Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Great Mystery of Pearls

Before I begin, I just want to make it clear that I'm not a professional in the area of pearls.  My passion my business is what motivated me to learn about this mysterious little gem.  I thought it would be a good idea to be informed before selling my pearl jewelry.  So, what did I learn? 

First of all we need to talk about pearl farming.  It’s kind of funny to actually say those words together: “pearl farming.”  When I think of a farm, I see a big red barn with chickens running around the yard, spotted, black and white cows scattered out in the field and the sweet smell of hay mixed with manure lingering in the air. Quite a different picture with pearl farming indeed!  First of all, a pearl farm needs water.  I guess that means a waterfront farm…  I really like that!

Although both types of farming are very different in structure and content, they are both very similar in that they’re a very risky and unpredictable business. Many factors such as bad weather, water pollution, excessive heat or cold and disease are only some of the problems pearl farmers are challenged with.

At this point it is important to establish the difference between the expressions: “Freshwater Pearls” and “Saltwater Pearls”.  Although both are cultured, meaning that they both are grown under human influence and intervention, they demand different farming techniques.  I will try to explain each one beginning with the Freshwater Pearls. 

Freshwater Pearls are formed in freshwater mollusks.  A technician will carefully remove a piece of mantle (the membrane between the two shells of a mussel), cut it into small pieces and surgically graft it to another mussels mantle.  One mollusk can accept approximately between 24-36 grafts per cycle. It’s in fact a very delicate procedure.  The mollusk will then react to the irritants and begin covering them with nacre.  Nacre is a combination of crystalline and organic substances.  Day after day for many years (2-6 years), this mollusk, like a faithful little factory worker, will keep producing nacre and cover the multiple irritants until the many layers miraculously form pearls.  Talk about multi-tasking!

In their natural state, freshwater pearls vary in an array of soothing colors such as pink to mauve to gray to rich cream to peach.  You probably think I forgot to add “white”.  Actually I didn’t.  Mollusks never produce white pearls.  White pearls are actually the result of cream-colored pearls that have been bleached.  Are you shocked?  I was when I first learned about it.  The thing is, I never much liked the white pearls; I always preferred the cream-colored pearls and now I know why. 

Because a freshwater pearl is the product of a small piece of membrane, it’s very difficult to achieve a perfectly round pearl, thus freshwater pearls are rarely round.  The interesting thing, though, is that the technician does have a certain amount of control over the shape of the pearl.

It’s a miracle indeed, that such a seemingly insignificant creature could produce such a beautiful gem as a pearl!

You really need to see and hold them for yourself to appreciate the cool, silky feel of pearls.

The pictures below are from my gallery.  This handmade necklace is made with natural freshwater pearls in ivory color and the main part of the necklace is made of a beautiful Mabe Pearl (which is a whole other story).  The handmade pendant below is also made with a beautiful Mabe Pearl.  The luster is amazingly beautiful!

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