The Wonderful World of Pearl Jewelry
Here’s How These Unique Gems Make Their Way From The Ocean Floor to Your Jewelry Box.
Pearls have captured the human imagination since their discovery thousands of years ago. The only gemstone created by a living being rather than within the earth, they have a long history as objects of fascination, symbols of beauty, and meaningful gifts. In this article, we’ll dive into the origins of the pearl, its importance in history, and what makes pearls such a special gift. We’ll also touch on some pearl trends, including the recent popularity of men’s pearl jewelry!
Where Do Pearls Come From?
You’re probably already aware that pearl production occurs entirely within the body of a mollusk (almost always an oyster, but occasionally a clam or a mussel). But how do oysters make pearls?
When we get a fleck of dust or pollen in our eyes, our tear ducts jump into action, producing tears to lubricate the eyes and flush out the irritant–that’s why our eyes get so watery during allergy season. Believe it or not, pearl production starts in a similar way. Oysters start forming pearls when an irritant gets between its body (the fleshy, edible part) and its shell.
The oyster’s body begins producing nacre in response to the irritant. Nacre is a lustrous, iridescent substance also known as “mother of pearl,” since ultimately it will birth a finished pearl. It creates a smooth layer between the oyster and the irritant so that it no longer bothers the oyster. The nacre can take months to years to form a mature pearl such as the kind we see in jewelry stores. Over the course of a lifetime, a producing oyster can create two to three pearls.
Types of Pearls
Natural Pearls vs Cultured Pearls
When you purchase pearls, you will be buying either cultured pearls or natural pearls. The term ‘cultured pearls’ refers to pearls which are grown and harvested at oyster farms. On the other hand, ‘natural pearls’ are those which are discovered in wild oysters.
It is exceedingly rare to find a natural pearl. They are almost always discovered unintentionally, since very few divers have the time or patience to seek them out intentionally. Because of their rarity, natural pearl jewelry is very expensive. They’re often coveted as high-end collector items and can sell for millions of dollars.
Thankfully, pearl farms can produce cultured pearls at a much faster rate and lower cost. Pearl farms are located all over the world, and produce the following four types of pearls.
These are the ‘classic pearls’ that probably pop into your head when you hear the world pearl. Named for the Akoya oyster, which produces them, they are mainly harvested in China and Japan.
Colorwise, these beautiful pearls run along a spectrum from white to cream colored. Common overtones include silver or rose, and these pearls have a high luster (another term for ‘shine’). Unlike some varieties of pearl, Akoyas tend to form naturally round and smooth. This makes them a popular choice for pearl harvesters, since they are more likely to produce jewelry-quality gems.
Freshwater pearls are the most commonly produced pearl variety, coming from farms in China, Japan, and the United States. They are created by the oyster Hyriopsis cumingi, known in plain English as the “triangle shell” oyster.
Freshwater pearls come in a wide range of colors and tones. A harvester may pop open a triangle shell oyster to discover a breathtaking pink, gold, blue, green, peach, lavender, gray, white or cream pearl. Some pearl producers take things a step further by dying their pearls a less common or unnatural color for an extra-striking appearance.
South Sea Pearls
The rarest type of cultured pearl, the South Sea pearl, is produced by the Pinctada Maxima oyster. These oysters live up to their names and can grow to be a foot in diameter. Thanks to their size, they can produce larger pearls, and South Sea pearls are renowned for their size.
South Sea pearls are primarily produced in Australia, Indonesia, Tahiti, and the Philippines. In fact, the South Sea pearl is the national gem of the Philippines.
South Sea pearls most commonly come in white and gold hues, based on whether the oyster that produces them is silver-lipped or gold-lipped. They have a thicker nacre than other pearl species, which leads to a stronger luster. It’s very rare for a South Sea pearl to be perfectly round, and they are often coveted for their unique shapes.
The Tahitian Pearl is commonly known as the ‘black pearl,’ but don’t let that fool you–these gems come in such a broad range of colors that jewelers often have a hard time sourcing enough similarly-colored Tahitian pearls to create a strand for a necklace or bracelet.
Tahitian pearls are produced by black-lipped oysters which lend them their striking, dark coloring. The inky pigment secreted by these oysters results in a beautiful range of colors from deep green to night-sky black, and thanks to their thick nacre they often have mesmerizing iridescent overtones.
Pearls as Gifts
Traditional and timeless, pearls are given as gifts for many events, from baptisms to weddings to Mother’s Days. Also associated with purity and innocence, people often give pearls to younger loved ones as a ‘first’ piece of fine jewelry. Regardless of the occasion, when you give the gift of pearl jewelry, you can rest assured you’re giving a gorgeous gift that the recipient will adore for many years to come.
Pearl necklaces are a timeless and popular gift, available in various sizes and styles.
Collar necklaces are the shortest, resting snugly on the mid-neck, while rope strands can measure over 45 inches in length. When selecting a pearl necklace as a gift, it's important to consider the recipient's preferred length and the type of pearl that would complement their style. You may want to take note of their clothing taste and the types of jewelry they enjoy wearing before buying a loved one a pearl necklace. Or, you can choose a simple pearl pendant for an understated but elegant look.
Pearl Drop Earrings
Classic pearl drop earrings make a great gift for a loved one, or for yourself! When searching for a delicate, feminine look, it’s hard to find anything more perfect than a pair of radiant pearl earrings.
Available in various styles and lengths, from understated and simple to bold and eye-catching, pearl drop earrings can be dressed up for formal occasions or dressed down for casual outings.
Not only are they a popular choice for special events like weddings and important meetings, but pearls are also believed to have a calming and soothing effect. All in all, pearl drop earrings are a beautiful and versatile addition to any jewelry collection.
Whether it’s for Mother’s Day or just because, adorn someone special with a pair of dazzling, dangling pearl drop earrings.
Elegant and timeless, pearl rings are a popular gift for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays. They make a lovely addition to a dressy ensemble, and have a distinctly summery vibe.
Pearl rings come in a variety of styles, ranging from simple and classic designs to more intricate and distinctive pieces. You can choose different sizes depending on what you’re looking for, whether it’s a showstopping statement piece or a subtle sparkler.
Associated with purity, wisdom, and tranquility, pearl rings symbolize a heartfelt message. They can be worn individually or paired with other rings to create a stylish and fashionable look. A pearl ring is a guaranteed show-stopper.
Pearls for Men
Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable increase in men's jewelry usage. What was once seen as a conventionally feminine accessory, men are now exploring a wider range of jewelry options, including simple and subtle pieces like leather bracelets or minimalistic rings, as well as more bold and statement-making pieces like thick chains.
Pearls can be an excellent way to express and embody personal style, and we believe that men can appreciate them just as much as women. Whether you're buying pearl jewelry for yourself or giving it as a gift, pearl bracelets and necklaces are the most popular choices for men's pearl jewelry.
Men’s Pearl Necklaces
Pearl necklaces have the same appeal for men as they do for women. It’s a staple piece he can dress up for a night out, or use to add a little zing to a casual outfit. Men's pearl necklaces layer well with other pieces like chains or pendants. And even if he wears it on its own, it’s more than enough of a fashion statement.
Know a guy who likes to stand out? Show him you appreciate his love for style and self-expression with the gift of a men’s pearl necklace.
Men’s Pearl Bracelets
A pearl bracelet can instantly take a man's style up a notch. Sleek and sophisticated, a strand of pearls around the wrist lets everyone know that he’s not afraid to be true to himself, even when that means making bold choices.
Pearls have a similar appeal to that of another trendy men’s jewelry item: the beaded bracelet. Both feature strands of smooth, round stones that are versatile enough to complement any outfit and can easily be paired with other bracelets. Unlike the conventional bead bracelets, though, pearl bracelets feature precious gemstones that add an extra touch of elegance. Create a classy and cohesive look by adding a men’s pearl bracelet to his wardrobe.
Dive Into The World Of Pearls at a Jewelry Store Near You
The process of transforming an oyster into a beautiful piece of jewelry is a captivating journey. The rare beauty, rich history, and unique origin of pearls add to their charm, making them an irresistible choice for any jewelry enthusiast. Pearls are a timeless classic and make for a stunning and significant gift for any occasion.
With Mother’s Day coming up, now is the perfect time to check out some potential pearl gifts for the number one woman in your life. Visit us online or stop by our Bemidji jewelry store for help picking out the perfect present!