Pearl Jewellery Guide
Pearls are classified as organic because they are produced by shellfish such as oysters and mussels. Natural pearls which evolve spontaneously in the wild are rare and expensive. They occur when an oyster is protecting itself from an irritant such as a parasite. The oyster produces a pearl sac which encloses the irritant; it then begins to coat it in nacre. This build-up of nacre creates a stunning, lustrous pearl.
The Pearl is a timeless classic that has been loved by women all over the world for centuries. It is used to create strings of pearl necklets and bracelets along with pendants, earrings and rings. Set in precious metals from gold to silver and teamed with other gemstones like diamonds and amethyst, a pearl piece of jewellery will be treasured forever. Pearl is also the birthstone for the month of June.
Because natural pearls are so rare, cultured and freshwater pearls are produced and used in jewellery making.
Oysters are used to create cultured pearls by placing a stimulant such as flesh from another oyster or a bead which causes the oyster to produce the pearl sac and coat it with nacre.
Similarly Freshwater pearls are made in the same process but using freshwater mussels instead of oysters.
As pearls are natural, no two pearls are ever the exact same. Each pearl, whether naturally produced, freshwater or cultured is unique in colour, lustre, shape and size. Some flaws are almost certain to be found on any pearl, but their visibility and noticeability are what will affect the value of the pearl. Chips, cracks or gaps in pearls can cause the pearl to break; hence this will affect their value. However, imperfect pearls which are misshapen or have small scratches can often be seen as beautiful, especially in modern fashion because of their contemporary appearance.
A Brief History
For more than 4000 years, the pearl has been cherished as sacred and rare. In Ancient China, pearls had always been seen as a symbol of wealth and a prized possession of royalty. In India it was believed that the Hindu god Krishnan found the first pearl, raising it to sacred heights. Pearls have featured as symbols of wealth and royalty throughout ancient texts all over the world. In ancient Rome, pearls were a most luxurious accessory, worn as a symbol of prestige. Stories have been told of Cleopatra and her pearls. It is said that Cleopatra wagered Mark Anthony of the Roman Empire that she could host the most expensive meal ever served. She took a vessel of sour wine, or vinegar, and dropped her pearl earring, worth 10 Million sesterces, into it. The pearl dissolved in the acidy bath of vinegar, and she drank from the vessel, winning the wager.
The World’s most Famous Pearl: ‘La Peregrina’
Throughout history, pearls have kept their value for rarity and beauty alike. Take for example “La Peregrina” the World’s most well-known pearl. Originally owned by Prince Philip II of Spain, who gifted it to Queen Mary Tudor in anticipation of their marriage, this piece has remained precious and sacred throughout the ages. The Pearl passed ownership from Mary Tudor to Philip III and on to other royals. Other owners of the famous pearl were Margaret of Austria, Elisabeth of France and Mariana of Austria, all Queens of Spain. When Joseph Bonaparte became King of Spain he left the pearl to his nephew Emperor Louis Bonaparte. The historic pearl was then sold by Emperor Napoleon III to James Hamilton, Duke of Abercorn. In later years, the Duke auctioned the pearl which was purchased by Richard Burton for a handsome sum of $37,000 for his wife, the in legendary Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor had the pearl set in a diamond and ruby pendant. The Pearl is known to have had a mischievous mind of its own, often getting lost. On several occasion the Duchess of Abercorn lost the pearl from its setting, as did Elizabeth Taylor during her ownership of it. After her passing, the pearl, in its unique Cartier setting, was sold to an anonymous buyer for a ground breaking $ 11Million.
Pearls remain to this day cherished for their beauty, rarity, and value.
Pearls have never lost their appeal throughout the ages. Pearls today are more affordable, more fashionable and more popular than ever. The discovery of culturing pearls for increased production has transformed the pearl jewellery industry. Pearls are still considered to be elegant and luxurious, and when worn, are seen as a symbol of class and sophistication. In the past, public figures such as Princess Grace and Audrey Hepburn frequently donned them.
Coco Chanel’s iconic pearl wearing and pearl jewellery designs truly began a revolution for the pearl as a fashion statement, rather than a statement of social status. Today, pearls are not only worn on special occasions, or in a formal and sophisticated manner. Long strings of pearls, bracelets and earrings are worn today in an edgy manner, which revisits the traditional style of pearl wearing. The reinvention of pearl jewellery can be related to the popularity of modernizing vintage styles in today’s fashion.
Jewellery brands including Thomas Sabo, Ti Sento and John Rocha have grasped the modern style of pearl wearing. These designers each have popular pearl collections; all taking a modern look at the pearl and how it should be worn.
No woman should be without some pearls – a necklace, bracelet or pearl studs are the favoured option.
Pearl Care and Cleaning
Pearls are the only organic gemstone, and require additional care. Because they are softer and more delicate, pearls are more liable to scratches, cracks or damage. It is vital that you are careful with your pearls. We advise that you keep cosmetics such as perfume, tan, make-up and hairspray away from pearls as these may damage the pearls surface.
We advise that your pearls are stored separately to other jewellery. This will help to prevent scratches and damage. Where possible, store in a lined box, or pouch.
The pearl will gather natural dirt, from its surrounding and from natural skin oils. This is normal. In order to keep your pearls in great condition, keep them clean. Use a soft, lint-free cloth dampened with warm water to wipe the pearls. This will help remove any surface dirt and to restore the pearls natural lustre.