Sunday, June 6, 2010

Pearl Shopping

Pearl is the most commonly accepted birthstone for the month of June.  While a pearl is not actually a stone, the use of pearls in jewelry has a storied history as long as that of many precious gemstones, and pearls are widely accepted as a precious jewelry item much like a ruby, sapphire or diamond.  Here is a little info to help you better understand exactly what is available for purchase in the pearl industry.

First, real pearls (as opposed to synthetic of simulated pearls) come in two major categories, cultured and natural.  A natural pearl can only be formed in a wild oyster (mussel) that is living in its natural habitat. A natural pearl is formed without human intervention.  A cultured pearl is formed when a pearl farmer places a foreign substance in an oyster, and keeps the oyster in a confined farm area.

Irregular shaped pearls can be a natural pearl, or a keshi pearl. Keshi pearls are formed when the oyster spits out the human implanted nucleus before the culturing process is complete. Keshi pearls come from both saltwater and freshwater environments. Keshis are generally small in size.  Natural pearls are also rarely round in shape because there was no round shaped nucleus implanted to help shape the finished pearl. Keshis come in a wide variety of colors.  They tend to have high luster and orient due to their solid nacre composition.

Japan has long been the leading producer of akoya pearls, which are round pearls cultured in an Akoya oyster. For over 100 years Japanese akoya pearls have been known for their high quality. Recently Akoya oysters have been transplanted to several other nations, and Akoya pearls can now be produced in these non-Japanese locations. Hence,the phrase "Japanese Akoyas" is no longer used, since most pearl strands can combine both Chinese and Japanese Akoyas.

In fact, the trade consensus is that it doesn't matter where Akoyas are cultured as long as their quality is high. This larger production as helped control and even lower prices, and this is great for the retail pearl buyer.  Happy pearl shopping...

Pearl phot linked from:
  http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pearl/oysters.html