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Known as the “Queen of Gems,” pearls have a long, rich history. They are the world’s oldest gem, and they have been prized since long before the dawn of written history. They have been worn as a type of jewelry for millennia, with the oldest known piece dating back to one worn by a Persian princess in 420 BC.
In ancient Rome, the pearl was seen as the ultimate status symbol. This prompted Julius Caesar to pass a law allowing only members of ruling classes to wear them. They were even given to the Chinese royal family as gifts as far back as 2300 BC.
Pearls have been an important trade commodity since ancient times, and, as the centuries passed, they became shrouded in legend and myth. During the Dark Ages, knights commonly wore them in the battlefield, believing they would keep them safe. In ancient China, pearl jewelry served as a symbol of the wearer’s purity.
Unlike the countless other gemstones that are mined from the earth, pearls are produced by living organisms. Natural pearls form when an irritant, such as a piece of sand or shell, becomes lodged in the soft inner body of an oyster. This causes the oyster to secrete a substance called nacre that builds up around the irritant in layers. Cultured pearls are formed in the same way, except the irritant is placed into the oyster rather than entering it by chance.
Natural pearls are extremely rare, but cultured pearls are much more common yet equally beautiful. Cultured freshwater pearls come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colors, and they are extremely popular for jewelry and accessory making.
If you are a jewelry designer or use pearls to create accessories like tiaras or handbags, you’ve likely wondered how to best source your pearls. Wholesale pearls are affordable, and they provide an easy way to ensure that you will have everything you need for your next project. Let’s take a closer look at some of the advantages of buying in bulk when you need freshwater pearls.
Buying in bulk rather than purchasing small quantities means having larger quantities on hand of the pearls you need for your craft projects. This helps ensure that you will not run out in the middle of a project. It also means that you are more likely to have the supplies you need if someone requests a special order or if you have the opportunity to sell at a last-minute vendor event and need to make additional products to fill your display.
Having larger quantities on hand also makes it easier to maintain your stock of supplies. That brings us to our next point:
We’ve made some pretty strong points about the benefits of buying pearls in bulk. If you are ready to take the plunge and start shopping for larger quantities, you may be wondering how to get the best deal on the pearls that are best-suited to your crafting needs. While you don’t need to be an expert on these beautiful gems to create stunning pearl jewelry, a bit of knowledge is useful when shopping for wholesale pearls. Here are a few tips.
There are a few different types of freshwater and saltwater pearls. The ones that are readily sold in wholesale lots are typically cultured, meaning that they are grown by oyster farmers under controlled conditions. As previously mentioned, natural pearls are quite rare. Due to their rarity, they are much more expensive. If a wholesaler is selling natural pearls, they will be labeled as such.
When shopping for cultured pearls, there are four types from which to choose: Akoya, South Sea, freshwater, and Tahitian. Akoya pearls range from 5mm to 11mm in size, and they are the classic white pearl that most people are familiar with. They typically have overtones of cream, silver, and rose, but they are sometimes treated to become black.
South Sea pearls are the largest, ranging from 9mm to 8mm in diameter. They range in color from silver to deep golden tones. The deep gold South Sea pearls are the rarest and most valuable.
If you want the most versatility in terms of size and color, freshwater pearls are your best bet. They are available in sizes ranging from 2mm to 18mm, and they have the widest range of natural colors. Freshwater pearls come in classic white, lavender, and pink, and they can be dyed just about any other color imaginable. Many crafters choose freshwater pearls due to the wide variety of colors and sizes available and their affordability.
Tahitian pearls are the only type of pearl to have a natural black body color. Ranging in size from 9mm to 16mm, their uniquely dark color makes them popular for those who love the look of pearls but want something a bit more unique than the classic string of white gems. They can also range in color from light silver to dark green.
As you can see, pearls come in a wide range of sizes. While this is a great thing in terms of versatility, it can make it difficult to know exactly what sizes to invest in for certain types of jewelry. The most popular and versatile size for pearl earrings and the classic pearl necklace is 7mm to 8mm, but that doesn’t mean that you should only shop for pearls of that size.
Pearls measuring 5mm or less are considered very small, and they are recommended for young girls or petite women. They also work well for tiny accents on larger jewelry pieces. Larger pearls ranging between 9mm and 10mm are considered “luxury size.” While they are larger than the standard sizes used in necklaces and earrings, the difference is subtle. 11mm to 12mm stones, however, are noticeably larger. If you are looking to create a true statement piece or heirloom jewelry that will be treasured for generations to come, 13mm to 16mm pearls are the way to go.
While there are pearls that are larger than 16mm, they are extremely rare and valuable. These gemstones are much harder to find and purchase in wholesale quantities due to their price and rarity.
Perfectly round gems are probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think about pearls. That isn’t the only shape that these unique stones come in, though. Unlike other gems which are cut into various shapes—like round, princess, cushion, etc.—pearls naturally form in various shapes. They are generally divided into three categories: spherical, symmetrical, and baroque. Within these categories, pearls can be further broken down into seven basic shapes.
Round pearls are perfectly spherical and, of course, fall into the spherical category. They are the most desirable shape and relatively rare. Near-round pearls are slightly elongated or flattened but still fall into the spherical category. Semi-round stones are similar to near-round and are also considered spherical.
Oval pearls are narrower at the ends than in the center. Button pearls are, as the name suggests, ideal for use as buttons. They are flattened to a degree and may look more like a disk than a perfectly round stone. Drop-shaped pearls have a teardrop shape that makes them ideal or pendants or earrings. Oval, button, and drop pearls all fall into the symmetrical category as long as two sides would create a mirror image if the stone were cut in half. If they are not symmetrical, they would be considered part of the baroque category.
Baroque and semi-baroque pearls belong to the baroque category. Baroque stones are non-symmetrical and have an irregular shape. They may be purely abstract in shape or they may resemble a stick, cross, or another type of shape. Semi-baroque pearls have slightly irregular shapes. For example, stones that resemble an oval or drop pearl but are not symmetrical would be considered semi-baroque.
Baroque and semi-baroque pearls are more common than spherical and symmetrical stones and, therefore, are more affordable. Their unique nature and sometimes lustrous bodies, however, still make them quite appealing. They allow crafters to create truly one-of-a-kind pieces that are appropriate for any occasion.