Category: Pearl Spotlight

A South Sea Pearl Necklace

What’s the deal with so many pearl colors?

A variety of pearl colors

Pearls are sometimes referred to as the world’s most colorful gem, a title they have certainly earned! Rivaled only by garnets, which are available in every color of the rainbow, pearls are known for the amazing colors they display. However, not all of these colors occur naturally. There are many treatments that are considered acceptable in the jewelry trade to enhance the color and luster of the pearls in question. At Pearls International, we offer many color enhanced freshwater pearls so that you can find a color and style that suits your own personal flair. Note that when these treatments are done correctly, they do not detract from the value of the pearl. Here are the main treatments used to prepare pearls for use in jewelry:

Polishing: While it is is not necessary to cut a pearl or polish it in the manner you think of with other gemstones, they still have their own polishing procedure they are subjected to before being drilled and prepared to sell. They are simply tumbled in a salt water solution that is just course enough to remove any build up or organic matter from the pearls. This process can also sometimes remove small surface imperfections.

Maeshori: This is a process that originated in Japanese pearl farms, meaning “Before Treatment.” It refers to a range of treatments done at the farms, including polishing. When you hear of maeshori today, it means the process by which the pearl has been heated and then cooled in order to “tighten” up the nacre´ (smooth Mother-of-Pearl substance that forms the pearl) which causes the pearl to show increased luster. This process is comparable to a person getting a facelift.

Bleaching: Many freshwater and saltwater pearls are bleached to improve the color of white pearls. Bleaching also evens out some surface flaws. A natural color white strand will show slight variances in the hues of each pearl, while a bleached strand will appear very uniform. Pearl bleaching has been practiced for over 100 years and is considered an industry standard in production of white pearls.

Dyeing: Fancy color pearls such as cranberry and bright blue or green pearls have been treated with an organic dye. Sometimes freshwater pearls are dyed to mimic the color of saltwater pearls at a much lower price. Black freshwater pearls, for example, are dyed to look like Tahitian pearls. The same is true for chocolate color freshwater pearls. Chocolate Tahitian pearls are few and far between as it is, so it is a highly desired color based on rarity. Sometimes Tahitian pearls are dyed brown to make a matched chocolate Tahitian strand, without the pearl farmers having to wait the several years it would take to create a full strand of naturally chocolate color pearls. Dyeing a pearl does not detract from the value of the jewelry as long as it is done well. If you can see blotchiness on the surface of the pearl, or if you can see the original white color around and inside of the drill hole in the pearl, it has been poorly dyed. The color should be smooth and even across the surface of the pearl. Another common practice, related to dyeing, is called “pinking” which is most commonly done on Akoya pearls to increase the rosey overtones in the nacre´. This is achieved by soaking the pearls in a diluted red dye.

Freshwater Stick Pearl Necklace
Gorgeous color treated cranberry pearl necklace featuring both round pearls and stick pearls.

Irradiation: This is a treatment most commonly applied to saltwater pearls. It is rarely seen in freshwater pearls, because the cost of this treatment usually outweighs the value. The pearl is subjected to gamma rays, which darkens the pearl. In the case of saltwater pearls, it darkens the shell bead nucleus (which is made from a freshwater mussel). Because the center of the pearl has been darkened, the layers of nacre´ covering the pearl appear darker because of how the light refracts on the surface of the pearl, allowing you to see the nucleus underneath. The thicker the layers of nacre´ (so, the larger the pearl) the harder it is to see. Saltwater pearls treated in this manner will usually become silvery or gunmetal grey in color, not black. Freshwater pearls treated with irradiation will become very dark and it is a good way to get black freshwater pearls with high luster. It’s important to note that these pearls are not radioactive, and therefore are completely safe to wear and enjoy.

There are a couple of other treatments that some pearl farms may choose to do, but these are the most common and most acceptable in the pearl industry.

So, how can you tell if your pearls are a natural color or an enhanced color? Certain types of pearls are available in a range of natural colors. All others not listed are dyed or otherwise enhanced for fashion.

Akoya Pearls: Japanese Akoya pearls are one of the most popular pearl types on the market, and are the most obtainable saltwater pearls. They come in white and cream, with rose, silver, or gold overtones. They are also sometimes seen in a stunning silver-blue color, although these are very rare.

Graduated white akoya pearl necklace
Beautiful graduated white akoya pearl necklace.

South Sea Pearls: These rare treasures are available in white and gold, with the darkest golden pearls being considered the most valuable.

A South Sea Pearl Necklace
A multicolor south sea pearl necklace, showing the varying shades of gold and white these pearls naturally occur in.

Tahitian Pearls: One of the most sought after saltwater varieties of pearls, Tahitian pearls are prized for their dark color and ‘peacock’ overtones, although they can occasionally be found in chocolate as well. Most Tahitian pearls lean towards silver or grey rather than true “black.” (As in jet black, which is an unnatural color.) Pinctada margaritifera, the oyster that produces these gorgeous pearls, also produces their cousin, Fiji Pearls. Fiji Pearls are truly the most colorful pearl in the world, and one of the rarest. Because the waters they are farmed in are so nutrient-dense, they come in a rainbow of colors including the traditional blacks and greys, as well as bronze and gold.

Black Tahitian Pearls
Black peacock Tahitian Pearls

Sea of Cortez Pearls: As only one pearl farm is currently culturing these pearls, Sea of Cortez pearls are the most rare. They are also never enhanced to improve their color, so you know that if you purchase a Sea of Cortez pearl, it is unaltered by man once it leaves the oyster. Their colors are similar to those shown in black peacock Tahitian pearls, although they are somewhat more bold and rich in color than the Tahitians are.

Sea of Cortez Pearls
Pearls from the Sea of Cortez, produced from the Rainbow-Lipped Oyster

PS – You can click here to read more about the amazing Sea of Cortez and Tahitian black peacock pearls mentioned above!

Freshwater Pearls: Making up the bulk of the pearl market, most pearls you will come across while pearl shopping are freshwater. They take the least amount of time and effort from the pearl farmers to produce, and are cultured in several places around the world from a few different species of freshwater clams. These pearls naturally come in white and cream, as well as pastel colors such as peach, lavender, and pink. Any unusually dark or very brightly colored freshwater pearls are typically dyed.

Multicolor Freshwater Pearl Bracelet
Naturally occurring pastel color freshwater pearls, strung together in a bracelet.

When in doubt, a reputable company should always be honest with you about the jewelry you are buying – just ask!

Sources:

http://www.jewellerytechnology.com/education/Treatment_done_on_Pearls.php
http://www.pearl-guide.com/forum/content.php?92-Pearl-Treatments
http://www.professionaljeweler.com/archives/articles/1998/sep98/0998fys2.html
http://www.pearlsofjoy.com/Pearl-Colors_ep_45-1.html
http://www.pearlblogger.com/?p=137
http://www.purepearls.com/pearl-colors.html

Medicinal Pearls

flowers-pearls

Pearls, surprisingly enough, aren’t just useful for their good looks! In fact, they have been used in medicines for centuries.

The earliest report of this came from two different sources in the 13th Century. A German monk, Albertus Magnus, stated that pearls could heal mental diseases, love sickness, hemorrahage and dysentery. Alfonso the Learned, the King of Castile believed that pearls as medicine cleaned and purified the blood, and recommended it for fighting depression, or any ailment caused by sadness or timidness.

Pearls dissolving in vinegar
Pearls dissolving in vinegar

In the 17th century, an elixir called ‘Aqua Perlata’ was recommended for restoring strength and combatting fevers. It claimed to be almost strong enough for “resuscitating the dead.” This medicine contained pearls disolved in vinegar (or lemon juice). Once the pearls dissolved, fresh lemon juice was added, then the mixture was decanted into a new container where a touch of strawberry, rose water, cinnamon water, and borage flowers were added. It was sweetened with sugar as needed. It was recommended to cover the top of the glass when drinking Aqua Perlata, so as to not let any of the essence escape.

A substance called Gascoigne’s Powder was used well into the 19th century. The chemical make-up of it changed a few times, but it generally required pearls, crab’s eyes, and coral.

One legend states that placing a pearl in your bellybutton could actually cure stomach disorders.

Mikimoto himself, the man accredited with creating the process for culturing pearls, ate two pearls a day for his health.

But is all this “pearls as medicine” stuff really so crazy? In fact, pearls contain a variety of amino acids, proteins,and calcium. Concoctions such as Aqua Perlata likely worked because of the high content of Vitamin C in the juice and calcium in the pearls. And as for Alfonso the Learned’s theory, we can get behind the idea that pearls can fight sadness – our pearls sure make us happy!

Pearl Powder

Even today, pearls are still used in modern medicine. While it is not common in the Western world, countries such as China, India, and Japan have been using pearls medicinally for many years and continue to do so. Pearls that are lower than gem quality are commonly ground up and used as pharmaceutical calcium powder. “Pearl powder” is very common in Chinese medicine. Ground pearls are used as skin treatment to cure acne, reduce signs of aging, and even the complexion. It is also approved by China’s FDA for internal use, where the benefits are said to be that is builds up your immune system by preventing diseases, promotes tissue regeneration, improves vision, stops convulsions, and calms the mind.

You may want to think twice before gnawing on your strand of pearls, however. Oysters are filter feeders and these tiny animals are nature’s vacuums, cleaning toxins like mercury out of the water as they eat plankton and algae. These toxins may be stored up in their shells and in the proteins that make up the nacre of their pearls. While there may be some benefits to ingesting pearls, they might be outweighed by the ill effects. We’d recommend popping a calcium pill instead and saving the pearls for artful adornment.

Read more!

The Secret Metaphysical and Healing Properties of Pearls

Pearly Whirly Pearl Fact: Pearls as Medicine

Sources:

The book of the pearl: the history, art, science, and industry of the queen of gems
By George Frederick Kunz, Charles Hugh Stevenson

http://fsommers.com/pearls-in-medicine-some-anecdotes/

http://www.karipearls.com/medicine.html

http://www.pearl-guide.com/forum/content.php?r=108-Pearls-and-Medicine

The World’s Most Colorful Pearls

Fiji Pearls in shell

If you read our blog highlighting the truly amazing process used to create black saltwater pearls, you already know why we love these little gems so much. Aside from the obvious, of course – they’re gorgeous!

But did you know that our beloved South Pacific oyster, the Pinctada margaritifera, can produce pearls of an even greater variety of hues than seen in Tahitian and Sea of Cortez pearls? Fiji pearls are said to be the world’s most colorful pearls due to the nutrient rich waters that the oysters thrive in. They are found in black and grey, with overtones of silver, blue green, peacock,  and purple, which are often seen in Tahitian pearls. In addition to these traditional colors, Fiji pearls are also seen in bronze or gold instead of the common darker colors, and overtones can include varying shades of blue or green, pinkish red, and even colors as light as tan or white.


Fiji Pearls
Fiji Pearls in gold, cream, grey, bronze, and bright blues and greens.

Pearl farming in the waters surrounding Fiji is relatively new – it only began in 1998. Today, there are only 4 active pearl farms in that area, so these unique gems are quite hard to come by in the pearl market.

sources:

http://www.seafiji.com/SpecialsFlyers/Fiji’s%20unique%20pearls.pdf

 http://pearlfiji.com/index.html

A Pearl That Speaks to You

Tahitian Momento Pearl Ring
Tahitian Momento Pearl Ring

The world we live in is full of mind-blowing technological advances. Every time we turn around, it seems as though there is a new product created to enrich our lives, make every day tasks easier, or keep us connected through the web. The jewelry industry is no exception to this. Designers everywhere are branching away from the traditional and creating new and exciting wearable art that has a lot more to it that what meets the eye. The Apple Watch is one example of this that has become widely popular. In this series, we will explore not only the innovative tech-jewelry on the market today, but also some of the ways modern technology can be used to help you create the piece of your dreams.

Tahitian Momento Pearl necklace and pendant set.
Tahitian Momento Pearl pendant and earring set.

A leading pearl jewelry designer, Galatea, has designed a brand-new line of pearl jewelry that can be used to store your fondest memories. They are chipped with NFC (near-field communication) technology, so that if you hold your pearl up to your smartphone it will show the photos, video, or voice recording that has been imbedded within it – without you even needing to have a special app installed! This very cool technology is a revolutionary way to give someone an emotional keepsake that they can hand down through the generations. Imagine having family photos or videos with a voice recording of your parents, and being able to hand those memories down to your children as well. In the words of Chi Huynh, founder of Galatea, “If you have to find a picture on a computer it is not meaningful. This personalizes it. It is the most meaningful part of someone’s life, and it is right there next to you.”

So how is this possible? They are planning for two types of Momento pearls – one will have the chip drilled into the completed pearl, and the second option (which will be a more limited edition type of jewelry) will have the pearl actually grown around the chip with your chosen memories already inside. This will take approximately 18 months until the finished product is ready. This truly amazing piece of jewelry is set to be available for purchase sometime this year, although as of right now they are still limited and by request only.

http://vimeo.com/114592725

What do you think of this idea? Are technology and jewelry a match made in heaven? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Gemstone Spotlight: The Pearl! June’s Treasure

“Who comes with summer to this earth
And owes to June her hour of birth
A pearl should wear against her skin
Who’s innocence many a heart shall win.”

– Gregorian Birthstone Poem

Pearls in an oyster.
Pearls of various colors in an oyster shell.

Could you guess which month is our favorite? The birthstone for June is the pearl! Other accepted stones are alexandrite and moonstone, but when you can claim pearls as your gem why would you want another option?! We at Pearls International are always excited for a chance to talk about pearls. June girls are lucky to have such a unique gem to call their own. Pearls are so special because they are the only gem that is produced by a living organism. They are perfect from the moment they leave the shell, requiring no polishing, faceting, or other enhancements, and you will never find two pearls that are perfectly identical. If you are a fan of our site, you’ll know they come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes! Pearls are found all over the world, with most freshwater pearls coming from China and Japan. Many saltwater pearls are also found in Japan, and are commonly farmed in the Tahitian islands and Australia as well.

The history and mythology of the pearl is another part of what makes them so unique, special, and interesting. Almost all pearls today are cultured, which means an irritant has been placed into a mollusk by a human and the pearl has formed around that irritant. This process was developed around the 1920s. Before cultured pearls, the only pearl jewelry was made from pearls found in an oyster by chance. Only about one in 10,000 oysters will produce a gem quality pearl by itself, so as you can imagine, a strand of natural pearls would have been very, very expensive back then. In fact, did you know a strand of pearls once paid for an entire house? It sounds too crazy to be true, but it is. Pearls really are legendary. Legends around their origins formed from a variety of cultures around the world. The Chinese believed the gem to have formed inside the brains of dragons, while other cultures thought they were formed when oysters swallowed drops of moonlight. The Greeks thought they were drops of water flung from Aphrodite’s body when she was born from the sea.

Illustration of a Chinese dragon with pearlq
The Chinese once believed that pearls were formed inside the brains of dragons and sometimes dropped into the sea when the dragons fought.

Pearls are a symbol of innocence, purity, and love. Giving a bride pearls on her wedding day has been said to prevent tears. Looking for the perfect pearl gift for your June girl? Pearls International has the best pearl rings, necklaces, bracelets, and more! Also consider pearls as a gift for a 30th wedding anniversary.

Black freshwater pearl and crystal hoop earrings
These gorgeous black pearl and crystal hope earrings are sure to make an impression.

18" graduated freshwater pearl necklace in white
Want a more traditional gift? We offer lots of classic white strands.