This exploration of the different available pearls has taken us through the process of the creation of a pearl and the uniqueness in the freshwater cultured pearl. Now, I will take you on a different leg of this journey to the South Sea. This is a favorite stop for me as South Sea pearls are considered to be exceptional in quality.
South Sea pearls get their name from the location of the white-lipped variety of the pinctada maxima oyster – also known as the Silver Lip Oyster – which provides the perfect canvas for the South Sea pearl. The oyster is typically found around the coast of Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines. The pearls produced within the South Sea are cultured and of the saltwater variety, generally in colours of white, silver and gold.
The pinctada maxima oyster is much larger than those that typically create Akoya and freshwater pearls, ensuring that South Sea pearls are much larger. The pinctada maxima oyster is also much more rare and sensitive, making cultivation of the pearl that much more challenging. As the pinctada maxima lives and cultivates its pearls in the wild, production can be limited. With obstacles to its creation firmly in place, the South Sea pearl is more valuable than other pearls.
In addition to its larger size, the South Sea pearl is also known to offer a smoothness and roundness that is exceptional when compared with other pearls. The almost silver color of the natural, South Sea pearl is luminous, offering a unique beauty that is truly all its own. The most extraordinary and rare of the available pearls, South Sea pearls create exquisite pieces of jewellery.
When the South Sea pearl is farmed, a mother of pearl bead is placed inside the oyster to help start the process that will result in a pearl. The pearl famers often hope the bead, the right conditions and a little bit of luck will help to contribute to the creation of a perfectly round, clean, beautiful, lustrous South Sea pearl.
The unpredictability of the process involved in the forming of the South Sea pearl dictates that not all pearls will emerge from the oyster as perfectly round or the same size. A South Sea pearl that is a perfect sphere is the ideal piece, yet the slightest environmental change can lead to changes in shape, create blemishes or ensure that no pearl is created at all.
With this potential variation in the South Sea pearl, three shapes are typically found, including round, semi-round and button. Round is ideal when the shape is perfect. It is measured with a caliper and the variation in the circumference should be less than 2 percent. A semi-round pearl gives the appearance of round, yet its measured circumference is more than 2 percent. The variation in circumference on the button pearl is roughly 20 percent, yet tall buttons can also appear to be round.
There is truly no pearl as exquisite as the South Sea pearl, but our journey has not yet ended. Next, we will explore the Keshi pearl and the interesting process that leads to its creation. See you then!