THE BEGINNING OF CULTURED PEARLS
Kokichi Mikimoto from Japan invented the development of Culturing pearls in 1893.
He observed that by inserting a tiny bead of mother-of-pearl into an oyster, the oyster would begin to cover the inserted bead with nacre (as the bead would be an irritant the oyster would secrete the nacre as a defense mechanism).
Though most Pearls come from Japan, Australia, Indonesia, South East Asia, Philippines, Tahiti they are now being cultured in China. The pearl farms in China mostly concentrate on producing the less expensive, more affordable Freshwater pearls but are now cultivating Cultured Akoya pearls. The most desired cultured Akoya pearls in the world are from Japan as the quality, luster and nacre is considered superior quality.
Cultured pearls are created by inserting either a small bead or inserting a tissue graft from a donor mollusk and the mollusk precipitates calcium carbonate, in the form of nacre or "mother-of-pearl". The most popular and effective method for creating cultured pearls are made from the shells of freshwater river mussels harvested in the midwestern states of the U.S., from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.
After the nucleus is ready, the next step is obtaining the mantle tissue. The mantle tissue is harvested from one oyster and cut into small pieces. After obtaining the mantle tissue from the first oyster it is time to operate on the second animal. The oyster is placed in warm water to relax the animal. Then it is gently pried open and mounted in a stand to be operated on. A small incision is made and the nucleus is inserted along with a small piece of mantle gland. The oyster is then placed back in the water and allowed over several years to coat the nucleus with nacre. The nucleus is coated in many layers of this nacre, so that when pearls are cut in half, visible layers can be seen.
Cultured pearls can often be distinguished from natural pearls through the use of x-rays, which reveals the inner nucleus of the pearl.
The cultured pearls on the market today can be divided into two categories.
The first category covers the beaded cultured pearls, including Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and the large, modern more affordable freshwater pearl. Usually one pearl is grown at a time. This limits the number of pearls at a harvest period.
The pearls are usually harvested after one year for Akoya, 2–4 years for Tahitian and South Sea.
Akoya pearls are the original Japanese cultured pearls are produced by a species of small pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata, which is no bigger than 6 to 8 cm in size, hence akoya pearls larger than 10 mm in diameter are extremely rare and highly priced. Today, a hybrid mollusk is used in both Japan and China in the production of akoya pearls. Furthermore, other Pinctada and Pteria species are also used for producing cultured pearls today.
SOUTH SEA PEARL
South Sea pearls come in colors ranging from white, silver, champagne, gold.
Tahitian pearls or black pearls can come in color hues including gray, platinum, charcoal, peacock.
South sea pearls are cultured primarily in Australia, Tahiti, Indonesia and now, the Philippines. Because these pearl oysters are so large, a much larger nucleus than usual can be used in culturing. Commercial pearl farming in Australia is mostly centered around the coastal waters of Broome, 17.9614 degrees South and 122.2359 degrees East, located in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. Best known and valued for their white/silver with pink hues from the silver-lipped pearl oyster, Australian South Sea Pearls can grow beyond 18mm - 20mm in diameter, with a typical size of 10mm - 13mm when harvested following a two-year gestation. South Sea pearls farmed in the Philippines, typically produce golden pearls from the gold-lipped pearl oyster, which are currently experiencing a surge in popularity, resulting in increased market-demand, particularly in China. The Tahitian or black pearl comes from the black-lipped pearl oyster, produced from the waters surrounding Tahiti and the French Polynesian archipelago.
Tahitian pearls come in a range of colors from white to black.
They usually have various overtones of green, pink, blue, silver and yellow. The most valuable of these are of the darker variety, as the naturally dark tones of the Tahitian pearls is a unique quality among pearls. A true black Tahitian pearl is extremely rare, and largely considered one of the most beautiful kinds of pearls in the world. Most Tahitian pearls that are identified as “black” are actually charcoal grey, silver, or dark green. An advantage of the Tahitian pearl is that the oyster inside of which they grow is quite large, sometimes weighing as much as ten pounds. This means that a Tahitian pearl can more easily grow to a larger-than-average size.
The cultured Tahitian pearl comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors; shapes include round, semi-round, button, circle, oval, teardrop, semi-baroque and baroque. Because of their darker hues, Tahitian pearls are commonly known as "black pearls". However, Tahitian pearls have the ability to contain various undertones and overtones of green, pink, blue, silver and yellow. All (or any combination) of these colors may be seen in a cultured Tahitian pearl. Due to the variety of shapes and colors of the Tahitian pearl, it has been known to fit in any jewelry setting.
The versatility and mixture of color give it its value.
The culturing process of a Tahitian pearl involves an expert grafter, who inserts a bead made from a mollusk shell into the reproductive organ, of the mature Pinctada margaritifera mollusk. It takes two years for an oyster to mature enough to begin producing pearls. Inserted with the bead is a piece of mantle tissue from a donor mollusk, which influences the color of the pearl being produced and provides epithelial cells to ensure that the oyster produces nacre around the nucleus. The materials used in the process are organic, to decrease the probability of the oyster rejecting the nucleus. The shell is sanded and rounded to form the bead, so the pearls produced have a rounder shape. The whole process takes place quickly, because oysters cannot survive very long out of water.
CARING FOR YOUR PEARL JEWELRY
Pearls fall within two general categories: natural and cultured pearls or faux, which are imitation, pearls.
Pearls need special care as they are an organic gem that need to be cared for correctly.
Never use any type of abrasive material or chemicals to clean your Pearls.
Chemicals found in beauty products like hairspray, cosmetics, perfume, and body and face lotions contribute largely to pearls' deterioration. They create a coating on the pearls which erode the nacre and luster of the pearls.
Do not use anything other than water and mild soft soap as anything else will harm and damage the pearls.
Do not steam clean your Pearls or use any type of ultrasonic or chemical cleaner as the vibrations can shatter the pearls.
The pearls should be cleaned with a microfiber cloth or a soft, lint-free cotton cloth and let it air dry before placing the item in its pearl case.
Pearls must be stored in a soft cloth or pouch as not to be in contact with other jewelry as they can mark and damage the pearls, A special soft case would be ideal for storage.
Plastic emits a chemical that will cause the surface of the Pearl to deteriorate so do not store in a plastic bag.
Wearing pearl jewelry in direct contact with skin will increase the luster of the pearls.
These organic gems gain hydration, and therefore luster, by absorbing skin's natural oils.
Pearls develop a deep luster more quickly than pearls worn less frequently as the pearls are a natural substance and absorb the oils in a person’s body.
Avoid swimming, whether for leisure or for exercise, when wearing pearls. Swimming pool chemicals erode pearls in the same manner as the chemicals in a beauty regimen, and chlorine is particularly destructive to pearls.
Despite a pearl's watery origins and the lack of chlorine in natural bodies of water, experts do not recommend wearing vintage pearl jewelry in lakes, oceans, rivers, or seas. Basically, never submerse pearl jewelry in water.
STORING PEARL JEWELRY
Never store pearl jewelry, especially a strand, until it is completely dry and always store strands of pearls flat. Never store pearls in a safe as it is very dry and may cause cracking on the pearls surface. Pearls need moisture and draw moister from the air.We hope that you cherish and enjoy these pearls for many years to come!