Pearl necklace has been a jewelry staple for generations and we firmly believe that every woman should own at least one. So that's why we try to give you information abaout it

How Pearls Are Harvested

Early on, pearl cultivation depended entirely on wild oysters. Later you'll learn that, in some cases, the same applies today. But modern pearl cultivation has become more selective.

In Japanese pearl cultivation, scientists have isolated strains of oysters that possess superior pearl-producing qualities. These selectively-bred oysters produce pearls of exceptional lustre and color clarity.

In a process referred to as "nucleation," also called "grafting" or "seeding," highly skilled technicians carefully open live pearl oysters, and with surgical precision make an incision in the oyster's body. Then, they place a tiny piece of "mantle tissue" from another oyster into a relatively safe location. Then, they place a small round piece of shell, or "nucleus," beside the inserted mantle tissue. The nucleus is a mother-of-pearl bead made from an American freshwater mussel. The cells from the mantle tissue develop around the nucleus forming a sac, which closes and starts to secrete nacre, the crystalline substance that forms the pearl.

The nucleated oysters are then returned to the sea where, in sheltered bays rich in nutrients, they feed and grow, depositing layer after layer of lustrous nacre around the nuclei implanted within them. The oysters are given the utmost care during this time, while suspended in the water, from the rafts above. Technicians check water temperatures and feeding conditions daily at various depths, moving the oysters up or down as appropriate. Periodically, the oysters are lifted from the sea for cleaning and health treatments. Seaweed, barnacles and other seaborne organisms that might interfere with their feeding are removed from the oysters' shells. The shells are also treated with medicinal compounds to discourage parasites.

Over time, after many months of growth and care, the oysters are ready for harvest. Those that have survived the many perils of the sea are brought ashore and opened. And then, when everything has gone well, a beauty is revealed -- the result is a lovely, lustrous and very valuable cultured pearl.

A Brief History of Pearls

Many thousands of years ago, long before written history, human beings probably discovered the first pearl while searching the seashore for food. Throughout history, the pearl, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence, has been one of the most highly prized and sought-after gems.

Countless references to the pearl can be found in the religions and mythology of cultures from the earliest times.

The ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much they were buried with them. Cleopatra reportedly dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it, simply to win a wager with Mark Antony that she could consume the wealth of an entire nation in just one meal. In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing. The Greeks held the pearl in high esteem for both its unrivaled beauty and its association with love and marriage.

During the Dark Ages, while fair maidens of nobility cherished delicate pearl necklaces, gallant knights often wore pearls into battle. They believed the magic of these lustrous gems would protect them from harm. The Renaissance saw the royal courts of Europe awash in pearls. Because pearls were so highly regarded, a number of European countries actually passed laws forbidding anyone but the nobility to wear them. During the European expansion into the New World, the discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe.

Unfortunately, greed and lust for the sea-grown gems resulted in the depletion of virtually all the American pearl oyster populations by the 17th century.Until the early 1900's, natural pearls were accessible only to the rich and famous.

In 1916, famed French jeweler Jacques Cartier bought his landmark store on New York's famous Fifth Avenue -- by trading two pearl necklaces for the valuable property. But today, with the advent of pearl cultivation, pearls are available and affordable to all.

Pearl cultivation in Indonesia

Pearl cultivation in Indonesia

For centuries, pearl divers have sought oysters in the clear waters of the Indonesian archipelago. The oysters were harvested for their valuable inner mother of pearl shell, which was used to make buttons. On rare occasions pearls Barok Necklacewere found inside, a valuable find. Stories of life in Batavia in the 1600s make mention of Arab traders of pearls and their popular wares.

In Indonesia traditional diving and its very low rate of success in finding pearls has been largely replaced in recent decades by the cultivation of cultured pearls. In the late 1800s, three Japanese inventors, the most famous of which was Mikimoto, discovered the technique to culture both saltwater and freshwater pearls. Pearl farms, found in China, Japan, the US and the tropical waters of Southeast Asia produce millions of beautiful cultural pearls annually, which is primarily what is found on the market today.

The Japanese have been interested in cultivating pearls in Indonesia. By the mid-1990s, heretofore minor interests had led to major investment by domestic and Japanese investors in the cultured pearl industry in Indonesia, not only in the province of Maluku, but also in Southeast and Central Sulawesi, West Nusa Tenggara, Lombok and Lampung. In the last few years, some pearl cultivation has moved out of the areas of unrest in Maluku and Sulawesi and pearl cultivators are finding new sites in the clear waters of Irian Jaya and off other islands to cultivate their treasures.

Stringing a pearl necklace.In Indonesia, the primary cultivation is of South Sea Pearls, grown in saltwater farms in the silver lip or gold lip oyster (Pinctada Maxima). This type of oyster grows well in the waters off Indonesia, Australia, the Philippines, and Japan. The natural colored pearls produced by these oysters include silver/white, silver, pink, cream and golden. The proper term for these pearls is “saltwater cultured pearls”. The high-luster, perfectly spherical white pearl commands the highest price, as it can take the oyster many years to grow the largest pearls.

Whatever the shape or size, the work of the oyster to deposit the thousands of layers of thin calcium carbonate crystals, creates beautiful pearls which have been treasured by women for jewelry and ornamentation for centuries. Neither cut nor polished, pearls are the only natural gem that comes ready to wear.

What is a pearl?

What is a pearl?
A pearl is a calcium carbonate deposit that has collected and been formed within the soft tissue of a shelled mollusk, such as an oyster, clam or mussel. The most sought after pearls are nacreous pearls, which are produced by molluscan bivalves or clams. These come from both the sea or from freshwater lakes.
The rarity of the pearl, which is why pearls have been so valued over the centuries, has been due to the fact that fine pearls are so rarely produced in the wild, and it took the killing of many mollusks before one was found. This resulted in the creation of a method to artificially introduce an 'irritating' core or nucleus that would encourage the development of a new "cultured" pearl.
Where do pearls come from?
China is today the largest producer of akoya pearls, once dominated by Japan. Japan today does not produce akoya pearls smaller than 8 mm and it remains a large processor of China's akoya pearls. South Sea pearls are primarily sourced from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Black pearls are found in Tahiti and are very rare.
What shapes do pearls come in?
There are eight basic pearl shapes--round, semi-round, drop, pearl, oval, button, circle, and baroque. Semi-rounds are often used in necklaces, where their lack of full roundness can be hidden, while round pearls are the most valuable as they are the rarest. Pear shaped and drop pearls are often used in earrings, pendants or the center pearl in a necklace. Baroque pearls are very random in shape and are often used individually as center pieces or in necklaces.
Natural pearls are the most valuable
Natural pearls are the most valuable as they are the rarest and produced in small quantities. Cultured pearls will generally be less expensive, as they are more available, but also can be expensive depending on their fineness. Imitation pearls are the least expensive as they are produced in large quantities and are clearly not rare.

Cultured Pearl Types

Akoya Pearls:

Akoya pearls are the classic white pearl necklace and typically have the highest luster and greatest shine of all cultured pearls. Typical Akoya pearls range from 5 mm to 11 mm, with the 10 and 11 mm sizes rare finds. The most common size and the best value is between 7.0mm - 7.5mm with a sharp jump at anything 8.0mm and above. The Akoya pearl is either white or cream in body color and typically have a rose, cream or Ivory overtone; Akoya pearls may also be treated to achieve a black body color.

Freshwater Pearls:
Freshwater pearls come from freshwater mussels and are primarily produced by China. Freshwater pearls come in various pastel shades of white, black, pink, peach, lavender, plum, purple, and tangerine, depending on the type of mussel. The typical size of freshwater pearls is 2mm - 16mm with 7mm - 8mm being the most common.

Tahitian Pearls:
Tahitian Pearls come from the warm waters of the South Seas and are grown in a Black-Lipped oyster. They are the only pearl to achieve a black body color naturally and are typically very large(9mm - 16mm). Tahitian pearls although mostly dark can come in a wide range of hues, including black, gray, silver, green, blue and purple.

South Sea pearls:
South Sea pearls are saltwater pearls cultivated from the oyster, found in the South Seas centering on Northern Australia and South-East Asia including Myanmar and Indonesia. They produce 10-20 mm pearls of silver or gold color the largest of any cultured pearl. South Sea pearls are also the most expensive pearl on the market, due to thier rarity and thick nacre.

Cultured Pearl Grading Systems

As with any other item that can appear in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and conditions, a standardized system of grading must be used when purchasing or selling pearls. Only in this way can the pearl be described according to mutually agreed-upon and understood terms, so that both buyer and seller can determine a fair price.
Unfortunately, the pearl industry as a whole has not adopted a universally used standard grading system. Instead, the specific grading system used often depends upon the specific jeweler. Two major grading systems are in fairly widespread use, and used by nearly every major pearl retailer in the United States: the AAA-A system and the A-D system (also called the Tahitian system).
Even these systems, however, can become misleading if a seller uses terms from the grading system (such as "AAA"), but uses them to describe a different quality pearl than that which the system is generally understood to be describing. Or a seller could use a term not in the grading system (such as "AAAA" or "AAA+") to make it appear that the pearl is beyond even the highest standard quality -- when in reality, that seller's "AAAA" pearls are actually equivalent to the more-common "AAA" grade, and his "AAA" pearls might only be equivalent to the commonly used "AA."
For reasons such as these, it's extremely important when purchasing pearls to be absolutely certain of the meaning of any descriptive terms used by the seller. If possible, ask to see a written description of each grading term, so that you know exactly what the grade implies. Reputable jewelers will be happy to comply with such a request. Only in this way will you be able to determine if the price the seller is asking is reasonable.

The AAA - A System
This system grades pearls on a scale from AAA to A, with AAA - or commonly known as gem-quality - being the highest grade:
• AAA: The highest-quality pearl, virtually flawless. The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 95% of the surface will be free from any type of defect. The pearl will be perfectly round, and have a mirror-like luster, and a total nacre thickness (Akoya pearls only) of at least .75mm.
• AA: The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 75% of the surface will be free from any type of defect. The luster will be very high, and have a total nacre thickness (Akoya pearls only) of at least .5mm.
• A: This is the lowest jewelry-grade pearl, with a lower luster and/or more than 25% of the surface showing defects. In many cases, if the pearl is being mounted into a piece of jewelry, it can be mounted so that the defects are hidden -- thus providing a lovely jewelry piece at a lesser price. This quality has a chalky appearance and thin nacre, typically of .25mm or less. This thin nacre is due to early harvesting of the pearl.
• Pearls that do not fall into the ranking categories above are typically either sold in beading stores, or simply stripped of their nacre, which is then ground to be used in makeup and other beautifying aids.
Obviously, these grading categories are quite broad and leave room for interpretation and individual judgment. Also note that in multi-pearl pieces such as strands, necklaces, bracelets, etc., all of the individual pearls may not absolutely meet the indicated grade level. For example, a strand referred to as "AAA" must have most of its pearls as AAA pearls. However, a few pearls could have slightly lower luster or a tiny bit more surface defects. This is because matching is also a primary consideration in multi-pearl jewelry, sometimes even overriding a very strict grading of each individual pearl.

The A - D System (or Tahitian System)
This system grades pearls on a scale from A to D, with A being the highest grade. This is the system used in French Polynesia (based on a government standard there) to grade Tahitian pearls. It is therefore sometimes referred to as the "Tahitian system." To make your shopping experience easier at PearlsOfJoy.com we utilize the AAA-A system for all of our pearls.
• A: The highest-quality pearl, with very high luster with only minor imperfections over less than 10% of its surface. These imperfections are then used as marks for drill holes.
• B: High or medium luster. Surface may have some visible imperfections, but over no more than 30% of its area.
• C: Medium luster with surface defects over not more than 60% of the surface area.
• D: May have many slight defects, but no deep ones, spread over 60% of its surface; or deep defects over no more than 60% of its surface; or a combination of minor and deep defects over no more than 60% of its surface. In this grade of pearl, the luster is irrelevant. Even the most lustrous pearls will be graded D if their surface is blemished to this extent.
Pearls below D grade are considered not acceptable for use in jewelry.
Both of the grading systems described above focus primarily on the luster and surface quality of the pearl to determine its grade. But keep in mind that other factors also contribute to the quality of any pearl. One of the most important is the thickness of the nacre, which often determines how durable the pearl will be over time. The thicker the nacre, the stronger and longer-lasting the pearl (provided it is treated well, of course!).
For Tahitian pearls, the government of French Polynesia has set a minimum nacre thickness of 0.8 millimeters. Any pearls with nacre of less than that thickness are not allowed to be sold. Keeping in mind that Tahitian pearls tend to be larger than many other pearls (such as Akoyas), you can use this rule as a guideline when evaluating your own potential pearl purchases.

Cultured Pearl Care

Cultured pearls are relatively soft compared to other gemstones and precious metals. So it is important to take special care of your pearls to ensure they will remain bright and beautiful for generations to come.Cosmetics, perfume and hair spray all contain chemicals that can dull the luster of a pearl over extended periods of time. Even acids contained in body oils and perspiration can work to damage luster in the same way.Therefore, it is best to put your pearls on after applying makeup, perfume and hair spray. It is also suggested that you wipe down your pearls with the custom micro-fiber cloth provided after each use. Occasionally you may want to dampen the cloth and give your pearls a very thorough wipe down.
Always keep your pearls separated from hard jewelry items, such as metals and other gemstones, to prevent them from scratching your pearls. Pearls are best kept in a soft cloth pouch or a separately lined jewelry box.If you wear your pearls several times a week, it is best to take them back to your jeweler for re-stringing about once every other year to prevent strand breakage. When having your pearls re-strung, Pearls of Joy advises and uses only silk thread. However, nylon thread is an acceptable alternative. Make sure that the string is knotted between each pearl. Individual knotting will prevent all the pearls in a strand from falling off should a break occur. Knotting also prevents the pearls from rubbing against each other.

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