Wearing a strand of pearls has once again become a fashion statement. In the past wearing these gentle jewels was commonly associated with your grandmother who would never go out without her pearls! Whether cultured or imitation, the trend of wearing these gemstones is gaining popularity once again.
A pearl is formed in a mollusk by its producing layers of nacre around an irritant inside its shell. In natural pearl, it is from an organism in the water, whereas in cultured one, a pearl bead is inserted into the mollusk to start the process. In both cases, the value of the pearl is dictated by the quality of the luster of the nacre. A good pearl is valued by its smoothness, without any marks seen on the nacre and by its luster (shine).
Pearls can be oval, round, pear-shaped, or misshapen, with the misshapen pearls known as baroque. Pearls are available in various lengths, such as a choker that sits at the base of the neck, or a collar that fits against the throat. A princes’s length reaches near the collarbone and there is a matinee length (20-24 inches). This is followed by an opera length 30-36 inches). The longest pearl length is a rope and that refers to strands which are longer than 36 inches.
Necklaces can be uniform where all the pearls are the same size or graduated where the pearls size range from small to larger at the centre. Natural pearls are now rare and if seen for sale they are extremely costly. However, it is possible to acquire good cultured pearls.
Cultured pearl grows on pearl farms where the mollusks are raised until old enough to accept the pearl bead nucleus. The beads are delicately implanted and the mollusks cared for while the pearl is formed. Not all of them produce pearls though. Thousands of pearls are sorted to assemble a single strand of matching pearls.
Freshwater pearls, however, are grown in lakes, rivers, or ponds, and can be produced in a variety of shapes and colours. They do not have a bead nucleus, only a piece of tissue. This results in a pearl with thicker nacre.
These ones are usually a coated glass bead. They may have a stylish luster, but certainly not the depth that one finds on a high-quality cultured pearl.