What is a Pearl? | Everything You Need to Know
A pearl is a solid object that often forms in the mantle of a living mollusk that has a hard exoskeleton. It is also found in another animal named conulariid. These animals live in water and the pearls from saltwater are formed in oysters whereas in freshwater, originate from mussels. Pearl forms when a foreign material gets into the mollusk. The mollusk detects the substance and instantly creates a covering with layers of nacre to protect the animal. This nacre is a protective substance in the animal and is responsible for the color of the pearl. With time, the substance grows and is now the nucleus of a pearl as the animal produces more layers of nacre.
The formation of a pearl inside a mollusk varies depending on several factors. Mollusks living in freshwater will form pearls a lot faster than those in saltwater. Small pearls take about six months to develop whereas the larger forms require up to four years. People born in June have pearls as their birthstone mainly because of their natural beauty. They feature a unique formation since they are formed within living creatures.
What Does Pearl Look Like?
As mentioned, a pearl is a round, hard and features a lustrous exterior. However, pearls come in different and unique shapes. Besides the round-shaped design, pearl also has a semi-round, drop button, pear, oval, circled, baroque and double bouldered designs. It is extremely rare to find a perfectly round pearl therefore, this type is the most valuable. The most commonly available type is the semi-round pearl that almost looks like a perfect round but on looking closer, it is somehow crooked. Drop and pear-shaped pearl resembles a teardrop with the top thinner and the body bulges towards the base. Button pearls are round and feature a flattened surface to look exactly like a button. Baroque pearls feature an irregular design that is exclusive.
In terms of color and appearance, these jewels come in an array of different colors depending on the nature of formation; saltwater or freshwater. Saltwater pearls come mostly in white and cream white, and just recently, in black. Freshwater jewels usually exhibit different colors including pink, champagne, blue, green, purple and more. The Tahitian pearls have the most exotic colors that include numerous shades of blue, grey, green, and even black. There is also an extremely rare jewel that features a golden color.
Different Kinds of Pearls out There
The main types of pearls are as mentioned above; saltwater, freshwater, and cultured ones. Saltwater and freshwater pearls fall in the natural category of formation since they don’t require any human intervention. Pearls from the sea are saltwater and those from the lakes, rivers and even ponds are freshwater pearls. Conversely, cultured pearls are made with intervention from human beings. A tissue is created and inserted in a mollusk and placed in a water body that they control like the pond. The water can either be fresh or salty. Natural occurring jewels are extremely rare and because of this, they are scarcely on the market. The cultured ones, on the other hand, come into play to please the jewelers’ demands.
There are four main kinds of pearls found on the market today. These include the Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian, and Mabe pearls.
- Akoya- This type of pearl is associated with the Japanese culture and appear in an off-white or clear white color. It usually presents a round shape and with a compact size ranging between 4 to 10mm. The pearls also feature a reflective luster that is attractive to the eye.
- South Sea- These pearls are mainly found in Australia, Philippines and some parts of Indonesia. They feature a white to gold color and come in a tremendously large size. What’s more, most of them feature a perfectly round design with a few presenting drops, oval and baroque shapes. Although they grow large, they are rare kinds of pearls that are extremely valuable.
- Tahitian- This type is grown in French Polynesia and naturally features a dark color. They are commonly referred to as black but they come in exotic colors of the rainbow. You will find them in a drop, baroque and oval shape and in rare cases, round.
- Mabe- Unlike other pearls that grow in the mantle of a mollusk, Mabe pearls form in their shells. For that reason, the Mabe pearls feature a flat design that is suitable for making pendants and rings.
What Are Pearls Worth?
Pearls are gems that occur naturally and also humans can initiate their growth. They make extremely beautiful jewelry and loved most by royalty and other big names. However, some factors determine the worth of a pearl. These include the type, size, color, shape, luster and surface quality. The common type of pearl is less valuable because it is readily available on the market. South sea pearls have an exceptional golden color and are regarded as the most valuable.
The larger the size of the jewel, the more expensive it is. Since these come in various colors, there is one color that is mostly preferred by jewelers and that affects its worth. Also, pearls come in different shapes and the rounder the shape, the more valuable it is. A lustrous pearl will shine bright and this increases its value by far. The ones that have blemishes on the surface tend to be less valuable compared to that with a flawless surface.
What Are Simulated Pearls?
Simulated pearls are the exact opposite of cultured pearls in that the latter is man-made to have a similar resemblance to a real pearl. Also referred to as imitation pearls, simulated pearls don’t contain any aspect of a real pearl like the cultured do. There are two main types of simulated pearls: organic and non-organic pearls. Organic pearls are manufactured by forming layers on a ceramic nucleus almost similar to what an oyster does. The pearl receives plenty of organic nacre-like matter coating to form a large piece. Non-organic simulated pearls, on the other hand, are composed of either painted glass beads or plastic-like ones. This type is mainly inexpensive and lacks a durable luster. Mostly, they feature a dull or matte finish.
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