If you follow our Instagram page, you know that here, at Pearlberry Jewellery, we are obsessed with pearls. They are versatile and timeless and add elegance to any outfit. They can transform mundane to chic and boring to sexy.
Like someone wise once said (don't ask me who): "The Pearl is the Queen of Gems and the Gem of Queens".
Pearls are definitely making their well-deserved come back to fashion and I decided to put together this list so you can make an informed decision while purchasing pearls.
It is actually quite easy to distinguish between real and faux pearls. My mom taught me when I was eight years old - you just gently scrape the pearl with your front teeth and if the surface is rough and gritty, you are holding genuine pearls. A smooth surface, on the other hand, would indicate a fake.
This advice was so simple and fun to my eight year old self that I spend many hours walking around my mom's studio, chewing on pearls and loudly announcing my verdict to anyone who would listen.
Of course, if you are buying pearls online, this test will not help you (I strongly advise against gnawing on your screen). If you buy from Pearlberry, you can be assured that all the pearls in our shop are genuine. Don't worry, I did not do the "chew test" on them. However, you are more than welcome to try it at home once you have received your beautiful pearls. Just remember to wipe them afterwards.
Sadly, due to overfishing of natural (both saltwater and freshwater) pearls over the last 150 years, many natural pearl beds were lost for good. Natural pearls have become extremely expensive (think thousands for a single strand of pearls) due to their rarity.
Nowadays, most pearls on the market are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are created by implanting into a pearl bearing mollusc an irritant which must include a graft made from epithelial cells found in the mantle tissue of a donor mollusc (source here). In other words, it is a very complicated and long process which does not guarantee success.
Of the millions of oysters implanted, only a tiny percentage of them will produce high grade pearls. On average, around half of the implanted oysters do not survive to produce a pearl. Only about 5% of the survivors yield fine grade pearls.
Cultivated pearls, therefore, are not "cheap" alternatives to natural pearls. These days, quality of cultivated pearls vary greatly and must be judged against many other factors.
The pearl's habitat determines whether its saltwater or freshwater.
Saltwater pearls originate from oysters and mussels in oceans, seas, gulfs and bays. There are many types of saltwater pearls: Akoya pearls, South Sea and Tahitian pearls, Black Tahitian pearls and Keshi pearls.
Freshwater pearls come from molluscs in lakes, rivers and ponds. They start at around 2.5mm and can grow to as large as 20mm, although that is quite rare. Freshwater pearls can be divided into several groups: Biwa pearls, Chinese Freshwater pearls, Mabe pearls, Blister pearls and Seed pearls. Most Freshwater pearls these days come from China.
Freshwater pearls are generally cheaper than saltwater pearls for a number of reasons.
First of all, freshwater molluscs are larger than saltwater oysters and mussels and can therefore produce more pearls at a time. As a result, freshwater pearls are more abundant.
Secondly, freshwater and saltwater pearls have different luster types: the former has a softer luster while the latter - a more brilliant and superficial luster.
Freshwater pearls are generally more durable because they have a thicker nacre than saltwater pearls. We recommend freshwater pearls if you plan on passing your pearl jewellery to future generations as an heirloom.
In addition, the quality of freshwater pearls has increased dramatically over the recent years. As a result, quality freshwater pearls can match their saltwater counterpart's beauty and allure.
Of course, the size of pearls is a personal preference but you could never go wrong with 7-8mm pearl necklace.
Perfectly round pearls are very rare and are, therefore, extremely expensive. Off-round pearls are readily available and more affordable than full-round pearls, and when a strand of pearls is worn, it is very difficult to tell the difference.
Pearls are available in just about any colour you can imagine: white, pink, peach, lilac, black, grey, gold and many others. Pearl colour is a combination of body colour and luster (also known as overtone). For example, a "black" pearl could have a dark grey body colour with green overtone.
A lot of the pearls (even white ones) have been dyed to enhance their natural colour. This has been practiced since the 1930s and is accepted as long as the buyer is made aware. If the dyeing has been done properly, dyed pearls will not fade over time.
To guarantee durability of a strand of pearls it is best to use silk thread. If there is no information on the thread used, make sure to ask the merchant before purchasing - lower quality threads tend to break more often.
It is crucial that a pearl necklace is knotted. Knotting is when a little knot is tied between every pearl to make sure the pearls do not rub against each other while being worn. If a pearl necklace is not knotted, the rubbing will eventually damage the pearls and increase chances of breakage. In addition, knotting prevents pearls from falling off the strand if the necklace does break.
Finally, make note of the clasp used for the necklace or the bracelet. What is it made of? Gold or silver clasps work best and will not tarnish but are also more expensive than brass. All Pearlberry pearl jewellery is made using the highest quality materials: superior quality silk thread and 925 sterling silver.
I hope you have found this long, long article useful. Leave a comment below if you have any questions.
Happy Pearl Shopping!