Pearls - Very cultured

Pearls are organic gems, created when an oyster covers a foreign object with beautiful layers of nacre.

Long ago, pearls were important financial assets, comparable in price to real estate, as thousands of oysters had to be searched for just one pearl. They were rare because they were created only by chance.

Today pearls are cultured by Man. Shell beads are placed inside an oyster and the oyster is returned to the water. When the pearls are later harvested, the oyster has covered the bead with layers of nacre. Most cultured pearls are produced in Japan. In the warmer waters of the South Pacific, larger oysters produce South Sea cultured pearls and Tahitian black cultured pearls, which are larger in size. Freshwater pearls are cultured in mussels, mostly in China.

The quality of pearls is judged by the orient, which is the soft iridescence caused by the refraction of light by the layers of nacre, and lustre, the reflectivity and shine of the surface. Fine pearls do not have any flaws or spots in the nacre: it has an even, smooth texture. Other factors which affect value are the regularity of the shape, size, and colour: rose tints are the most favoured.

Cultured and natural pearls can be distinguished from imitation ones by a very simple test. Take the pearl and rub it (gently!) against the edge of a tooth. Cultured and natural pearls will feel slightly rough, like fine sandpaper, because of the texture of natural nacre. Imitations will feel as smooth as glass because the surface is moulded or painted on a smooth bead.

Read Related Gems

  • Morganite

    Alongside emerald and aquamarine,...
  • Kunzite

    Millions of years ago, deep in the...
  • Beryls

    The magic of colours Colour appeals to...
  • Ametrine

    Spinning purple into gold
  • Quartz

    Common chameleon If you gaze deep into...
  • Topaz

    It is a fluorine aluminium silicate...
  • Turquoise

    The turquoise is ancient, yet again...
  • Tsavorite

    The shining green tsavorite is a young...
  • Tanzanite

    Tanzanite is an extraordinary...
  • Coral

    Precious Coral! Corals are a...
  • Amber

    The Jurassic gem Dinosaurs have been...
  • Agate

    Banded beauty No gemstone is more...
  • Pearl

    Pearls - Very cultured Pearls are...
  • Aquamarine

    Aquamarine: A cool breeze on a warm...
  • Jade

    The myth of jade Jade – a gemstone of...
  • Amethyst

    Amethyst. Its colour is as unique as...
  • Peridot

    The Traditional Birthstone for August:...
  • Garnet

    Garnet Aren't garnets those wonderful...
  • Emerald

    Emeralds are fascinating gemstones....
  • Ruby

    Ruby passion Which colour would you...
  • Citrine

    Citrine: the king of Quartz. The...
  • Spinel

    Spotlight on Spinel By Debbie Yonick
  • Sapphire

    September’s Sensational Sapphire By...
  • Rose Quartz

    A rosy outlook! Rose quartz is more...
  • Tourmaline

    October Tourmaline Beautiful,...
  • Lapis Lazuli

    Lapis lazuli: solid as a rock From...
  • Opal

    October’s Opalescence by Debbie Yonick...

About Us

The ICA is a worldwide body specifically created to benefit the global colored gemstone industry by advancing and promoting the knowledge and appreciation of colored gemstones.
New York Office: 31 West 47th St., Suite 1103, New York, NY 10036
+1 (212) 620-0900
ica (at) gemstone.org
Hong Kong Office: Unit 311B, 3rd Floor, Heng Ngai Jewelry Centre No. 4 Hol Yuen Street East, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong
+852 2365-9318
ica (at) gemstone.org

ICA Newsletter