The pearl is the oldest known gem and for centuries has been considered the most sought after. To the ancients, a pearl was known as the symbol of the moon due to its resemblance to that celestial body. Pearls over time have become a symbol of love, purity, beauty, and innocence. One of the most famous pearls, La Peregrina, (“The Incomparable”) about the size of a pigeon egg, was famed for its beauty. Philip II of Spain, Mary Tudor, Napoleon III and Elizabeth Taylor have all been held under its spell.
Unlike other gems formed in nature, the pearl is beautifully shaped and cannot be improved by man. Since the 1900’s, pearls have been cultured thanks to Japanese innovation, making them accessible not only to royalty and the very famous but all that seek their lustrous beauty
In the abundant pristine and unpolluted waters of Eastern China most freshwater pearls are born. The natural process of pearl formation starts when a foreign object such as a parasite or a piece of sand accidentally enters the soft tissue of a mollusc, and can not be expelled. To protect itself, the mollusc secretes a crystalline surface called “nacre” around the intruder. As long as the irritant is present, the mollusc will continue to secrete layer upon layer of nacre until a lustrous pearl is born.
The nacre found in cultured pearls is formed in a similar manner. The only difference is that the irritant is a surgically implanted piece of body tissue from another mollusc. Thus cultured freshwater pearls are composed entirely of nacre, a miracle that takes years to perform.
Like other precious gems, pearls are judged on certain aspects.
A lustrous pearl has more than a shiny surface; it also has a deep inner glow. Think of moonlight on a deep blue sea.
A pearl being an individual creation may present with imperfection such as dimple or pits, but these must be slight. The larger freshwater pearls will be bestowed with thick nacre, a sure mark of durability.
Freshwater pearls come in only three natural color variations: white, peach-pink, and purple. There is a multitude of hues of these colors that are rare and unusual with their beauty indescribable. All other freshwater colored pearls have been treated.
Freshwater pearls can be found in a variety of shapes, a perfectly round one nearly impossible to find. Subjected to whims of Nature, many pearl shapes are discovered in each mollusc, all beautiful in their own right.
All things being equal, the larger pearls have greater value since they have spent more time in the mussel’s womb. The average size pearl sold around the world is 7mm.