Jewelry Education
All About Pearls

Still a precious commodity

Many words come to mind when you think of pearls: beauty, purity, classic and timelessness. In today’s modern culture, pearls continue to be a sought after precious commodity and are popular in both fashion and fine jewelry. The result is jewelry designs that both mirror and go far beyond those family heirloom strings of pearls.

The pearl itself is very interesting by nature. Produced in the soft tissue of a shelled mollusk, a pearl is extremely rare when it occurs naturally. Because of that, the pearls you see in today’s jewelry are predominantly cultured pearls that come from farm-raised pearl oysters or mussels within freshwater or saltwater settings.

Farmed in all different parts of the world, the exact process used to create these beautiful, iridescent objects is called nucleation. When a bead of a certain size is embedded into the mollusk, it is recognized as an irritant and it’s natural process of defense results in a pearl. In nature, this results from something like a grain of sand or another organism. The result is a beautiful, skin-tone reflecting, natural product seeded by man using a similar procedure.

Quality Indicates a healthy environment

Because they are highly susceptible to environmental changes, good pearls are an indicator of good stewardship. The health of the water, genetic diversification and other important aspects of farming cultured pearls are indicators of how well they are being taken care of while in the nucleation process. The better the ecosystem, the better the pearl. Pearl quality is also determined by the mollusk species as different species yield different qualities of pearls.

Like diamonds, there is a related grading mechanism of pearls. Two widely used and accepted grading scales that are considered standard by high-quality, reputable pearl dealers are the the AAA-A and the A-D scales. Pearl value factors considered include:  luster, shape, color, surface blemishing, whether or not the pearls are natural or cultured and matching.