Category: Pearly Whirly Pearl Fact

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

How Can I Tell if My Pearls are Real? Ten Quick Tips.

Pearls International only carries genuine cultured freshwater and saltwater pearls, but with so many convincing fakes on the market, how can you tell if the pearls you got somewhere else are the genuine article?

Today recently broke a story about dishonest salesmen in destination spots like Cozumel who duped their customers into purchasing jewelry that wasn’t real. We wanted to take a moment to help educate our customers and readers about how you can avoid scams like this on your vacation and protect yourself from people who don’t have your best interests in mind.

First, always ask for recommendations at your hotel or with a local resident you trust. Most people aren’t going to shop at a jeweler who is hidden down some dark alleyway, but it’s always a good idea to be smart about where you spend your money.

Satisfaction Guarantee SealSecond, ask about their return policy. If you get home to discover that an item you thought was gold instead turned out to be gold plate, at least you’ll know how to get your money back. Pearls International offers a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee with easy returns and exchanges. If you ever purchase the wrong size or color with us, we’ll happily and enthusiastically make it right.

So what if you’ve already made a purchase, and you’re wondering whether you got your money’s worth? Or maybe you’ve inherited some jewelry and you’re thinking of selling it, but don’t want to risk taking it to a pawn shop or a gold-buyer without knowing what it’s worth?


It’s always a good idea to have a jeweler you trust take a look at a new piece to validate its authenticity. At Pearls International, we’ll even give you a free jeweler’s loupe that you can use to look at the metal hallmarks in your jewelry, and they’re also very useful for doing annual checks on prongs to prevent your stones from getting lost!

If you don’t have time to bring your jewelry to an expert, there are several things you can do at home to find out if your pearls are real.

Are my pearls real? Ten things to look for:

Tip: It’s best to start with a clean strand so you can identify small details that might be missed due to a buildup of oils or perfumes on the surface of your pearls. If you need to find out how to clean your pearls, check out this tutorial or use our specially created pearl-safe cleaner.

Pearl Juice
Normal gold and silver cleaners are acidic and can damage your pearls. Use a pearl-friendly cleaner like our Pearl Juice to avoid damaging your pearls. It is best to start with a clean strand when determining if your pearls are the real deal.

[dropcap2]1[/dropcap2]Real pearls are heavier than fake pearls. Imagine you are holding a strand of little pebbles. Would your strand be about the same weight? If not, you might be holding some pearl impostors. The nacre that makes up the layers of a real pearl is very dense, so it will weigh quite a bit more than plastic or resin, two common materials used in many fake pearls. Beware! Some materials such as glass and composite, or ‘shell’ pearls (pearls made from crushed and reconstituted shell) may fool this test.

[dropcap2]2[/dropcap2]If your pearls are heavy, but you still suspect they may be false, chipped or cracking paint is a sure sign that your pearls are fakes. To find it, look carefully between two pearls at a drill hole. If you notice any paint is missing, or if the material from inside the pearl formed a ‘burr’ when the pearl was drilled, your pearls are probably fake. Real pearls will have a drill hole that is quite smooth and doesn’t show any chipping (unless it has been mishandled). If in doubt, ask an expert.

Chipped Pearl Paint

[dropcap2]3[/dropcap2]Real pearls on a strand will never be perfectly matched. Since no two pearls are identical in nature, look for minor variation in color and shape that indicate your pearls are authentic. You may need to look very closely, as high quality strands will be well matched. However, the differences will be there! 

[dropcap2]4[/dropcap2] Size matters. Are your pearls enormous and perfectly spherical? If you paid a comically tiny price for your comically huge pearls, it’s very likely that they are fake. In nature, the longer a pearl remains within an oyster’s shell, the more likely it is to develop imperfections like dents and divots. As a result, pearls of a very large size can be extremely valuable. If your pearls fit this description, it’s likely you have a strand of shell pearls.

[dropcap2]5[/dropcap2] Knots are important! Real pearls will be individually knotted on a silk or microfiber strand. These knots are crucial to the longevity of your pearls. In addition to preventing each pearl from rubbing against its neighbor, the knots also protect against the loss of more than a couple of pearls, should your strand get caught on something and break. Many high-quality fakes will be knotted (such as Mallorca Pearls), but they are easy to identify when you know what to look for.


Tip: If your strand is knotted, take note of the condition of the knots. Are they frayed or discolored? Is there space between the knots and the pearls? If so, you may need to have your strand restrung to prevent breakage. Pearls International offers restringing for $1/knot. Contact us if you’d like to get more information about our jewelry repair services.

Knotted vs. Unknotted Pearls[dropcap2]6[/dropcap2]If your pearls have unusual coloring, they may be fake. While some real pearls are dyed for fashion or to cover up unsightly surface imperfections, good-quality pearls usually stick to colors that appear in nature. Your favorite chartreuse strand might not be the real thing, but feel free to rock that look if it suits you! To learn more about color treatments in pearls, check out this post.

[dropcap2]7[/dropcap2] The temperature of your pearls can give you some hints. Real pearls often feel cool to the touch and will quickly warm to your body’s temperature when worn. Fake pearls will feel much more close to room temperature when you first pick them up.

[dropcap2]8[/dropcap2] Do your pearls look like soldiers in a row? If they are perfectly uniform without any differences or imperfections, it’s very likely that they were manufactured. Real pearls are born in the sea, so they grow up getting rolled around by wind and waves, and as a result, they are never, never perfect. Even ’round’ pearls will show small lumps and bumps and minor imperfections in the nacre. In the pearls of utmost quality, these may not be visible without a loupe, but they are still there. Don’t worry — these are signs that your pearl came from nature!

Pearl Shape

[dropcap2]9[/dropcap2]Genuine pearls appear more ‘glowy’ than ‘shiny’. Look at your pearls under natural light. Real pearls are made from layer upon layer of a material called ‘nacre’. These layers are translucent, and reflect light in such a way that a real pearl appears to have an inner glow that is almost impossible to recreate with artificial methods. If your pearls appear harsh or have an unusual brassy or metallic appearance, they may be fake.

Graduated white akoya pearl necklace
Genuine Akoya Pearls from Pearls International – this exquisite strand shows you a real life example of the ‘glowy’ quality mentioned above. Faux pearls can appear more metallic.

[dropcap2]10[/dropcap2]Last but not least, one of the best methods for determining if your pearls are genuine is the ‘tooth test’. Real pearls have microscopic crystalline structures, not unlike fingerprints. Every pearl has its own structure, but fake pearls do not have this unique characteristic. As a result, if you hold one pearl between your thumb and index finger, then gently rub the pearl on one of your teeth (this only works with real teeth, not veneers or dental implants), you will feel a slight ‘gritty’ texture, as if you are rubbing sand on your tooth. Fake pearls will feel perfectly smooth. Note: Shell pearls, due to the powdered nacre they contain, may feel gritty. Ask your jeweler to identify them for you.

Now you know!

We hope these tips helped you determine if your pearls are real or fake. Still not sure? Drop by and we can take a look for you, or you can send your pearls to us at the address below. Be sure to include your name, phone number and a return address with your package!

Pearls International
3114 So. Atlantic Avenue
Daytona Beach Shores, FL 32118


Red Algal Bloom

Pearly Whirly Pearl Fact: Never Eat Oysters During These Months

Have you ever heard that you should only eat oysters in months with names that include the letter “R”? Turns out, there’s truth to the tale!

So why should you avoid eating local oysters in the months of May, June, July, and August?

Oysters are filter feeders that eat algae and plankton and are susceptible to a very specific type of algal bloom, or “Red Tide” that can occur during warmer months of the year. A buildup of toxins in the oyster’s tissue as a result of this algae can be harmful to humans.

So what’s an oyster lover to do?

The answer is actually quite simple. While this old rule is a word to the wise for those of us who like to gather our own oysters to eat from rivers and oceans, it doesn’t usually apply to commercially available oysters, which are strictly regulated by the U.S. government. You can rest assured that your favorite oyster joint is probably serving oysters that are algae free and delicious. Slurp!

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

Pearls on Sand

Pearls are Fun, but We Take Oysters VERY SERIOUSLY!!

(This post is part of our blog series that deals with Pearls International’s take on social and environmental responsibility. For more information on how Pearls International gives back, please click here.)

Pearls International is the best place around if you want to play with pearls, get educated on pearls, find out about YOUR pearls, or just have fun!  Everyone knows that pearls are our favorite pastime and that we have a huge selection of creative pearl pieces that you can admire, touch or try on!

But when it comes to oysters, those amazing little animals who actually make the pearls, Pearls International gets deadly serious!  Because we live and breathe pearls, we know the importance of making sure that our friends, the oysters, stay healthy and happy and keep on making their little gems.  Now, it takes an oyster at least one year to come up with a pearl of any size at all, and two years if you want a nice big one.  Some really large pearls take as long as six years to form!  Actually, a healthy oyster can have a life-span of 8-12 years, but pearls that are grown in polluted water are usually pitted with rough spots and the delicate oysters don’t last long there, either.

Oysters need clean water in order to thrive and make lovely pearls.  As it turns out, oysters are quite fragile and they can’t survive in pollution. When oysters are forced to live in polluted water, they become frail.  Their shells weaken and predators come along, invade those soft shells, and destroy the hard-working mollusks!

Pearls are amazing.  The shells they come from are more amazing still, and the animals who live in the shells and make those gorgeous pearls are the most amazing of all.  Not diamonds, not pearls, but OYSTERS are a girl’s best friend!  Nature at its finest never made a more beautiful finished product.  So we need to keep those vulnerable oysters in clean water.

Here’s how Pearls International is helping:

[dropcap2]1.[/dropcap2]Sustainable Practices
Whether it’s making sure to recycle that soda can or turning off the lights when we leave a room, it’s important to reduce our environmental footprint as much as possible. Around here, we are careful not to put harmful chemicals into the water supply, and we re-use as many materials as possible to help reduce waste products and energy use from mining and transport.

[dropcap2]2.[/dropcap2]Ethical Sourcing
We’re a small company, but we still handle millions of pearls every year. Here at Pearls International, we are very aware of how even a small company like ours could have an effect on the environment if we were to use practices that could negatively affect the environment. That’s why we are constantly working with our vendors to seek out better ways to protect the oysters we love through every step of the supply chain.

[dropcap2]3.[/dropcap2]Responsible Stewardship
Perhaps the most important thing we do here at Pearls International is educate! We are always telling people about the amazing things you can find in the ocean, and why they’re worth saving. We think that if everybody did the same, our oceans would be a whole lot healthier. Toward that end, we are always learning, and always spreading the word about our H20-loving friends.

Here’s how you can help:

There are many things you can do to keep the oceans healthy, from cleaning up after yourself at the beach to using fewer plastic products (remember the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Yuck!).

These are things you can do every day, but if you really want to make a change? Get involved! Contact your local policy-makers to let them know you care about our oceans, and join an organization that is working to protect our most valuable global resource.

With your help, our oceans will be just as beautiful for our children’s children.

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.