In my jewellery profession, there are a number of different stones and metals that combine to create true works of art – worn for both pleasure and purpose by my clients. One of the most exotic items included among these gems is the pearl. As the variety of pearls is vast, I have dedicated a series of posts to explore different pearls and the beauty they bring to you – the wearer.
Pearls are something that truly emulates miracles in nature, the idea of something so beautiful emerging from a process so simple leaves many in awe. If you are not familiar with the birth of a pearl, they are the result of a biological process inside a living creature – an oyster. (While clams and mussels also have the ability to produce a pearl, those will be discussed in a future post in this series on the pearl.)
As an oyster is a living creature; it moves, grows and eats just like other living creatures. The two valves (one part of a two-part shell) usually stay open to allow the oyster to eat. This process can sometimes also allow a foreign substance to get between the shell and the mantle, or the organ that produces the oyster’s shell.
When this happens, the mantle is irritated by the foreign substance and its natural reaction is to cover the irritant with the same substance it uses to create the shell. This substance is known as nacre.
The oyster continues this process over and over, covering the irritant with a number of layers of nacre. The result is the formation of a pearl. The most valuable pearls are those that were shaped beautifully within the oyster; but not all resulting pearls are the perfectly rounded objects you find in jewelry settings. Pearls that form in uneven shapes are known as baroque pearls.
Round and unique products of nature, pearls formed perfectly through this natural process are found in a range of colors such as white, red, black, gray, blue and green. Pearls can be found all over the world, although black pearls are indigenous to the South Pacific.
Aside from their shape and color, pearls vary in a number of others ways. While we have already discussed the natural pearl, there are also cultured pearls often found on the market. The process for creating these pearls is very similar to that of the natural process, although pearl harvesters help move the creation of the pearl along by cutting a small slit in the mantle tissue and inserting an irritant.
Both cultured and natural pearls discussed here take place in saltwater environments, although pearls are also formed in fresh water. This process is different from that of saltwater pearls and requires a much closer look. Join us next time as I continue this series on pearls by diving in for a closer look at fresh water cultured pearls.
Eskae Jeweller – Your Private Jeweller