Do You Know Your Pearls?
Pearls add a beautiful, classic touch to any outfit. For centuries, women have adorned their necks and wrists with strings of pearls. Whether you are handcrafting your own jewelry, or you are searching jewelry counters high and low for a new addition to your jewelry box, pearls are always a lovely addition to your treasured jewels.
But, if you’re new to the jewelry-making process, or perhaps you just gained an interest in pearls, you might not know the different types of pearls and what different measures you to take when storing and cleaning your beads.
Here we break down the different types of pearls and how to care for your pearl pieces:
Types of Pearls:
When you read that pearls were cultured in a specific location that means the pearls were raised in pearl farms. Mollusks are raised until a certain age when they can carry the mother-of-pearl bead nucleus. Then a technician will implant a bead nucleus or mantle tissue, and the mollusks are then cared for while they produce a pearl which may take 3 to 7 years.
Saltwater pearls range in size from 2mm to 25mm. These pearls are farmed in areas where waters are protected from environmental contaminants and live in a relatively calm weather location. Farming pearls is a highly skilled craft which takes time and patience to produce market ready pearls. Locations for popular Saltwater Pearls: French Polynesia for Tahitian Pearls, Australia and Indonesia for South Sea Pearls, and Japan for Akoya.
These pearls tend are referred to as “black pearls” but can range from metallic shades of silver to graphite and can appear with blue, green, or purple overtones. These pearls are cultivated from the black lip mollusk hence it’s nickname. While they are mainly farmed in Tahitian waters, they are not exclusive to Tahiti, and they can be found in several islands of French Polynesia.
- South Sea
South Sea pearls are of extraordinary quality and are silvery white to buttery golden in color. The size and roundness are quite large and smooth, which makes them so desirable. These gems are cultivated from large mollusks, making them more difficult to obtain. This of course adds to the rarity and price of this type of pearl.
They have what could be deemed the “classic pearl” appearance. This particular type of pearl is very popular and probably what you see in a local jeweler’s necklace or bracelet. Farmed in Japanese waters, Akoya pearls often have an almost perfect, round shape and a high luster. They are cultivated in white and cream colors, but you are able to purchase these pearls in many natural and treated colors, often times with a rose’ overtone.
Freshwater pearls are grown in freshwater lakes or ponds. Although many are white and resemble the “classic pearl” look, they can be produced in various shapes and colors. Freshwater pearl cultivation process usually takes about 3-5 years or longer depending on the pearl size.
Keshi pearls make for an interesting piece due to their asymmetrical ‘corn flake-like’ shape, excellent luster and many color treatment options.
Baroque pearls come in a range of colors form creams to metallic and can be dyed in an array of hues. Baroque pearls are asymmetrical ‘potato-like’ forms.
- Near Round / Round
Near Round pearls are never exactly perfect spheres, hence the term “near round. ” These freshwater pearls are round to the eye, with excellent quality and luster. The way to determine a near round from a round is by measuring diameter in four locations. If the pearl differs by 1mm on any measure then the pearl is a Near Round but if all measures are equal then the pearl is a Round.
These pearls have a moderately symmetrical shape and a high luster. Coin freshwater pearls come in a range of white, cream, rose, pink, copper and golden. Coin pearls resemble a disc shape.
Button pearls get the name from their shape – that is round on one side while usually flat on the other. These pearls can be color treated to any color imaginable.
Why Freshwater Pearls?
It can be hard to decide what style and type of pearl will fit your needs best. All pearls hold such beauty and appeal to almost everyone, in one way or another. Your reasons for choosing the right pearl will have a lot to do with your design usage, and this will differ for each situation.
Freshwater pearls are a solid option when purchasing beads to make your own jewelry and when buying pieces for someone else. Freshwater pearls are available in a wide range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are the perfect pearl choice when you want to offer a wide range of design options.
Caring for Your Pearl Beads
Pearls ‘love’ to be worn, but it is important to know the proper steps one must take when wearing and cleaning your pearl beads.
Pearls improve when they absorb the oil and moisture from your skin, it is import to remember the number-one rule of pearl jewelry: “last on, first off.” By putting them on last after getting dressed and taking them off first thing after your day, you avoid damaging the pearls with chemicals from perfume and beauty products.
When storing pearls, make sure they are NOT in an airtight container which will dry them out. Rather, store your pearls in a soft pouch, separated from other pieces of jewelry. The surface of pearls can scratch easily, and the soft pouch will protect them from anything that could tarnish the surface.
When cleaning your pearls, use a damp cloth to gently rub off any debris, oil, perfume, or makeup. Also, make sure you completely dry the pearls before putting them back in storage.
By properly caring for your pearl beads, they will last for years to come and look as beautiful as the day you first purchased them!