All The Brilliants

The Skinny on Pearl

Our ancient ancestors discovered this delicate, luminous “Queen of Gems” while seeking food from the sea - and pearls have been a global sensation ever since.

It is believed that pearls were gifted among Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BC. The black pearl in particular symbolized wisdom. The earliest archeological evidence of pearl jewelry is a necklace found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess dating to 420 BC. According to Persian myth, pearls are created after a storm, when a rainbow meets the earth. Beyond the legend of Cleopatra “drinking” her most priceless pearl, these treasures adorned jewelry, gowns and even furniture of high status citizens throughout the ancient Greek and Roman world. Brides in ancient Greece wore pearls, believing they would ensure marital bliss and prevent them from crying.

To multiple cultures, religions and throughout time, pearls have been synonymous with purity and perfection. Whatever they may symbolize for you today, we've outlined points to help you understand value and what to ask to make an informed decision on the pearl you will LOVE!


 
The Skinny on Pearl
 

 

These cultured pearl specimens from around the world are courtesy of Eliko Pearl for the purpose of education

Our ancient ancestors discovered this delicate, luminous “Queen of Gems” while seeking food from the sea - and pearls have been a global sensation ever since.

It is believed that pearls were gifted among Chinese royalty as early as 2300 BC. The black pearl in particular symbolized wisdom. The earliest archeological evidence of pearl jewelry is a necklace found in the sarcophagus of a Persian princess dating to 420 BC. According to Persian myth, pearls are created after a storm, when a rainbow meets the earth. Beyond the legend of Cleopatra “drinking” her most priceless pearl, these treasures adorned jewelry, gowns and even furniture of high-status citizens throughout the ancient Greek and Roman world. Brides in ancient Greece wore pearls, believing they would ensure marital bliss and prevent them from crying.

To multiple cultures, religions and throughout time, pearls have been synonymous with purity and perfection. Whatever they may symbolize for you today, we've outlined points to help you understand value and what to ask to make an informed decision on the pearl you will LOVE!

 

Which Pearl is the most valuable: Tahitian Pearl, South Sea White Baroque or Philippine Golden South Sea ?
 

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Sit in as Eve gives The Skinny On Pearls!

Cultured pearls are different than natural pearls in a significant way. Cultured pearls are the result of human intervention, by way of a “nucleus” (often freshwater mussel shell) surrounded by “mantle tissue” (soft body tissue of another mollusk) being inserted into the reproductive organ of the host mollusk. Natural pearls are those that naturally occur in the wild. Because of their rarity, they have a greater market value than cultured pearls. Our focus is cultured pearls.

The practice of cultured pearls is thought to have begun in ancient China. It was a lost art until Kokichi Mikimoto began experimenting with pearl farming methods in 1890. By 1916, the production of cultured akoya pearls was in full swing - creating a bustling industry and pearl fever the world over.

 

 

ORIGINAL EVE

What happens when Mother Nature, science and beautiful design collide? Original Eve!

Not only does Eve’s design ethos celebrate our connection to the natural world, she makes every effort to preserve our natural landscape by using recycled metal and jewelry “ingredients” from sustainable, ethical sources with traceable origins wherever possible.

Below you will discover even more of her alluring (and shoppable) pearl jewels!

 

Pearl Education - the ideal

While an international grading system does not exist for pearls, each producer, wholesaler and retailer sets their own standards. Most use the traditional A (lowest) through AAA (highest) grading scale.

The industry does recognize seven different factors to assign value: nacre quality, luster, size, shape, color, surface, and matching.

NACRE: Nacre is the outer coating of material that makes a pearl look like a pearl. The quality of nacre involves how thick and dense it is. Thickness is contingent on how long the mollusk is in water before it is harvested. Minimum thickness is 0.4 millimeters and anything less will eventually peel. Pearls that are harvested in the coldest season of the year deposit nacre at a slower rate because mollusks’ metabolism slows. The result is a dense, compact nacre and higher luster.

Mollusks are left in water for at least ten months, although at this stage the nacre is thin with lower than average luster. Most mollusks are in water for 18 or 24 months.

LUSTER: Luster is the most important value factor, which is determined by the amount and the quality of light reflected from the surface and just under the surface of a pearl. Fine luster is a sharp, shiny reflective surface, whereas low luster is dull or chalky reflections. The finest luster exhibits a prismatic effect, due to light passing through layers of nacre and reflecting back through the surface - also known as “orient”.

SIZE: The larger the pearl, the greater the value when all other factors are equal.

SHAPE: Most mollusks are nucleated with a perfectly round bead implant, resulting in round (the most prized) or nearly round pearls. Often, other shapes like drop, oval and baroque occur and can be quite valuable - especially baroque pearls. Baroque pearls are fancy shapes that are asymmetrical and free-form.

COLOR: The color of pearl is dictated by the lip color of the pearl, as well as the species of mollusk tissue that is grafted around a nucleus. Pearl color is comprised of two components: body color and overtone. Body color is the primary color caused by pigment versus light interference. Overtone is the secondary color that appears due to nacre layers interfering with light and splitting the components.

SURFACE: Just like our fingerprints, the surface of each pearl is unique to their individual growth characteristics. Bumps, dimples, scratches, dull patches and spots which may be present on the surface of a pearl are known as “blemishes”. The fewer blemishes (when all other factors are equal), the more valuable the pearl is.

MATCHING: Because no two pearls are identical, a lot of time can be involved in composing a matching pair of pearls in terms of of size, quality, color and shape. Even more so with a finely matched single strand of pearls. It requires time and a skilled technician to sort through thousands of pearls to identify the closest match. For the rarest of pearls, this could take years!

Pearl Education - location location location

Pearls are cultured around the world where the water’s ecosystem is pristine, healthy, and rich in various forms of plankton and nutrients for mollusks to thrive. As filter feeders, they absorb any impurities in the water, so this affects the health of the mollusk and therefore the quality of pearl.

Different species inhabit different regions and produce a diverse array of pearls. Below is a list of a few.

Tahitian Black Pearl - Eliko Pearl

FRENCH POLYNESIA = BLACK TAHITIAN PEARLS: Interestingly, these pearls are rarely black! Instead, they exhibit an array of body colors and rainbow overtones with a play of color caused by the pearl’s iridescence. The most highly valued exhibit peacock overtones with a stationary, colorful shimmer as the pearl is turned. Black Tahitian pearls are not necessarily from Tahiti, but from the greater expanse of French Polynesia and Cook Islands.

Australian South Seas Pearl - Eliko Pearl

AUSTRALIA = SOUTH SEA PEARLS: Pearls farmed south of Japan are considered “South Sea” pearls. They are large, luminous, and silver-white pearl that are considered the Rolls Royce of cultured pearls - and among the world’s most prized.

NOTE: Pearls grown on Palawan in the Philippines and in various parts of Indonesia also qualify as South Sea pearls.

Golden South Seas Philippino Pearl - Eliko Pearl

PHILIPPINES = GOLDEN SOUTH SEA PEARLS: Rare, large and extraordinarily valuable. The rarest of the rare are those that display a deep 22 karat golden body colors. These most sought after pearls are grown in the few locations were tropical waters are more mild (around 80°F - 88°F). Fewer hatcheries do also exist in Indonesia and Australia.

Ekoya Pearl - Eliko Pearl

JAPAN = AKOYA PEARLS: White, round and lustrous, these classics have been revered for more than 100 years. The finest emit a glow rarely found in other cultured pearl varieties. It was this pearl that Mikimoto began to culture with his 1916 patent, enabling more people to enjoy these luminous treasures.

Chinese Freshwater Pearl - Eliko Pearl

CHINA = FRESHWATER: China is a market leader in the freshwater pearl industry. Two distinctive variations of freshwater pearl are the traditional (non-beaded) freshwater pearls and “new” nucleated freshwater pearls. The biggest difference is the former (grown with a tissue graft) rarely grows larger than 10 millimeters and the latter (grown with a nucleus) are “small” at 12 millimeters and can reach more than 20 millimeters in diameter and 40 millimeters in length! New freshwater pearls are produced in every natural color and an infinite number of innovative shapes, such as the “fireball pearls” and “cultured soufflé pearls”.

Keshi Pearl - Eliko Pearl

KESHI PEARLS: Though “keshi” is Japanese for “poppy seed”, this pearl refers to luminous little “accidents” that can occur in any cultured mollusk around the world. They may be the result of a dislodged nucleus, with the remaining tissue graft becoming a pearl - or - some other natural occurrence, the way that natural pearls form in the wild. While they do not have a nucleus, they are not considered “natural” due to human intervention. Very often they are small and have a freeform shape - similar to baroque pearls.

Pearl Education - Is it treated

Nearly all cultured pearls in the market have been treated after harvest - to varying degrees. Bleaching is one treatment that is a standard, accepted practice to achieve a white color. Though it is not necessary to disclose bleaching, other treatments that alter the pearl’s appearance should be noted.

Such treatments are: irradiation, heating, dying, filling, and waxing.

One treatment that is not acceptable is “coating,” to enhance luster. Think of it as a coat of clear nail polish, which may eventually chip or peel, revealing the low-luster pearl below it.

Knowledge is power and any of the above treatment impacts market value. 


Baroque Pearl Necklace
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Pearl Stick Earrings
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Tahitian Pearl Pendant
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Fireball Pearl Earrings
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Tahitian Pearl Pendant Duo
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Pearl Education - the Mohs Scale of Hardness

The Mohs scale of hardness is important to consider when choosing a particular stone for a particular kind of wear. Mohs scale is the degree of mineral “hardness”, measured by the resistance which a smooth surface offers to abrasion: 1 (soft) to 10 (hard). For example, an 8 will scratch a gemstone that is a 7 or below. Simply put, the softer the material, the more aware you need to be about wearing it in jewelry that may be exposed to more wear.

At 2.5 - 3, pearl is very soft, so it is easily scratched or abraded. Be aware it is more susceptible to damage with accidental bumps, which means choosing kinds of jewelry (i.e. necklaces or earrings) that will encounter less contact with harder surfaces is a good option, as are cocktail rings. Pearl may not the most durable material for an everyday ring.

Because quartz is a 7 on the Mohs scale (harder than pearl) and can be present in common dust, be sure to wash pearl jewelry under warm water prior to wiping off dust to prevent scratching. Note that immersing pearls strung with silk thread in water can weaken the strength of the silk over time.

Pearl Education - wear and care

It is said that “pearls want to be worn”. This is absolutely true because wearing your pearls prevents them from dehydration!

A few jewelry care basics can keep your pieces looking their best, avoid damage and loss of gemstones.

WEAR: When dressing for day or night, jewelry should be the last thing on and the first thing off. Pearls are organic and therefore vulnerable to acid, alkaline and extremes of humidity. Contact with chemicals such as fragrance, hairspray, nail polish remover, household cleaners and chlorine can harm gemstones - especially pearls! Remove jewelry when cleaning, gardening, swimming or playing sports, as contact with hard surfaces can damage them or loosen stones in prongs.

Direct sunlight and high temperatures (such as saunas) can damage the pearl itself. Specific to pearl necklaces, avoid swimming, bathing or dipping pearl strands in water, as water can weaken the silk thread.

CHECK SETTINGS AND PEARLS: Inspect jewelry before wearing it to check if the gemstone or pearl is chipped, loose or rattles in settings. Check the string of pearls strands for evidence of stretching or weakness, to avoid breaks resulting in the potential loss of pearls. It is often recommended to restring pearls yearly.

CLEANING: All precious metals, gemstones and pearls should be cleaned regularly, but require different care. For example, ultrasonic cleaners can shatter pearls, crack opals, or diminish their appearance - especially so with pearls, opals and emeralds. For gemstones on the Mohs scale at 7 or above, a simple cleaning solution is warm water with mild soap and soft toothbrush. For those at 6 or below (this includes pearl), replace the toothbrush with a soft cloth. Be sure the jewel is thoroughly rinsed and dry prior to storage. As mentioned above, avoid immersing pearl strands in water, as it can weaken the silk thread.

STORAGE: Definitely keep pearl jewelry individually stored in a pouch or box to avoid scratches and abrasions from other gemstones, as well as general tangles and dents. Chemicals, low humidity and excessive hot/cold conditions can cause pearls to dehydrate.

INSURANCE: For any jewelry of significant value, be sure to have it appraised, file any provenance and gemstone certifications in a secure place and be sure to have it insured.