TYPES OF PEARLS

For centuries, pearls have been a symbol of beauty, power and wealth and till today pearl jewelry is regarded as both classic and contemporary. Coming in various styles, from timeless classic single strand bracelets, pearl necklaces, earrings to designer statement pieces, Brightcut can bring the excitement of owning a bespoke pearl jewelry. We work with skillful craftsmen and pearl manufacturers to deliver best quality pearls selected for its most even illumination and natural light characteristics.

There are three types of pearls you may consider when creating your pearl jewelry: natural, cultured and imitation (not carried by Brightcut).

Natural Pearls

Natural pearls, originated from nature, are extremely hard to find in the market today. The process of forming a natural pearl in the mollusk (e.g. oyster) takes between 5-10 years, that is why the desirable natural pearls are extremely rare and hence are very expensive. Most of the natural pearls on the market today are vintage, as every pearls producer now relies on cultured pearls. Natural pearls are too risky, rare and expensive to find and sell. If natural pearls is found, and official gemological x-ray certificate is necessary to prove the pearl quality.

Cultured Pearls

Cultured pearls make up the majority of pearls on the market today. With the introduction of the cultured pearl in Japan in 1920’s, the pearl had broader luxury and fashionable appeal since then. The cultured pearls are considered real pears and are formed in the same way as natural pearls. In cultured pearls, an irritant is surgically placed into the mollusk and protected in "pearl farms" while the pearl develops. While man can start the pearl process, it is still up to nature to determine the quality of the final pearl. Of the pearls created after a five-to-ten year farming cycle, only 5% are of the high quality required for fine jewelry, according to the Cultured Pearl Association of America. For faster processing, cultured pearls are usually implanted with larger nucleus, than those which would begin a natural pearl. Even with the larger nucleus, it still takes two or three years to grow a fine pearl.

Imitation Pearls

Imitation pearls are the third type and have no connection to the natural pearl making process. They are made from glass beads that are dipped into a solution made from fish scales. While most have a high luster, it may eventually fade. One way you can test a pearl as imitation is to rub it against another pearl; imitation pearls glide across each other but cultured pearls feel gritty because of the layers of nacre. Brightcut does not carry imitation type pearls.

TYPES OF CULTURED PEARLS

AKOYA PEARLS

Akoya pearls are the most traditional and classic choice for strand pearls and are the specialty of Japanese pearl farms. The first Akoya pearls were cultured early in the 1920’s in a variety of saltwater, and are typically seen in white color and rose overtone complementing it. Other colours include cream, silvery grey, golden and blue.

Other countries such as China and Vietnam have also cultured Akoya pearls in recent years. Because Akoya pearls are a high-quality pearl, you'll find them set with gold posts and clasps, and you'll find they are well matched for size, shape, and color. Depending on the size of the mother oyster, they grow from 3-10mm. You'll also find few blemishes and a deep, beautiful luster. The regular size, stunning lustre and white colour of Akoya pearls makes them very well suited for fine pearl jewellery.

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‘TAHITIAN’ BLACK SOUTH SEA PEARL

The magnificent color of these naturally black pearls is produced by black-lipped oysters in the waters off Tahiti and Okinawa and several other French Polynesian Islands. Sizes begin at 8mm, in round, oval, teardrop or baroque shapes. Also known as black South Sea pearls, Tahitian pearls are naturally silver, grey or black in body colour, but consist of hundreds of overtones with incredibly exotic colors such as peacock green, silver green, blue, and eggplant, just to name a few. This oyster is very sensitive to the pearl culturing process, which makes the pearls very costly to produce. Tahitian pearls are a favourite of designers for creating contemporary fine jewelry.

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WHITE & GOLDEN SOUTH SEA PEARL

South Sea pearls come from the white-lipped South Sea saltwater oyster found in the waters between the Indians and the Pacific Ocean . This oyster is much larger than the oysters that produce Akoya and Freshwater pearls, so the pearl that it produces is much larger as well. Because of the rarity and sensitivity of this type of oyster, cultivation of these pearls is much more difficult, making them more expensive. Range in sizes from 9mm and up, their shapes range from round, oval or teardrop to free-form baroque.

The silver-lipped oyster, grown in pristine coastal waters from Thailand to Australia, typically produces a white pearl that may have delicate overtones of silver, pink or blue.

The golden-lipped oyster, grown off the coasts of the Philippines and Indonesia, typically produces naturally golden pearls with varying light to deep hues of yellow and orange.

South Sea pearls are one of the most luxurious types of pearls.

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FRESHWATER PEARLS

Freshwater pearls are typically found in lakes and rivers in China. In recent years, the quality of Freshwater pearls has drastically improved and has resulted in beautiful pearls that are cleaner, rounder, and more lustrous. Due to their mass production, freshwater pearls are also popular for their affordable price points. Freshwater pearl sizes typically range from 5mm to 10mm, though they are often available in larger sizes up to 13mm. As most freshwater pearls are not bead-nucleated, these pearls tend to be near-round, button, oval or non-symmetrical in shape.

Freshwater cultured pearls can be created in a spectrum of colors. Many popular Colors - white, pink, orange, and other pastels or metallic hues. Very often producers practice the color treatments in order to achieve a particular color or evenly-colored strand. Some freshwater pearls can also have a rainbow effect on their surface called orient.

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CONCH

These natural pearls are harvested from the Queen conch, a large marine snail with a heavy, lustrous shell which lives in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The queen conch is extremely rare. The finest examples often exhibit a “flame-like structure” that’s visible to the naked eye. Conch pearls also can come in a variety of colors, ranging from pink to white to brownish, though pink is the most common.

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MELO MELO PEARLS

Melo melo pearls are produced by the melo melo sea snail, which can be found in Southeast Asia—specifically, the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand, the Andaman Sea, and the Bay of Bengal near Burma. The gem’s intense tone encompasses an array of hues, from a fiery orange to a pale, marbled yellow. It is estimated that only one in every several thousand melo melo sea snails produces a pearl of notable size. It is even more rare than conch pearls.

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QUALITY FACTORS

Pearls are classified by origin, then graded by size, shape, nacre thickness, color, luster, surface clarity and how they match. An assessment of these characteristics determines the value of each type of pearl. The 7 different quality factors are the most widely accepted system of grading worldwide for natural and cultured pearls is the Gemological Institute of America’s Pearl Description System.


Luster or Lustre

Lustre or luster describes the intensity and sharpness of light reflected from the surface of the pearl. Pearls with higher luster have sharp bright reflections on the surface. The reflection should be seen clearly on the surface of a cultured pearl. Of all a pearl's qualities, lustre is perhaps the most important to consider. Luster is what gives a natural or cultured pearl its unique beauty.

The different qualities of Lustre in the GIA Pearl Description System are:

Lustre Reflections of Light
Excellent Bright and sharp
Very Good Bright and near sharp
Good Bright, but not sharp, slightly hazy
Fair Weak and blurred
Poor Dim and diffused

Surface Quality

Subtle blemishes and tiny imperfections are a part of pearl’s natural texture. These blemishes are the result of sea particles intervening into the oyster. Fewer imperfections lead to higher quality, more valuable pearl. The surface condition of a pearl is judged by the size, number, location, visibility and types of imperfections.

The different qualities of Surface in the GIA Pearl Description System are:

Surface Description
Clean Blemish free, minute surface marking
Lightly Spotted Some minor surface irregularities
Moderatly Spotted Noticeable surface characteristics
Heavily Spotted Obvious, possibly affecting durability
Poor Dim and diffused

Nacre Quality

Nacre is the unique layered material that gives a pearls its reflective and iridescent properties.

That is why luster and nacre quality are closely related. A pearl's beauty and value will be influenced by the thickness and crystal structure of its nacre. If the pearl has a dull, chalky appearance, you can assume that the nacre is thin.

The table describes the different types of Nacre Quality that are possible.

Nacre Description
Acceptable No noticeable nucleus, not chalky
Nucleus Visible Thin nacre, with poor pearl durability
Chalky Dull appearance, with poor lustre

Shape

Out of all the shapes available, perfectly rounded pearls are the rarest and most valuable. However, other well-formed pear (tear drop), oval, button or baroque (irregular shaped) are also prized by pearl lovers.

The different qualities of a pearl's Shape in the GIA Pearl Description System are:

Shape Description
Round Uniformly spherical
Near-Round Almost spherical, with some minor variations
Oval Symmetrical, rounded and oblong
Button Symmetrical, slightly flattened
Drop Symmetrical, pear shaped
Semi-baroque Irregular, not quite symmetrical
Baroque A pearl with an irregular shape

Akoya pearls tend to be most consistently round, although other nucleated saltwater pearls and increasingly Freshwater varieties can also be found in round shapes. Baroque shapes can be particularly individual and fun to wear.

Color

One of the most unique qualities of a pearl is its colour. The general color of a pearl is called the body color. Typical pearl body colors are white, cream, yellow, pink, silver, or black. A pearl can also have a hint of secondary color, or overtone, which is seen when light reflects off the pearl surface. For example, a pearl strand may appear white, but when examined more closely, a pink overtone may become apparent. The pearls sometimes can be treated to achieve a certain color hue.

Although white is the most classic color, appreciation has grown for more unusual natural colors. While color choice reflects personal choice, each client should look for richness of the color first, and the even distribution of it throughout the pearl.

The table shows the different Colour characteristics that may be displayed by a pearl.

Characteristics Description
Bodycolor The dominant, overall colour of a pearl
Overtone Some pearls may display one or more additional overtones of colour in the reflection near the top of the pearl
Orient The rainbow colours that are displayed just below the surface of a pearl, usually those of a baroque shape, as it is rotated

Size

While size does not affect the quality of cultured pearls, it does affect the price. Pearls are measured in diameter increments of millimeters (mm). The most popular Akoya and Freshwater pearl sizes for earrings and necklaces are between 7 and 9mm in diameter.

South Sea and Tahitian pearls are typically worn between 9 and 11mm in diameter, or larger for more statement pieces.

When other value factors are equal, larger pearls are rarer and more valuable than smaller pearls of the same type. For non-spherical, baroque and other shapes of pearls, both the length and width of the pearl is measured.

Matching

For pearl strands and multi-pearl pieces, how well the pearls match (or mix) affects the value.

The consistency of the other six Qualities should be considered.

Matching Description
Excellent Pearls are uniform in appearance and drilled centrally
Very Good Some minor variations in uniformity
Good Minor variations in uniformity
Fair Noticeable variations in uniformity
Poor Very noticeable variations in uniformity

QUALITY PEARL STRANDS

  • 18 karat gold or platinum

  • All natural-color pearls - no radiation or color treatments

  • Finest silk thread for pearl strands and match the pearl color as closely as possible

  • Pearls should not bunch to twist

  • Knots should be shaped uniformly and pushed snugly against both sides of every pearl.


STRAND LENGTH 


"The Choker” or High Neck.

A string of pearls of classical length 35-42 cm (14-16inches) lies above the line of the clavicles, almost under the throat. This classic and versatile piece is appropriate with everything from casual to formal eveningwear, and complements almost any neckline.


"Princess".

A string of pearls of medium length 42-47 cm (16-19inches) lies below the line of the clavicles. The most common length for pearl necklaces, it is well suited for wear with crew and high necklines. Considered the classic for pearl necklaces.


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"Matine".

In translation means "morning reception". A string of pearls 50-60 cm (20-24inches) in length. 


"Opera".

A string of pearls 70-90 cm (28-35inches) long. It can be worn as a single strand with high necklaces or doubled to create a fashionable two-strand choker.

“Rope”

A pearl rope is 36 inches or longer. It can be made with several clasps, enabling it to be broken down into different necklace and bracelet combinations, or doubled and even tripled to create a stunning multi-strand pearl choker.


Pearl jewelry care

HOW TO CLEAN AND STORE PEARLS

When cared for properly, pearls can last a lifetime. The best way to care for pearls is to wear them often as the body's natural oils keep pearls lustrous. However, it's important to keep them away from household chemicals including perfume, makeup and hairspray. Chemicals found in these common products can dull the luster of your pearls. It is recommended that you put your pearls on last when getting ready and make them the first thing you take off. Before putting your pearls away, wipe them with a soft cloth and store them separate from other jewelry to avoid scratching their tender surfaces.

PEARL MAINTENACE

Even with best care, the small parts of jewelry can become loose. Before wearing, carefully check such parts as the prongs that support the jewels, the clasps of necklaces, the screws of earrings, the strand on the necklace or bracelet. If the string stretches or loosens, it may break suddenly. Even if you don't wear your pearls often, we recommend that you have your pearls restrung every year.