Sunday, December 11, 2011

Day 3: Pearls

I love the look of a nice pearl, especially with silver or gold or hand knotted with silk thread.  But what is known of these lovely gems of the water? 

About two years ago I was searching for some nice 2mm pearls at a trunk show at a jewelry shop.  I noticed that the prices of all the pearls varied drastically.  I chose the pearls that I felt were esthetically pleasing and walked away as happy as a clam with my iridescent lovelies that boasted various nacre surfaces.  Nacre is the outer radiate layer of the pearl.  The thinner the nacre the more likely the pearl exterior is prone to crack or chip. More recently, I purchased some expensive half drilled pearls over the Internet.  When I got those pearls I was in love!!  I knew then that there is a difference with pearls and that difference isn’t just the price.  After doing some research on the Internet and looking at books in the local library, I found a surplus of information about pearls.  For those that wear or work with pearls and are interested in learning more I would recommend a book titled Pearl Buying Guide: How to Identify and Evaluate Pearls and Pearl Jewelry, by Renee Newman 2010 edition.  According to her book, Newman sites pearl price factors being affected by the pearl luster, surface quality, shape, color, size, nacre thickness, matching, treatment status and pearl type.  Pearl types are saltwater/freshwater, natural/cultured, whole/blister. What I have learned is that a large high luster pearl, with few flaws, that is symmetrically round in a white or light pink color which has thick nacre or is a natural pearl, is one that is frequently most valued.  

What is a natural pearl?  This is a pearl that is formed as a result of a particle or parasite entering the mollusk shell naturally.  The mollusk secretes pearly calcium carbonate exudates around the particle as a form of protection.  Over time the mollusk will continue to form thin layers of this coating producing concentric growth rings.  Think of the rings found in a cut tree stump for a similar visual.  The natural pearl is nearly all nacre.

What is a cultured pearl?  A cultured pearl is the result of human intervention where a person inserts a foreign object into the mollusk that is usually a nucleus bead or a small portion of an oyster or mussel tissue.  Over time the irritant is covered by thin layers of nacre by the mollusk.  The cultured pearl has an outer coating of a few layers of nacre with a solid nucleus that was the inserted foreign object. 

Tips for care of your pearls:
*After worn, wipe the pearls with a clean dry cloth.
*Store in a soft bag or jewelry try separate from other jewelry to prevent chipping of the nacre
*Store in an environment that is not dry or warm to prevent the nacre from drying out and cracking.
*If the pearl needs to be washed, do so with Ivory flakes or castile soap and warm distilled water, rinse well with distilled water and lay flat to air dry.
*Don’t use ultrasonic cleaner, chemicals or abrasives with the pearls.
*Apply hairspray, perfume and make up before wearing pearls.
*Restring silk hand knotted pearls about every year. 
*In jewelry design patina metal before adding pearls.  Do not dip pearls in liver of sulfur

In conclusion, pearls tend to be one of the fragile gems that need special care when worked into a jewelry design, as well as specific considerations when worn, stored and cleaned.  Their spherical radiance offers much to a design that is well thought out.  It is my hope that by reading something that you have seen here that you will be encouraged to work with and wear more pearls confidently.    


  1. Great post, Susan! Yes, there are pearls and then there are PEARLS. You only need to see a few side by side to really understand the differences.

    I love those earrings, they are so delicate looking and use the pearls to best advantage. Very cute and classic. :)

  2. Hello Tela:) How true. When you put those gems of the water next to each other in good light you can really see what appeals to the eye. Thank you for your comment on the earrings. I like to create jewelry that has organic origins, especially flowers. It is always fun trying to match up the pearls for a pair of earrings!!


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