Precious Stones The Big Five
Part 5 The Pearl
By Sam Serio
Since pearls are so rare and possess such a high degree of natural
beauty, they have been considered to be among the most splendid of gems for many
The people of India and Persia (Iraq) were among the earliest to
collect pearls, because of the rich fisheries of Ceylon and the Persian Gulf, the Indian
and Persian princes in the last century, acquired huge collections of pearls that have
never been equaled, these collections would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars
Pearls A Natural Wonder
Natural or real pearls are made by oysters and other mollusks.
Cultured pearls also are grown by mollusks, but with human intervention; that is, an
irritant introduced into the shells causes a pearl to grow. Imitation pearls are man-made
with glass, plastic, or organic materials.
Because natural pearls are very rare, most pearls used in jewelry are
either cultured or imitation pearls. Cultured pearls, because they are made by oysters or
mollusks, usually are more expensive than imitation pears. A cultured pearls value
is largely based on its size, usually stated in millimeters, and the quality of its nacre
coating, which give it luster. Jewelers should tell your if the pearls are cultured or
imitation. Some black, bronze, gold, purple, blue and orange pearls, whether natural or
cultured, occur that way in nature; some, however, are dyed through various processes.
Jewelers should tell you whether the colored pearls are naturally colored, dyed or
Clams, oysters, mussels and many other mollusks with limy shells are
known to produce pearls. But very few kinds yield gem pearls of jeweler's quality. The
pearl is an abnormal growth of mother-of-pearl, or nacre, imbedded in the soft bodies of
these shellfish. It is built up, layer upon layer, in the same way as nacre is added to
the lining of the growing shell and always has the same color and luster. For example,
over the country, hundreds of good-sized pearls are found each year in the oysters we eat.
Unfortunately these have no commercial value regardless of whether they have been cooked
or not because they are dull opaque white or purple like the shell of the parent oyster.
In recent times almost all pearls of gem quality come from the oriental pearl oyster which
has a bright shimmering translucent nacre.
A pearl starts growing when some irritating foreign substance such as
a sand grain, bit of mud, parasite or other object becomes lodged in the shell-producing
gland called the mantle. Pearls formed in the soft flesh where nacre can be added on all
sides are most likely to be spherical and the most highly prized. By far the great
majority are flattened or variously distorted and have little value. Size, color, luster
and freedom from flaws are other essential qualities. Unlike other gems, such as diamonds,
pearls have an average life of only about 50 years. In time the small amount of water in a
pearl's make-up is lost and its surface cracks. Because they are mostly lime, necklaces
which are worn often are injured by the acid secretions of the human skin.
Though, the pearl is not technically a stone at all, its beauty
has earned it a place in the Big 5 of precious stones. Jewelry artists have long
appreciated the pearl and continue to utilize its charm in their creations
Buying pearl jewelry can be fun, exciting and confusing. Whether
youre considering a gift of pearl jewelry for someone special or as a treat for
yourself, take some time to learn the terms used in the industry.
Pearl jewelry: pearl rings, pearl earrings, pearl pendants and pearl
bracelets are some of the most sought after jewelry creations. Your eyes tell you how
beautiful a piece of pearl jewelry is, but how do you know you are getting your
A little knowledge can go a long way to help you purchase a beautiful
piece of pearl jewelry at a fair price.
When shopping for pearl jewelry online, apply these tips.
Shop with companies you know or do some homework before buying to
make sure a company is legitimate before doing business with it.
Take advantage of information and referrals from an Internet company
you have come to trust.
Get the details about the product, as well as the merchant's refund
and return policies, before you buy.
Look for an address to write to or a phone number to call if you
have a question, a problem or need help.