Although the pearl is the birthstone of June (you lucky June birthday lady) I would advise the experts urgently to make them the birthstone of every month, every week, and every day. It is such an exceptional gem that it deserves it! Besides that ‘pearls can make every woman stunning’.
With amber and coral, the pearl is the only animal-made material, that is considered by the big experts as a gemSTONE. And don’t think about taking some oysters in as a pet, and make your own ones. It takes a lot for the animal to make such a beautiful gem, like very clean water, the right temperature, the right oysters, no pesticides, etc. Let me tell you about this wonderful gem.
But there is soooo much to tell about pearls. In this blog, you find:
- Very rare species: how they grow
- In all shapes and sizes
- Exceptional examples in exciting stories
- Why you should wear them on your wedding day
- Should you knot your string or not
- why buy them NOW
You can read the whole blog, or use the table of content to read the chapters you like most. But in any case, scroll to the end and you will find the way to my free e-book, which you can download.
Very rare species: how they grow
Just a few types of oysters and sometimes snails are capable of making one. That is: in every 15.000 wild oysters that can produce a pearl only ONE is found! The core is a little sand or another small thing that comes –by accident- inside the oyster and they don’t like that. The oyster tries to smoothen that foreign particle by making a nice coat of mother of pearl around it. And that becomes the pearl, as we know it.
The gloss depends on the reflection and the refraction of the light in the transparent layers. With more and thinner layers, the shine is finer. Beads are obtained by divers and pearl growers. They are often round, but sometimes irregular in shape. Although the hardness is only 2.5 to 5 on the Mohs scale, they are extremely difficult to break. They occur from the size of a needlepoint until about 24 cm / 9.45 inches wide (the Pearl of Allah and the Hope Pearl).
Normally a pearl will lose the mother of the pearl layer in about 100-105 years. But archeologists found copies in Pompei from 79 AC. You can say mankind is familiar with them for about 6000 years. In Egypt, people have pearls (Cleopatra!), but also in Mexico, they have found them from about 2500 BC. In India they used these gems as an amulet, the Mongols thought that when you cook them, the water empowers men, the Chinese used them as medicine and the Romans thought they were the symbol of luck, power, and wisdom.
The supply of pearls was growing
The pearls are found in the Persian Gulf for a long time, but in the 15th en 16th centuries they get competition. The royals of Spain and Portugal send their soldiers to the West to look for land and treasuries. People like Columbus come back with a lot of gold, gemstones, and pearls. The import of those goods grows and when there is more of it available the prices drop.
And in the 18th and 19th centuries also the rich bourgeois in Europe can afford a beautiful pearl string They are still expensive but not the exclusive gem for royalty anymore. Things change again at the start of the 20th century. Japan and China work their way up in the pearl supply chain by offering cultured pearls.
In all shapes and sizes
Most people have only seen pearls that are round or maybe you know them in the shape of rice (rice pearls). But there are more shapes and colors, much more…
Natural pearls are formed without any help from people. A strange particle penetrates the shell by accident and the shell protects itself against this intruder by forming the mother of pearl around the intruder: the pearl. The Orient Pearl (coming from the Persian Gulf) is so rare that the name ‘pearl’ is used for cultivated copies too.
Nearly all the pearls now are cultivated (cultivé). You put a little grain of mother of pearl in the clamshell or oyster and after two years you can harvest one. Kokichi Mikimoto from Japan found this out and he got in 1896 a patent on this process.
Blister and Mabé
A blister or mabéparel is a half-round pearl, which has been created between the shell and the body of the shellfish, instead of IN his body. Growing outside his body you will see In a few years’ time a round pearl with a flat rear.
The blister pearl looks like a blister. As long as the pearl grows against the inside of the clamshell, we are talking about blister pearls. In some cases, the full-grown blister pearl is cut out of the clamshell, together with a part of the inside of the shell (mother of pearl). The pearl is surrounded by a mother of pearl with the pearl inside.
In the 19th century, Japan started with the cultivation of the half-round blister pearl, and these cultivé pearls are called Mabe pearls.
Keshi pearls are composed entirely of nacre. “Keshi” was first used in Japan to describe pearls without nuclei. Keshi pearls occur when the oyster rejects the contributed nuclear, but a piece of graft tissue is left behind or with the implantation of a nuclear a piece of graft tissue shears off. These graft tissue cells grow into a pearl bag. Because this pearl bag is not filled with a core the pearl grows in a unique form. These pearls are completely built from Pearl giving them an exceptional shine.
Now the occurrence of a Keshi pearl is less common, since they check every clamshell, whether the nuclear grows properly. And when the nuclear has vanished, they install a new one.
Keishi pearls can grow in salt and in sweet water. A Keshi pearl from an Akoya clamshell is very small (about 1 mm / 0.04 inch), but Keshi pearls from the South Sea and the ones from Tahiti are bigger (4-8 mm / 0.15-0.30 inches)
dainty pearl necklace (1 avail.)€ 45.00
Biwa Lake is the biggest lake in Japan. You can find here a Sweetwater mussel. A real breakthrough in the nuclear-free cultured pearls from Japan, from the famous Biwa-lake, only took place in the middle of the last century. Biwa-pearls became a very famous type of pearl, with a soft luster and warm colors such as very light creme, ochre, and gray. The production of cultured pearls in the Hyriopsis Schlesinger shell remained not long. Especially environmental pollution brought the production in approx. 1985 to a standstill.
Freshwater pearls have -in comparison with pearls from saltwater areas- played a minor role. What today is usually indicated as a freshwater pearl is a nuclear-free cultivated pearl from freshwater areas. Freshwater pearls have a very long tradition. Since 100 BC. with pearl-exaggerated Buddha figurines found in China.
Chinese freshwater pearls are farmed in a large number of forms and with intense colors: white, cream, orange, mauve, and pink are typical natural colors. The development of Chinese cultured pearls is amazing and they will continue to evolve.
Tahiti pearls are cultivated and are called after an island in French Polynesia, Tahiti. The Pinctada margarite Fera oyster forms pearls in the colors silver-gray, blue-blackish, brown-blackish, and aubergine. These colors can occur due to the minerals, the plankton, and the temperature of the water. This pearl is an expensive one, because of its rareness, smoothness, shape, and metallic brilliance. It takes more than 6 years before they can harvest the pearls and only 10 pearls of the 2000 oysters have the right quality.
For about 100 years Japan cultivates the Akoya pearl, which is produced by the oyster Pinctada martensii. The oyster lives in saltwater areas around Japan. The Akoya pearl has a solid round nuclear, and the oyster about 8 cm / 3.15 inch wide forms pearls of a maximum of 12 cm / 4.72 inches. The quality of these pearls is high: the round shape, the brilliance, and the very rare color pink make these pearls costly.
You would expect that a pearl is formed by clamshells (sweet and saltwater shells) or by oysters (saltwater shells). But there are varieties, which are formed by snails. The Strombus Giga snail produces purple or conch pearls: in about 1000 of these snails, you will find about 1 pearl. The perfect snail pearl is very smooth and purple. They are very expensive: one necklace with matching earrings, made of conch pearls was auctioned for $178.500 / €160.352!
You have so many different names for a certain kind of pearl. They are named after the place where they grow or they have different names because they come from a different type of clamshell or oyster. Or they live in different circumstances, like sweet and salt water. But you have also a pearl named after its shape, like button-, potato- (very small flat ones), rice pearls, etc.
In this blog, I want special attention to two types that are getting more and more popular…
Baroque pearls are a big hit today! On the catwalks in Paris and Milan, you can see the trends in jewelry. This season the jewelry designers want you to wear large statement jewelry. The bigger the better. And one of the favorite materials this year to make a necklace or earrings from are pearls.
Baroque pearls or ‘wild pearls’ are cultivated pearls with a nacre core inside (therefore they are also called ‘nucleus pearls’). That core is not round but can have all kinds of shapes and sizes. The nacre grows around the core and follows the shape of the core. The full-grown ones have irregular shapes, depending on the core.
A lot of the cultivated freshwater pearls can be called baroque pearls, because their core is mantle-tissue nucleated, instead of bead nucleated. But only the very irregular-shaped pearls are called ‘baroque’ pearls and the other ones are called after their shape, like button or potato pearl. Actually, they are a variety of baroque-shaped pearls.
Cultivated saltwater pearls can also be baroque pearls. Their shape is mostly a ‘teardrop’ because their core is a spherical nucleated bead.
A lot of types baroque shaped pearls
As explained above we call every pearl that is not perfectly round, a baroque pearl. Most of them are freshwater pearls and they come in many different shapes. That is that there are more baroque – so not perfectly round- pearls, than round pearls, and they occur from very tiny to rather large.
Baroque-shaped pearls are all pearls that are not perfectly round and the baroque pearl is a variety of baroque-shaped pearls. I hope you still follow me in this.
We recognize about 12 types of baroque-shaped pearls and some of them even have a variety within their type. Like Keshi pearls, blister, coin, rice, potato, twin, cross, stick, and baroque pearls.
But as always there are exceptions, which makes a determination not always clear. Sometimes the baroque-shaped pearls are saltwater pearls (but most of them are freshwater pearls). Also cultured and natural pearls have baroque shapes. And although I have not seen them, there are Akoya pearls, known for their perfectly round shape, that come as a baroque shape variety.
But we are talking in this blog about the pearls, the baroque pearls, that are non-spherical, more or less round, and somewhat longer, with all kinds of dips and dents on the surface.
valuable or not?
The South Sea and the Tahiti pearls are the most valuable pearls, of this type you can find. They are rather expensive since it costs a long time before the oyster has ‘made’ enough nacre around the core. The longer it takes, the more beautiful the nacre of the pearls. And when it takes longer to grow a perfect baroque pearl the fewer times the people can harvest the pearls: so again more expensive.
The value depends on whether you want to purchase a misshapen pearl or an Akoya pearl, with a baroque shape. We are talking now about quality and to be honest, also taste. Some misshapen baroque-shaped pearls look stunning in a certain piece of jewelry. A jewelry designer can create miracles with this material.
The shape is important for the prize of the baroque pearl too. The most valuable baroque-shaped pearls are the Keshi pearl, the cross pearl (the pearl is formed in the shape of a cross), and the baroque pearls. And the larger the pearl the more you pay. Some baroque-shaped pearls are not popular with jewelry designers, like the rice pearl. They are very cheap, but it takes you ages to bead them since the pearls are so small and the holes hard to find.
The prices of baroque-shaped pearls when they have all shades of white and pink are ‘normal’, but you pay a lot extra for dark-colored pearls since this color is very rare. And when that dark-colored baroque pearl has a stunning luster that reflects light, you pay the jackpot.
Baroque pearls are trendy pearls.
On my trip to Cambodia and Vietnam last January on the last day I found gorgeous baroque pearls. One string was in a dark gray to a black color and the other one was off-white. When the light shines on the white bead you see a kind of pinkish-to-purple shine on the nacre. And on the black baroque pearl, that glance is more brownish to bronze. Very special!
It is a pity I could only buy 2 strings since that was all there was available. When I came home I saw that on the catwalks in Miland and Paris, the jewelry designers showed a lot of large statement necklaces, and a lot of them were made of large baroque pearls. So (by accident) I bought 2 strings of trendy baroque pearls. In my case not because they are trendy, but because they are so tremendously beautiful.
Shell pearls are most of the time not very popular with fashionistas, they pull their nose when they see a piece of jewelry made of shell pearls. So let them be! Is choosing shell pearls good or bad? In this blog post, I tell you ‘when it is better to choose shell pearls’. And I prove to you that shell pearls are not only very beautiful, and very durable, but also stunning. Read on.
What are shell pearls exactly?
Shell pearls are man-made from the nacre part (or mother of pearl) of the shell of an oyster. That shell is ground to a very fine powder and after that, the powder is shaped into a pearl, it’s coated and polished. The coating consists of the nacre of a natural pearl to give it luster.
This kind of pearl had many layers of nacre and that’s the reason that this type of pearl is durable and beautiful. The materials are the same as the material of a natural pearl or freshwater pearl is made of. Shell pearls are pearls, but manmade.
Of course, they are not natural pearls and looking this way the shell pearls are fake. But they are man-made, just like the lab-created pearl or the synthetic pearl, because they are made from the same ingredients as the real pearl. Only the process is different.
When to consider buying shell pearls?
There are many reasons why these pearls are a wise choice. Maybe your budget does not allow buying natural pearls, or you need a strong durable bead for a bracelet, a necklace, or a pair of earrings. Or you have to take medicine, that makes a natural pearl lose its luster. Possibly you want a certain size and color and neither the size nor the shape is available. Let’s have a closer look at this.
A shell pearl is man-made, the quality can be controlled and this type of pearl has so many layers that it is very hard to break them. They are made of the same material as natural pearls, but since they are shaped by men, you can get pearls all of the same size, color, and weight. This makes a necklace extraordinarily beautiful (and affordable).
These kinds of pearls are not affected by perfume, medicine, sweat, or detergents. So don’t worry when you sprayed perfume or hairspray. That is, you have to wipe the spray off with a soft cloth, but your pearls will not be affected (maybe only sticky!)
Natural pearls will last for about 100 years or so. Although archeologists have found natural pearls in Pompeii, that are in perfect shape. But they were covered by ash for a long time. A shell pearl will last forever and ever and ever. AND, they will look the same as you first bought them. That is when you bought a good-quality shell pearl.
Choice of shape and color
When you love a bit larger pearls for your necklace or earrings, or when you want a special color that matches your outfit? Check shell pearls out!
Since one can make the perfect pearl, your necklace or bracelet made of shell pearls look perfect too. Every pearl has the same weight, size, and color, and that equality makes your piece of jewelry extraordinary. Because a shell pearl is handmade the producers can make them in all kinds of colors, weights, and sizes. I cannot believe that you cannot find your choice.
Natural pearls are expensive and when you want the larger size you pay a fortune for good quality pearls. Glass pearls are no way to go, so a great choice is a piece of jewelry made of shell pearls. They are affordable, you have a kind of price range.
And they look awesomely beautiful and exquisite. So why don’t have a look at them, when you want to buy a pearl necklace, bracelet, or earrings?
How to tell what is what?
It is difficult to see which pearl is a shell pearl and which one is the real one. There are some ‘tricks’:
- Real pearls are about 90% more expensive than shell pearls. There are no cheap natural pearls, so don’t fall into a ‘bargain’.
- Shell pearls can come in all colors of the rainbow. Real pearls are limited in colors. If your pearls have a stunning but artificial, non pearly color, they are shell pearls. But beware: you have natural pearls that are colored and natural pearls with a blackish, brownish, a kind of golden and pinkish color.
A jeweler designer delight: the shell pearl.
Another aspect to consider is the hardness of a shell pearl. As a jeweler designer, I love working with pearls in combination with other gemstones. When I use natural pearls the gemstones can harm the natural pearls. To avoid that I have to knot the necklace or bracelet, and sometimes I don’t want that (doesn’t always look good).
Using these pearls solves that problem. These types of pearls are stronger and the gemstones cannot harm the pearls. Even silver beads or chips don’t damage the pearl.
Exceptional examples and exciting stories
People, who lived ages ago, loved it as much as we do. But because a pearl is not easily and frequently found, just the very rich of this earth could afford the have one or more. And then the stories and legends take over…
Cleopatra tricks her boyfriend
Cleopatra is a very smart and powerful, but also very rich lady. She is the pharaoh of Egypt long in the century BC and dates with a high Roman general, Marc Anthony. There is a legend or maybe a fact, written down by Pliny, a historian. And the pearl plays an important part in this story.
Marc Antony and Cleopatra are a couple. Both are very dominant and powerful. And for a lady in those days, Cleopatra is politically important and does not want to be inferior to the Roman general. She is Egyptian and the owner of the land. Marc Anthony wants to be bossy too. And he can since he conquered Egypt.
One day Cleopatra boasts that she is so rich that she can spend ten million sestertii on a dinner. Marc Anthony takes the bet since according to him such an expensive dinner is impossible to organize. Cleopatra orders her staff to prepare dinner for the next evening.
In the first course, Cleopatra offers ordinary and cheap food. And Marc Anthony starts laughing: ‘see, you cannot do it’. The second course is a cup of vinegar with water. Cleopatra takes a very very expensive pearl from one of her earrings and tosses it in the vinegar. After a little while, she drinks the vinegar with the pearl of at least ten million sestertii worth. And she wins the bet. Marc Anthony has no words for this ‘trick’. He leaves the dinner and does not want to finish his meal.
How does she do this?
A lot of people throughout history think that dissolving a pearl in vinegar is not possible and the story cannot be true. Professor Prudence Jones of Montclair State University tries to dissolve a 5-carat specimen in vinegar and water and it dissolves in around 24 -36 hours. Professor Jones explains: ‘The calcium carbonate in this gem reacts with the acetic acid in vinegar and consequently there is calcium acetate, water, and carbon dioxide. The Romans and Egyptians know a lot about chemistry, therefore an educated person like Cleopatra may have known this ‘trick’.
Is it likely that the two lovers dine for 24-36 hours?
That’s not likely. It is possible that the historian Plinius shortens the story a bit. But even then: is it possible to dissolve such a big pearl faster than 24-36 hours? Professor Jones tries that out too. First, he cooks the vinegar, which makes the concentration of vinegar lower and the dissolving process faster. Besides that, you need a certain amount of water to get the necessary chemical reaction. And when he pulverizes the ‘white gold’, it dissolves in the cooked vinegar/water solution in ten minutes.
So it seems that a long-told legend can be a historical fact!
The value of the pearl earrings of Cleopatra
Cleopatra uses very very expensive pearls to prove that she is rich. Pliny, the historian, and author of this story calculate that the cost of them is about 60 million sestertii or roughly $29 million in today’s dollars. They are the largest known pearls at the time!
About the popularity of pearls by Cleopatra he states “The first place and the topmost rank among all things of the price is held by pearls … Their whole value lies in their brilliance, size, roundness, smoothness, and weight … There have been two that were the largest in the whole of history; both were owned by Cleopatra … they had come down to her through the hands of the kings of the East.”
What happens to the other one
You might wonder what happens to the other pearl. Cleopatra uses only one from one earring, so there is one very expensive one left. That has a value of about 30 million sestertii or $29 million dollars.
According to Pliny, the Elder, people cut the other pearl in two. Remembering that special dinner that is only eaten half. The two halves are used to decorate the ears of the statue of Venus in Rome in the temple of the Pantheon.
Every pearl found was for the Chinese Emperor
Thousands of years ago people looked along the seashore for food and things they could use. And when they are very lucky they found oysters and one or more pearls in the oyster. They love this pretty round white bead and use it for adornment. We know that because we found a piece of pearl jewelry in the grave of a Persian princess (around 400 BC) and I have seen wall paintings in a grave of the Tang Dynasty (Xián/China, around 700 AD) representing pretty ladies with pearl necklaces and hair adornments, stunning royal pearls.
The pearls were so rare and therefore so expensive that the kings and queens decide that wearing and owning them was only a privilege for them. All the high-quality and bigger ones found in China were the property of the Chinese Emperor. And other kings follow this example. They became royal pearls since only royals are allowed to win those royal pearls
If there are no oysters and pearls?
Pearls are not found in Rome or even Egypt. But luckily in those days the Arabian traders imported them from the Persian Gulf and brought them with their camels through the desert to the wealthy nations and royalty. The Persian Gulf was the center of the pearl trade at that time. The pearl traders did not wait until the oysters with the pearls came to the shore, but they gathered the oysters in the sea. And they find now and then extraordinary pearls, extraordinary in color and/or shape. Only royalty was offered to buy these royal pearls. Although you might wonder whether ordinary people could afford those royal pearls.
The Pelegrina pearl
Normally the luster of a pearl lasts only about 100 years, maximum. A pearl in the higher price classes is about 1 cm / 0.39 inches. For a natural pearl this size, you pay a small fortune. But the Pelegrina pearl, after 500 years of its discovery has the same luster, the same high quality you pay ‘a kingdom’. In the last auction, it costs about 11 million dollars.
Many queens, kings, and other VIPs wore this pearl in different settings. This pearl has a large history and in some decades it disappears altogether. Time to look into this story and discover what this pearl makes it ‘a queen’s favorite…
The Pelegrina pearl in South America
The Pelegrina pearl starts to be famous in an extraordinary way. A slave discovers the pearl in 1513 in the Gulf of Panama. And his owner was so grateful that he gives the slave his freedom. Great story but… in 1513 there are no slaves in Panama. Anyway, Panama is owned by the Spanish King in those days and the pearl is gifted to the Spanish King, Philip II.
The pearl weighs nearly 56 carats or 223.8 grains. It has the shape of a pigeon egg and is as large as a pigeon egg. The estimated value is $28.000 (in those days), but jewelers think the value is more, much more. The luster of the pearl is sublime and it becomes a part of the Spanish Crown Jewels. And it gets the name ‘La Pelegrina’, which means the ‘pilgrim’ or ‘the wanderer’. There is another pearl ‘the Peregrina’ and its name looks like ‘our’ pearl. We don’t know what happens exactly with this one, so in this blog post, we stick to the story of the Pelegrina.
The Pelegrina pearl as a wedding present
King Philip II needs a bridal gift for Queen Mary I of England (1554) and he thinks that ‘La Pelegrina’ is a great gift and of course he is right. Queen Mary wears the pearl as a pendant to a brooch. After her death in 1558, the pearl returns to Spain as a ‘gesture’ of friendship. The Pelegrina becomes an important item in the Spanish crown jewels for about 250 years.
In 1660 Philip IV of Spain gives the Pelegrina as a wedding gift to his daughter Maria Theresa. She marries the King of France, Louis XIV. But before he gives his precious pearl away he wears its hat together with a large table diamond. Now the pearl is in France and after the death of Maria Theresia, we don’t know what happened to the Pelegrina. Probably the pearl ended up as a part of the French Crown Jewels.
Revolutions are no good for the Pelegrina pearl
In 1792, during the French Revolution, a lot of French Crown Jewels (and probably also the Pelegrina) were stolen by rioters and sold to Russian nobles of the Yusupov family. That is a fact since there is a beautiful portrait of Zinaida Yusupov wearing the Pelegrina as a pendant on a necklace. During the Russian Revolution in 1918, Zinaida’s son Felix smuggles some precious jewelry, including the famous pearl to Paris/France.
His situation and the situation of his mother are bad. They don’t have money to survive in Paris. One by one he has to sell the precious jewels from his mother, just to pay the rent and buy food. In 1953 he finds no other option than to sell the Pelegrina to a jeweler in Geneva/Switzerland.
From France to Russia, to England and the USA
One way or another the pearl ends up in England with the Hamilton Family, and in 1969 Richard Burton needs Valentine’s gift for Elisabeth Taylor and he buys the Pelegrina for $37.000, just before the Spanish Royal Family can grab it. Elisabeth Taylor asks Cartier to design a necklace for the pearl. And Cartier comes up with a necklace full of diamonds, rubies, and pearls.
Elisabeth Taylor loves the necklace and wears it often in her movies. One day she loses the pearl, luckily in her house. She looks everywhere but cannot find the precious jewel. Then she sees that her little dog is chewing on something that looks like a bone. But since he never gets bones she is alerted. Well, the dog has found the pearl and loves the taste of it. After her death, the Pelegrina is auctioned for nearly 12 million dollars!
You have to take care of your expensive pearls
In 1913 the pearl is cleaned and drilled. Before the cleaning, the weight is 223.8 grains / 11.2 grams. After the cleaning, there are ‘only’ 203,84 grains left. Although the Pelegrina stays the largest pear-shaped pearl in the world, about 20 grains are gone. Part of the explanation can be the drilling, but that cannot be that much. There might be another cause…
In the time of Louis XIV, there are a lot of parties for the nobility. And taking a bath regularly is not a custom in those days. Everybody wears a wig, in the house and outside. To avoid the flees coming in the wigs and your body odor getting too strong people perfume and powder their wigs and used perfume on their clothing, body… well, about everywhere. Combine these facts with using candles at parties and you can imagine the grease that sticks to the gemstones and pearls. That grease might even weigh about 20 grains.
Are there more exceptional examples?
Yes, there are, as the Pearl of Allah or the Pearl of Laozi. This one is about 24 cm / 9.45 inches big and weighs 6.4 kilos / 226 ounces. This is the biggest one in the world: it’s white but without any brilliance. A Phillipinian diver found this giant in the Sea of Palawan in the Philippines. This Tridacna Pearl is the product of a Baptismal Font Shell, i.e. Tridacna gigas. That is a large oyster and the animal got a body foreign object in the shell. The maximum age of the baptismal font shell is probably around a hundred years.
The ‘pearl of Allah’ looks like a head with a turban, and that turban has been associated with Mohammed and Allah. In 1966 a legend came up that in the gem there would be an amulet (already for thousands of years) with a verse from the Chinese philosopher Laozi. It was placed every time in a bigger shell so that it could grow. At the moment an American family owns the Pearl and now and then the gem is exhibited. The estimated value in 2007 was about 93 million dollars / € 83 million.
Exceptional 20th-century stories
In August 2015 a shell was found in the Oosterschelde (estuary between Belgium and the Netherlands) with 21 pearls. Normally you can find at the most 2 copies in a shell like that. The fisherman sold it to a fish store in the south of the Netherlands and there they discovered an exceptional amount in only one shell. The shell was auctioned in the Hague/the Netherlands for € 2600 / $ 2902.
Wear pearls on your wedding day!
They are also called ‘wedding tears’ and in one culture wearing pearls on your wedding day brings luck and the other culture claims that wearing them on your wedding brings bad luck. That’s not very helpful when you want to wear them at your wedding. The women who are superstitious ánd the ones who don’t believe in those stories…
Pearls on your wedding day bring luck
Let us start with all the myths that tell you to wear them on your wedding day. According to the Greeks, the white beauties represent the tears of joy from the goddess of love Aphrodite. They will give you protection, make friendships stronger and stand for purity, health, wealth, and modesty. These symbols stand for a great marriage and therefore you should wear them on your wedding day.
- The legend that claims that they are also called ‘wedding tears’ mentions the fact that brides tend to cry a little at the ceremony. And a little cry or tears will bring you luck. That is also true for wearing pearls on your wedding day.
- In China, people thought that they were the brains of dragons (and they will bring you luck) and the people in India thought that they came from the clouds. And the clouds represented a life without problems, so luck. So wear those pearls on your wedding day!
- In the Middle Ages in Europe, soldiers carry one with them under their harnesses. It kept them safe from injury and worse (they thought). And it helps a lot when they receive that pearl from a woman.
- Pearls fit perfectly in the tradition of ‘something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Especially when you get your string from your mother, that string has a great emotional value.
Do pearls on your wedding day bring bad luck?
According to other sources, you should avoid wearing them at your wedding. They look like tears and tears bring back luck. Then the old mother-in-law story: when you get your wedding pearls from your mother-in-law, be careful, they will bring tears!
To be honest. The reasons above are the only ones I could find not to wear on your wedding day.
2 reasons to wear them on your wedding day!
- All pearls are different, there are no two (real, natural) alike. You are a unique woman and for your groom, you are a unique miracle, called the woman. So you deserve to wear pearls on your wedding day, on the most important day of your life.
- The color matches perfectly with a bride’s gown. They add to the beauty of the bride and her dress. Not too much, just perfect. Little ones on the material enlighten a lot of gowns and a necklace and/or earrings made of real pearls look awesome.
Knot or not?
Is it a great idea to knot your pearls? Or rather not? When I was a young girl I help my father in his jeweler shop by picking up the pearls from the broken strings. Most of the time they are expensive and when the string breaks the beads roll everywhere, in small places, where only very small fingers and short people can reach them. So when you asked me at that time ‘Is it wise to know your pearls?’ I would say YES YES!!!
My grandmother always told me that you should knot your pearls. Period. I am from a jeweler family and my grandmother knows her business. But there are old Mikimoto pearls that are not knotted and in perfect shape.
Is it a tradition to knot? Or are there modern solutions to keep your pearls safe and healthy? Why should you knot or shouldn’t you? Might be the terrible 1 million dollar question, certainly when we are talking about very expensive pearls.
Why knot in the first place?
Let us start with the traditional way of keeping your pearls in perfect shape. To avoid losing them jewelers knot their expensive strings and you should knot too. When the cord breaks you only lose one of two pearls and not the whole string. That is if you notice losing them, otherwise, the whole string is gone.
That is what happened in the jeweler’s shop of my father all the time. People came with unknotted necklaces and asked my father to knot them. Then the client showed him why it was necessary and there the pearls fly all over the place.
Besides the reason to prevent losing the knot is a kind of buffer so that the beads don’t rub against each other. The nacre is precious and soft and when they hit each other all the time the nacre comes off. And a knot between each pearl prevents this. So… knot!
- The pearls are beaded on a silk cord and there are knots placed between them. After 4 to 5 years the cord stretches and becomes thinner. You have to ask a jeweler to restring the necklace. They charge per knot! And it is expensive to knot them with a professional. When the cord is getting dark you know that you need to restring. And when there is a little space between the knot and the bead due to the stretching of the cord, it is time to watch your pearls.
- When you have small ones and the string is knotted, the knots look larger than the pearls. And the size of the knot is not always the same. This is not so beautiful (it looks more like a rosary than a pearl necklace) and you can decide not to knot, especially when they are smaller.
- The idea that the knot will separate and protect the beads from rubbing is a bit old-fashioned. There are very small black or white rubber bands on the market you bead between them to keep them apart. You bead on a strong string, use the small bands and you don’t have to restring them and it’s safe.
- The knots disrupt the ‘flow’ or the shape of the necklace. With a normal strong string and rubber bands, the necklace falls smoothly around your neck.
- Knotting, especially when they are smaller or the strand is long, can cost you a fortune. Not only because you have to restring the strand every few years (safety reasons, because the silk thread wears out and gets longer), but also because they will charge by the knot. At the moment jewelers ask €12,50 ($14,40) for adding the clasp and then €0,85 per pearl ($1)
On what occasions do you knot your pearls?
Of course, I cannot tell you to knot or not to knot. It is a matter of preference and style. But you find some ‘rules’ here:
- Natural large pearls (more than 1 cm) are expensive and heavy. When you choose the string them on a silk cord that can stretch and break, the advice is to knot or use a strong thread with the rubber bands.
- Multistrand pearl necklaces are difficult to make because the strings have to hang perfectly below each other. When there are knots between the beads it is very difficult to make it perfect because every knot is just a tiny little bit different in size and the space between the knot and the pearl may differ too. So don’t knot when you have a multi-strand pearl necklace.
and more tips… about when to know these beauties
- A single-strand natural pearl necklace can be knotted, but they look great without the knots too. It depends on the length of whether knotting is a wise thing to do. When chokers are shorter than 16 inches it is safe without the knots and it looks more beautiful. But when the necklace is longer than 18 inches the advice is to knot your string or use the strong thread with the rubber bands.
- Long natural pearl necklaces must be knotted. They are heavy and you can wrap them a few times around your neck as a multi-strand necklace or shorten it with a knot. The silk cord endures a lot of tension, so knot, to be on the safe side.
To be honest I prefer a ‘not knotted’ necklace because it falls more beautiful and I don’t like the knots, which look too large sometimes. I string my pearls on a strong thread and when necessary I use rubber bands.
Buy a beautiful string now!
After diamonds, pearls are a girl’s best friend. They look great on young girls, the young-at-heart girls, and the more sophisticated ladies. And the good thing is that there is a string in every quality and price range. There are 2 reasons why you better buy your string now! , especially when you want high-quality natural pearls. Due to pollution, high demand, and lower supply, and to the old-fashioned inefficient harvesting methods, the natural pearl becomes rarer and very expensive. My tip: buy your natural string now!
Pearl prices go up
Until the beginning of the 20th century, divers had to go down in the sea until they reached a depth of about 35 meters/ 100 feet to get to the oysters. It was dangerous and the results were poor. When they gathered about a ton of oysters the average of finding a decent pearl was about 3 or 4 good quality pearls. That’s hard work. The freshwater mollusks in the shallow waters and rivers were easier to harvest.
You find natural pearls nowadays only in Bahrein and Australia. They harvest the ones that are ‘made’ completely by nature. These ones become very rare and very expensive. When you know that a string only lasts between 60 to 100 years, you can imagine that antique pearl jewelry becomes not only popular but also very expensive.
The harvested natural pearls diminish
Oysters need extremely pure water to grow the best high-quality pearls. The environment for the natural and cultured types to grow becomes less and less. Due to too many plastic particles in the oceans, inadequate sewage systems pollute the coasts. And industries that get rid of their disposals and chemicals in the water. A sad example is Lake Biwa in Japan, where special mollusks live that produce beautiful luster pearls. Due to pollution, there is hardly any harvesting of Biwa pearls anymore in Lake Biwa.
Buy a string before they are gone
01. Buy your high-quality string now before they are not available anymore. A natural string is hard to find and even a cultivé string of pearls of high quality is not easy to get.
02. A string of pearls is getting very popular at the moment. And when the demand is high the price goes up. So another reason to buy your string now. Let me tell you what the prices are at the moment:
A pearl that is about perfect, gets the predicate AAA. That may cost about €100.000 ($113.100). The value is determined by 7 factors:
This is the most important factor for beauty. If you want to purchase them, luster is one of the most important features to look at. You recognize a high luster when you can see sharp reflections. The better the reflection, the higher the luster, and how higher the value.
Saltwater pearls have a higher luster because the layers of the mother of pearl are thinner. So more layers are needed to form the pearl and more layers of mother of pearl give a higher luster.
The larger the pearl, the rarer it is. Freshwater pearls produce thicker layers of nacre and grow faster. The saltwater variety takes more time to grow, due to the thinner layers and therefore is more expensive.
The size of a pearl is indicated in millimeters in diameter. The size of a pearl can vary from 4 mm (like rice pearls) to the very rare 18mm to 22 mm Sout Sea pearls.
The shape is important for the value. The rounder, the more valuable. The ultimate goal is a perfectly round one, although there are many other highly prized shapes as well, like the baroque or the drop pearl. So when purchasing them, go for the shape that you like best.
Pearls are natural products and you cannot force nature. So most of them show one or more irregularities, like pitting, discolorations, or growth rings. Fewer irregularities mean a higher price for them, although it is not the only thing to look at.
The color of the pearl is determined by the color of the inside of the shell. It is remarkable but the color does not affect the price much, except when a certain color gets more popular than the other one. Traditionally, ivory white and dark, and the almost black variety are today’s favorite.
- Natural or cultured
Natural pearls are found in mollusks in the sea and they are naturally found, without the intervention of man. And cultured ones are grown on a pearl farm. About 99% of all pearls traded worldwide are cultured ones.
If you want a necklace, with pearls that are more or less of an even size, you have to rely on cultured or cultivated types. In every 15.000 oysters, one pearl grows and you never know the size.
Rare types are more valuable. South Sea pearls are the most expensive variety and after these ones are the Tahiti and the Akoya pearls. Freshwater pearls are the cheapest type.
A South Sea pearl necklace may cost much more than €100.000 ($113.100) and a high-quality freshwater pearl necklace is about a few thousand euros.
When you take care of your string they can last a lifetime and a bit longer (60-100 years). Keep your string in a soft cloth, keep them away from dust, and check the string regularly.
Which lady should have pearls in her jewel box?
That is a very simple question: every lady from 18-118 years old should have a pearl necklace or earrings or bracelet. There are some stories that a bride should not wear a strand of pearls because they represent tears. So happy, this is only a story, because what is more beautiful than a bride with a white wedding dress and a delicate pearl necklace with matching earrings?
As always there are one but… or maybe two things you should know about wearing these beauties. First, you have to consider your features. So don’t wear a tiny one-strand pearl necklace when you are tall or wide-figured, but do when you are small. For detailed advice, pls have a look at the other blogs from FlorenceJewelshop. Second, a pearl is delicate and the shine can vanish. So put your jewelry on when you don’t wear them with a soft cloth and don’t use perfume or hairspray after you have put your necklace or earrings on.
Show off as the royals do.
- You can organize an exclusive dinner party as Cleopatra did, crush a pearl in your wine and impress or
- Choosing a high-quality natural copy for your piece of jewelry and
- Keep your dress simple so that the pearls look more beautiful on you.
- Combine them with precious gemstones for a ‘rich’ look and feel
- Or follow the trend of having pearl eye makeup.
It’s logical that a pearl is called a gem or even a gemstone. They are so ingeniously formed by such ‘clever’ animals, who give us such beautiful pieces of nature to make the most beautiful jewelry. For every budget and taste, there is a pearl. And FlorenceJewelshop has made handmade unique (no duplicates) and exclusive necklaces and earrings or bracelets made of pearls. Just have a look.
I wrote a great and free e-book about pearls. You will find a lot of information there. It’s free and just let me know where I can send it to.