Pearls are some of the most elegant and ageless gemstones you can own. Over the years, their unsurpassed beauty has become a metaphor for perfection and rarity. It is no coincidence that the pearl is called the "Queen of all gems". There's no way you don't know what they look like, but there are certainly a bunch of interesting facts surrounding them that are worth learning. Did you know that the process of forming a pearl can take between 6 months and 20 years? If you're the kind of person who still thinks pearls are only suitable for formal occasions and more mature ladies, get ready to have your idea overturned!

How are pearls formed?

Pearls are the only gemstone that comes from a living organism. Almost all shellfish can form pearls, but the most lustrous and beautiful are the fruit of certain species of oysters and clams. Even the oysters from which they come are eaten as seafood, and their shells form what is known as sedef, which is also used to make jewellery accessories. In short, pearls are formed when a mollusc reacts defensively to another foreign body (irritant) that has penetrated its shell. The irritant entering the mollusk's body serves as the nucleus from which a pearl is formed. Many people think that this irritant is most often a grain of sand, which is not always the case. Most clams usually manage to expel this grit accidentally caught in their shell. For this reason, it is much more common for this process to be triggered naturally by another marine organism, such as a small animal, a piece of coral, or a piece of the mussel's own shell or tissue.

When the mollusc fails to expel the foreign body in question, it attacks it through the secretion of a smooth substance called "sedef" (the mixture has the same composition as the coating on the inside of the shell). The mollusc does not stop secreting Sedef around the irritant as long as it is inside its shell. Over time, these layers of Sedef build up around it, protecting the mussel's tissues. The formation of a pearl can last for years. Completely natural pearls of this species are extremely rare, and they do not always take on a perfect oval shape. You may come across a perfect pearl from nearly 10,000 wild oysters. Collecting a sufficient number of pearls of roughly the same size, color and shape to make a piece of jewelry is an incredibly difficult as well as expensive task. However, cultured pearls come to the rescue!

Cultured or fully natural pearls - what's the difference?

Before we go any further, it is important to clarify that there are two main categories of pearls - completely natural and naturally cultured. The most prized of all types are of course the completely natural ones, but as we have already mentioned, they are also the rarest and most expensive pearls in existence. Pearls whose formation is entirely controlled by natural processes in nature are considered to be such. In other words, without any human intervention. Nowadays, a large number of completely natural pearls are reserved for certain manufacturers, connoisseurs and jewellery collectors.

The other type, namely natural cultured pearls, is formed in exactly the same way, with the small difference that the irritant is inserted by a person making a small incision in the mussel tissue. This process is carried out by specialists in separate mussel farms. This allows the whole process to be carefully monitored, resulting in pearls that meet the high standards of the jewellery industry. This method was first discovered by Mikimoto Kokichiwho established the first cultured pearl farm in 1893. Until then, pearl jewellery was extremely rare and only worn by wealthy people. Thanks to the revolutionary discovery of the Japanese entrepreneur, they became much more accessible and widespread. Jewellery experts are amazed at their identity with the completely natural pearls. As a result of this, as well as their significantly more reasonable price, cultured natural pearls account for over 95% of the total market share of this gemstone.

Now that we've clarified all that, let's look at how cultured and fully natural pearls are divided into further subcategories - freshwater and saltwater. All pearls, whether cultured or not, are categorized into two main types - freshwater and saltwater pearls. This depends solely on their place of origin. A lot of people still have the misconception that freshwater pearls are cultured and saltwater pearls are completely natural. This is not the case at all, as both types of pearls can be cultured under the watchful eye of specialists.

Saltwater Pearls

Marine pearls come from molluscs that inhabit the waters of seas and oceans in regions such as Australia, Tahiti, Thailand and Indonesia. Their formation process is usually longer and the pearls themselves are more lustrous than freshwater pearls. On the other hand, marine pearls are more vulnerable to injury as well as relatively more expensive. Some of the most popular varieties of saltwater pearls include:

  • Japanese Akoya Pearls


    The harvest period for this species is about one year. As can be seen in the photo above, they are characterised by their pink hues. They are mainly harvested in Japan, China, Korea and Vietnam.

  • Tahitian Black Pearls

    The mining period of this type almost always exceeds two years, based on which they are among the more rare and expensive varieties of this type of gemstone. Although 'black' is part of their name, they are characterised more by their grey-black hues.

  • Golden Pearls of the South Sea

    The characteristic colour of South Sea pearls is golden, with some being more saturated and others paler.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are formed in the shells of molluscs that inhabit lakes and rivers. The main country in which freshwater pearl mining takes place is China, although the USA and Japan also hold leading positions in the market. Their formation period is comparatively shorter and the number of pearls that a freshwater mollusc can form is greater compared to that of marine dwellers. Freshwater pearls are usually not as shiny as marine pearls, but they are available at a more affordable price. In the past, freshwater pearls have also been inferior in size due to their shorter growth period. This is no longer exactly the case, as more and more specialty farms are providing a longer growth period that actually allows them to reach the size of saltwater pearls.

An interesting fact is that less than 5% of freshwater pearls have a perfect oval shape, which is usually the most sought after among this type of jewelry. The reason for this is that freshwater pearls most often use part of the tissue of the shell itself as the irritant, while saltwater pearls use a bead that allows the pearl to form a perfect sphere.

As for their color, the most common freshwater pearls are white or beige with shades of cream and lavender. Black freshwater pearls can also be encountered, but this is obtained by artificially dyeing them. To get a better idea of what one pearl looks like compared to the other, you can take a look at the photo below:

How to wear your pearl jewelry?

Pearls are one of the longest-running fashion trends and there's definitely no end in sight to their sunset. However, when most people hear about them, an image of a classic pure white necklace pops into their mind. This is one of the reasons why some still consider them too formal, speaking of everyday wear. This is far from the only image of pearl jewelry. In fact, some of their most striking qualities are their stunning natural colors as well as their varied shapes. Their versatility is what makes them popular among women of all ages in the modern world. Whether you're looking for a pearl piece of jewellery for everyday wear or you have an important occasion coming up that you need to be irresistible for, we've got the essentials you need to know.

  • Daily wear

As mentioned before, with the versatility of pearls nowadays, there is always a way to achieve a modern look with a touch of elegance. With that in mind, there's no good reason not to enjoy them every day. That's right! Even the most exquisite pearl jewelry has a place in our everyday lives. If your workplace calls for an outfit that's a little more formal, we'd advise you to go for a simple necklace made from white or cream pearls. You can be sure that paired with a smart shirt or polo blouse, you can't go wrong.

Want to add some amazing pearl earrings to this outfit? Choose a more simple design, for example on the ear, so it doesn't look like you've overdone the accessories.

women silver stud earrings with pearl on white background

В случай че търсите по-разчупен и свеж дизайн, който да съчетаете с облекло като дънки, потници и друг тип ежедневни дрехи, може да изберете многоцветна перлена гривна. Перфектното бижу, което да краси ръката Ви през целия ден.

  • Special Occasions

Почти всеки би се съгласил, че няма по-подходящ завършек на елегантната вечерна визия от перлените бижута. Блясъкът, който всяка перла притежава, е изключително фин и нежен, но несъмнено привлича погледите на околните. Не се страхувайте да изберете бижута, които съчетават перли с други скъпоценни камъни, като например цирконий. Обикновено те се вписват невероятно с изискана рокля.

 

Have you considered going for a darker pearl colour? If you haven't, it's time to do so, as they are undoubtedly less common and you'll stand out with this type of accessory!

For the finale, we wouldn't dare leave out the layered pearl jewellery, a favourite of millions of ladies. These are mainly found in necklaces and bracelets, and are most often more suitable for occasions requiring elegant attire.

Apart from everything mentioned so far, pearls symbolize purity and serenity, which is also among the many reasons they are a must-have component in almost every lady's jewelry collection. This amazing gemstone is more attractive than ever, and it is certainly not too late to rediscover a whole new world of colorful and remarkable accessories.

Browse our entire collection of pearl jewellery and make your choice by clicking HERE!

Leave a Reply