All About Pearls

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Wouldn’t it be nice to find real pearls from edible oysters? That would be the day when eating edible oysters would bring in not only food for the table but also pearl for jewelry. However, such thing is next to impossible considering that pearls do not grow in edible oysters.

Pearls are produced by mollusks including oysters, mussels and clams. However, mussels and clams rarely produce pearls while oysters commonly produce pearls no matter if they are in freshwater or in saltwater.

The idea that pearls are produced from sand intruding into the shell of an oyster is false. Sand is an inorganic material while pearls are formed by organic materials that are caught inside the oyster. As a defense mechanism, the oyster wraps the organic material with a substance called nacre, resulting to what is known as mother of pearl.

Most people believe that pearls should have an imperfect form since they are products of nature. However, there are those that are formed perfectly and these are considered very valuable pearls. Unlike the common belief that pearls are usually white, pearls come in various colors like black, green, red and even blue. Different-colored pearls can be found all over the world but only the South Pacific has produced black pearls.

Instead of waiting for the natural occurrence of pearls, there are people who culture pearls in the same manner that they are naturally formed. However, the organic irritants are intentionally inserted through a crack in the oyster’s shell. Natural pearls are however more expensive than cultured pearls because of their rarity.

Among the kinds of pearls are cultured pearls either in saltwater or freshwater; South Sea pearls that are produced by the silver lipped oysters are rare pearls that are cultured in Australia and are usually very large; South Sea pearls produced by golden lipped oysters and are cultured in Indonesia and Tahitian pearls or black pearls that are produced by black lipped oysters and are cultured in Cook Islands or in the French Polynesia.

So how can one determine if a pearl is real or an imitation? Real pearls tend to feel sandy when rubbed along the edge of the front teeth while imitation pearls fell smooth.

Aside from the kinds of oyster from which pearls are produced, the quality of pearls is determined according to their luster or shine. Thick nacres that have been left in the water longer are generally shinier. The shape of a pearl is also important and the rounder the pearl, the better. The larger the pearl, the rarer they are and the more expensive.

Pearls are generally used as pieces of jewelry but they are also used in making cosmetics. Powdered pearl that is made from shells and pearls of not so good quality is said to produce paler skin with a natural glow. Pearl cosmetics are actually being exported by many countries including China to the Unites States.


Five Minute Pearl Quiz

So, you think you know a lot about pearls? Take this short, ten-question quiz and see…and don’t peek at the answers till you’re done.

1. The pearl is the birthstone of people born in which month?
a) December
b) June
c) July
d) None of the above

2. Pearls are the traditional anniversary gift for which year?
a) 5th
b) 15th
c) 30th
d) None of the above

3. Which historical figure is said to have dissolved a pearl in a glass of wine and drunk it to impress a man?
a) Cleopatra
b) Lady Godiva
c) Helen of Troy
d) Joan of Arc

4. The rules of European society once forbid everyone except the nobility to:
a) Handle pearls
b) Wear pearls
c) Fish for pearls
d) Use pearls in a wedding ceremony

5. Which famous jeweler financed his landmark New York City store by trading two pearl necklaces for the property?
a) Charles Lewis Tiffany
b) David Yurman
c) Jacques Cartier
d) Harry Winston

6. Saltwater pearls include:
a) Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian
b) South Sea, Tahitian and mabé
c) Tahitian, akoya and blister
d) Mabé, Tahitian and South Sea

7. Pearls are graded on several characteristics. They include size, shape, surface quality and:
a) Nacre thickness
b) Matching
c) Color
d) All of the above

8. A 12-13 inch pearl strand is known as a collar; a 14-16 inch strand is a choker. A matinee is 20-24 inches. Opera length is 28-34 inches; a rope is over 45 inches. What is a 17-19 inch pearl strand called?
a) Classic
b) Princess
c) Audrey Hepburn
d) None of the above

9. The organic materials that make up a pearl are collectively called:
a) Nacre
b) Mother-of-pearl
c) Luster
d) Overtone

10. Which type of animal produces pearls?
a) Oysters
b) Mollusks
c) Snails
d) All of the above


1. b
2. c
3. a
4. b
5. c
6. a
7. d
8. b
9. a
10. d


All 10 correct : Pearl expert!
7-9 correct: Congratulations, you know more than most.
4-6 correct: Your pearl knowledge is average. Learn more by visiting relevant web sites such as those listed below.
Less than four correct: No problem…learning about pearls is interesting and fun. Educate yourself at pearl websites such as ours 🙂
or do a Yahoo or Google search on “cultured pearls.”


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