystalline substance called “nacre” around the irritant to protect itself by covering it in layers upon layers of nacre. Over time, the irritant is completely encased by a thick coating of nacre. As a result, we get a lustrous gem pearl.
Natural Pearls are found in the deep sea and it's rare. Divers embark on a dangerous pursuit risking their lives diving deep into the ocean to collect oyster, which carried less chance of success because not all oysters formed pearls. This process takes many years in the wild and pearl-producing mollusks were over-harvested leading to near extinction by the early 20th century, which is the reason why natural pearls are scarce today and carry a high price tag.
Now you may wonder about the expansion of the pearl jewelry industry and how it is possible given the rarity of the natural pearls. All thanks to Kokichi Mikimoto, also known as “The Pearl King'', for creating the world's first cultured pearls. Today, there is an abundance of magnificent pearl jewels in the market, that is not just limited to the wealthiest. Cultured pearls are still naturally forming like the wild pearls, however, the irritant is carefully inserted into the oyster or mussel by human to kick off the process. This technique is popularly known as pearl farming.
- Cultured pearls are genuine pearls that are cultivated in saltwater and freshwater pearl farms. Cultured pearls are classified based on their place of origins.
- Pearls come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. They are a gift of nature from a living mollusks, so a flawless surface is extremely rare.
- Oysters' or mussels' environment and harvest time determine the color, and size of pearls.
When evaluating the quality of a pearl, pearl grading is essential. Many grading systems exist, but most of them consider the following factors:
- Surface quality
- Nacre thickness
The A-AAA scale is the most commonly used grading system, ranging from A (lowest quality) to AAA (highest quality). AAA-graded pearls are deemed to be of the highest quality and are therefore the most valuable.
However, the worth of a pearl is also affected by its rarity. The rarest pearls are those that are large, round, have a pure color, and have a high luster. These pearls can be worth thousands or even millions of dollars.
Luster is determined by the nacre's thickness, arrangement of layers and degree of translucence. The higher the luster is, the more it shines on the surface of the pearl.
Pearl sizes can range from 1mm (seed pearls go low as 1mm) to as large as 20mm for south sea pearls. As the size of the pearl increases, the price value also goes up as well. Large sized pearls are rare and have heavy price tag.
The shape of a pearl is one of the factors that determines its quality and value. Round pearls are the most valuable, followed by oval, button, and pear-shaped pearls. Pearls are grouped into eight basic shapes categories.
There is no pearl that is similar to another and there will be always small imperfections on the surface. Pearl blemishes are also one of the factors determine pearl value.
The color of a pearl can be a determining factor in its quality. Pearls come in a variety of colors, from white to black, with many shades in between. The most valuable pearls are those that have a pure, even color.
Pearls with overtones or exotic body colors can also be valuable, but they are not as common as pearls with pure colors. Overtones are translucent colors that sometimes appear over top of a pearl's main body-color. These overtones tend to alter the body-color somewhat as well as adding depth and glow.
Pearls come in range of natural colors.