Whether or not you are familiar with jewellery, chances are that you have heard of pearls. These precious drops of glamour are a must-have in your jewellery box. And if you are considering buying a jewellery item adorned with pearls, be it a pair of earrings or a necklace, it helps to know what you are buying.
So let's talk pearls!
What are Pearls?
Pearls are hard objects that are formed within soft tissues of certain species of oysters, mussels or clams. Although they are considered gemstones, pearls stand out from the rest in the category for several reasons. For one, they are the only “stones” that are formed within living creatures. Pearls also do not need any cutting and polishing and are used just the way they are formed. Pearls are created when an irritant, like sand or debris, finds its way into the shell of a mollusc (invertebrate animals with a soft body covered in a hard shell). As a reaction, the creature produces layers of a substance called nacre (also called mother of pearl) over the irritant, giving us a shiny and hard object that we recognise as pearl.
The history of pearl in jewellery
Natural pearls have been used as jewellery for over 6000 years across civilisations. There are records of pearl jewellery dating back to 13th century China. In ancient Rome, pearls were considered symbols of royalty. These gems have also been used in other ancient cultures including India, Egypt, and Greece, with several myths and meanings being attached to them. Until the 20th century, pearls were collected by divers who dove deep into the ocean to retrieve them. It was a dangerous pursuit with the chances of finding pearls being few and far between—a tonne of oysters would barely throw up three to four of the gems. Towards the 18th century, natural pearls for jewellery saw a steep decline due to overharvesting. Cut to today, finding natural pearls are a rare phenomenon. Most of the original pearl jewellery we see today is a result of cultured pearl production that began in the 1900s in Japan.
Natural pearl vs cultured pearl in jewellery
Until the 1900s, pearls were considered something of a rarity. After all, finding natural pearls for jewellery meant putting the lives of divers at risk. Moreover, the chances of finding oysters with pearls in them were very narrow. The limited probability of finding pearls coupled with overharvesting made natural pearl jewellery a priced possession—something only the rich could possess. That was until cultured pearl was introduced.
In 1893, a Japanese man named Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in producing the world’s first cultured pearl, making pearls more accessible to people beyond the crème de la crème. This manmade production of pearls saw real and original pearls being made through human intervention. The process involves introducing an irritant into the mollusc deliberately to enable nacre production and, thus, produce a pearl. Cultured gems can either be cultivated in freshwater or saltwater.
Freshwater pearls vs saltwater pearls
While the obvious difference between the two types of pearls is that one is cultured in freshwater and the other in saltwater, there are a few more distinctions too:
Lustre: Perhaps the main distinction between freshwater and saltwater pearls is the shine. Freshwater pearls tend to have a softer lustre compared to their saltwater counterpart.
Shape and colour: Freshwater pearls come in a wide range of shapes and colours while saltwater pearls are round.
Size: Freshwater pearls can be produced in a shorter period, making them smaller in shape compared to saltwater pearls. However, recent trends have witnessed a longer cultivation time with freshwater pearls. So it is not uncommon to now find larger-sized variants of freshwater pearls.
Durability: The nacre in freshwater pearls is thicker, making it more durable than saltwater pearls.
Price: Freshwater mussels produce more pearls. This coupled with the softer lustre and smaller size fetches freshwater pearls a lesser price in the market. Saltwater pearls, on the other hand, have a shinier exterior and are more expensive.
Is original pearl jewellery expensive?
It is important to note that both natural and pearl jewellery can be considered “original” as they barely differ in structure, form and finish. However, as natural pearls are rare, they are exorbitantly priced compared to their manmade counterpart.
Cultivated pearls are commonly found in the market in various styles and jewellery types—from elegant pearl necklaces to classic earrings. They also come at affordable prices. So if you are looking for affordable original pearl jewellery pieces, cultivated pearls are the way to go.
Looking for affordable pearl necklaces and pearl earrings? Check out GIVA’s stunning collection of original pearl jewellery designs here
Why should you buy cultivated pearl jewellery?
Here are some reasons why you should go for pearl jewellery:
Affordability: If you’re looking to buy affordable-yet-classy jewellery, pearl pieces are an option you must consider. They can give your look a touch of grace on a budget.
Elegance: There’s nothing that spells elegance like a beautiful pearl necklace, or a dainty pair of peach pearl earrings! So get yourself a piece of original pearl jewellery to add a touch of sophistication and class to your look.
As good as natural pearls: When it comes to shine, hardness, and structure, cultured pearls can give you the same quality as natural pearls for a fraction of the price.
More choice: Freshwater pearls come in varied shapes, sizes, and colours, making them a great gem choice in jewellery making, giving lots of options to choose from.
GIVA’s pearl collection is affordable, beautifully crafted, carefully sourced, and comes in a wide range of styles. Check it out today!
Checks to ensure that your pearl jewellery is genuine
While original cultured pearls are affordable, there are also several imitations in the market. Fake pearls can be made of glass, plastic, shells, or other cheaper material. So it is important to carefully consider and examine the pearls you are buying.
Check for the following before you purchase your pearl jewellery:
Temperature: The initial touch of real pearls is cold. You will see it warming to your skin after a few seconds. So if the pearls are at room temperature when you first touch them, chances are that your pearls are fake. However, this temperature test may not hold good if the fake pearls are made of glass.
Imperfections on the surface: Examine the surface of the pearls closely to look for irregularities. Real pearls, being a natural phenomenon, seldom have a smooth surface. If the pearls have a smooth surface, they are very likely to be fake.
Colour: Study the colour that reflects off the surface against the light. If you see more than one colour and a translucent finish on the surface, the pearls are likely to be real. If there is a dull, less shiny overtone on the surface, you have encountered a fake.
Shapes: Round is the ideal colour for pearls and demands a higher price. But even in all their perfection, pearls are rarely perfectly round and smooth. So closely examine your pearls and look for a less-perfect round shape.
Weight: Real pearls will weigh heavier than plastic and shells and lighter than solid glass beads. So feel the pearls gently in your hand to analyse the weight of your pearl jewellery. Surface feel when rubbed against each other: When you rub two real pearls against each other, they must feel uneven and gritty. If the surface against the pearl feels smooth, you have encountered a fake pearl.
Drill holes:Examine the drill holes on the surface of your pearls, if any to make sure they don’t have a chipped outer coating or a thin, outward-protruding ring. A real pearl will have a perfect cylindrical drill hole with minimum imperfections.
Looking for genuine, original pearl necklaces, earrings, pendants, and more? GIVA has you covered with our collection of pearls.
Where should you buy your pearl jewellery from?
To ensure that you are buying genuine and original pearls, it is best to buy your jewellery from a trusted seller. Make sure they are accredited and that the metal that they have used along with the pearl is good-quality and precious.
GIVA has a great collection of genuine freshwater pearl-and-sterling silver jewellery pieces. Visit www.giva.co and check them out today.
Caring for your pearl
With some tender loving care for your original pearls, your pearls can last you a lifetime. Because they need and do well around moisture, they are relatively low maintenance too. Here are some tips on how to care for your pearls:
Wear them often: Pearls do well when they absorb our skin’s natural oils so wearing them semi-regularly is the best way to show them some love!
Store carefully: Make sure you store your pearls in a breathable bag that is not airtight. Pearls need some moisture and are susceptible to cracking if their storage environment is dry. Also, avoid hanging your pearl necklaces on a hook as it may strain the silk sting that connects all the beads and stretch it out.
Clean with a soft cloth: Once you are done using your pearl jewellery, make sure your clean it with a soft cloth to remove excess oils chemicals from cosmetics, and more.
Keep away from harsh chemicals: Make sure you keep your pearl jewellery away from strong chemicals like chlorines, bleach and vinegar.
Do not submerge in water: While some amount of moisture may be good for your pearls, avoid submerging them completely in water, especially if the water contains chlorine. We would recommend removing your jewellery before you step into the pool of shower.
The perfect pearl jewellery for you
Looking for beautiful pearl earrings and elegant pearl necklaces? GIVA has a great collection of freshwater pearl pieces you will love! Head on over to www.giva.com and check out our wide range of pearl and sterling silver pieces.