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Pearls

Articles from PEARL JEWELLERY (289 Articles), PEARLS - LOOSE / TEMPORARILY STRUNG (34 Articles), PEARLS - STRANDS (27 Articles)

Mabe pearl rings
Mabe pearl rings
 










 

Pearls explained

So you are thinking about some pearls or pearls jewellery and you would like to get ab basic understanding of what makes one pearl different to another? Here’s a Starter’s Guide to the wonderful world of pearls. 

The value of pearls in jewellery is determined by a combination of the luster, color, size, lack of surface flaw and symmetry that are appropriate for the type of pearl under consideration. Among those attributes, luster is the most important differentiator of pearl quality according to jewelers.
All factors being equal, however, the larger the pearl the more valuable it is. Large, perfectly round pearls are rare and highly valued. Teardrop-shaped pearls are often used in pendants.

What is a pearl?
A pearl is a hard, general spherical object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of a mollusk, a pearl is made up of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes of pearls (baroque pearls) occur. 

The finest quality natural pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries, and because of this, the word pearl has become a metaphor for something very rare, very fine, very admirable, and very valuable.

Valuable pearls occur in the wild, but they are very rare. Cultured or farmed pearls make up the majority of those that are currently sold. Pearls from the sea are valued more highly than freshwater pearls. Imitation or fake pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewellery, but the quality of their iridescence is usually very poor - and generally speaking, artificial pearls are easily distinguished from genuine pearls.

Pearls have been harvested and cultivated primarily for use in jewellery, but in the past they were also stitched onto lavish clothing. Pearls have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, or in paint formulations.

Pearls that are considered to be of gemstone quality are almost always nacreous and iridescent, like the interior of the shell that produces them. However, almost all species of shelled mollusks are capable of producing calcareous concretions, creating pearls of lesser shine or less spherical shape. Although these may also be legitimately referred to as "pearls" under US Federal Trade Commission rules, and are formed in the same way, most of them have no value, except as curios.

Definition 
In several European languages, the word "pearl" is synonymous with "bead", which can lead to confusion during translation.

Almost any shelled mollusk can, by natural processes, produce some kind of "pearl" when an irritating microscopic object becomes trapped within the mollusk's mantle folds, but the great majority of these "pearls" are not valued as gemstones. 

Nacreous pearls, the best-known and most commercially-significant pearls, are primarily produced by two groups of molluscan bivalves or clams. A nacreous pearl is made from layers of nacre, by the same living process as is used in the secretion of the mother of pearl which lines the shell.

A "natural pearl" is one that forms without any human intervention at all, in the wild, and is very rare. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or pearl mussels have to be gathered and opened, and thus killed, in order to find even one wild pearl, and for many centuries that was the only way pearls were obtained. This was the main reason why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past. 

A cultured pearl, on the other hand, is one that has been formed with human intervention on a pearl farm. The vast majority of pearls on the market today are cultured pearls.

One family of nacreous pearl bivalves, the pearl oysters, lives in the sea while the other, very different group of bivalves live in freshwater; these are the river mussels such as the freshwater pearl mussel. Saltwater pearls can grow in several species of marine pearl oysters in the family Pteriidae. Freshwater pearls grow within certain (but by no means all) species of freshwater mussels in the order Unionida, the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae.

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Physical properties
The unique luster of pearls depends upon the reflection, refraction, and diffraction of light from the translucent layers. The thinner and more numerous the layers in the pearl, the finer the luster. 

The iridescence that pearls display is caused by the overlapping of successive layers, which breaks up light falling on the surface. In addition, pearls (especially cultured freshwater pearls) can be dyed yellow, green, blue, brown, pink, purple, or black.

Freshwater and saltwater pearls
Freshwater and saltwater pearls may sometimes look quite similar, but they come from different sources.
Natural freshwater pearls form in various species of freshwater mussels, family Unionidae, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. These freshwater pearl mussels occur not only in hotter climates, but also in colder more temperate areas such as Scotland. However, most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China.

Saltwater pearls grow within pearl oysters, family Pteriidae, which live in oceans. Saltwater pearl oysters are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls.

Creation of a pearl
The difference between natural and cultured pearls focuses on whether the pearl was created spontaneously by nature - without human intervention - or with human aid. Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain mollusks: as a defense mechanism to a potentially threatening irritant such as a parasite inside its shell, the mollusk creates a pearl to seal off the irritation.

The mantle of the mollusk deposits layers of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the mineral aragonite or a mixture of aragonite and calcite (both crystalline forms of calcium carbonate) held together by an organic horn-like compound called conchiolin. The combination of aragonite and conchiolin is called nacre, which makes up mother-of-pearl. The commonly held belief that a grain of sand acts as the irritant is in fact rarely the case. 

Typical stimuli include organic material, parasites, or even damage that displaces mantle tissue to another part of the animal's body. These small particles or organisms enter the animal when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration. In cultured pearls, the irritant is typically a cut piece of the mantle epithelium, together with processed shell beads, the combination of which the animal accepts into its body. [

Natural pearls
Natural pearls are nearly 100% calcium carbonate and conchiolin. It is thought that natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk, and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the intruder, secretes the calcium carbonate and conchiolin to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl. Natural pearls come in many shapes, with perfectly round ones being comparatively rare.

Cultured pearls
Cultured pearls (nucleated and non-nucleated or tissue nucleated cultured pearls) and imitation pearls can be distinguished from natural pearls by X-ray examination. Nucleated cultured pearls are often 'pre-formed' as they tend to follow the shape of the implanted shell bead nucleus. Once the pre-formed beads are inserted into the oyster, it secretes a few layers of nacre around the outside surface of the implant before it is removed after six months or more.

When a nucleated cultured pearl is X-rayed, it reveals a different structure to that of a natural pearl. A cultured pearl shows a solid center with no concentric growth rings, whereas a natural pearl shows a series of concentric growth rings.



















Wednesday, 19 September, 2018 10:49pm
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