From time immemorial, pearls are the symbol of love, joy and happiness.
Describing a pearl is delicate work. The pearl is quite simply indescribable because of the aesthetic simplicity of its perfection, because of its mystery, and its sensual and seductive charm.
They are perfect in a natural state. It is a pure and simple gift of nature. They need no cut or polishing, in contrary to other precious stones.
According to Persian mythology, pearls are gods’ tears.
In old China, it is thought that the moonlight has the power to make pearls grow.
Greeks thought that pearls were born from dew which the moon left on the oysters’ offering flesh, floating by night, large opened, on the surface of the water.
Romans attributed pearls to Venus, reinforcing their theory of an impregnation by the divine seed, in the form of celestial dew. They called it margarita, synonymous with treasure.The pearl is a party to the beauty of the modern and feminine woman.
Pearls in history
Its oldest mention in history dates back to 2200 B.C.
Roman emperors mixed fine pearls and fabrics for ornaments. Caligula even decorated his favourite horse with a necklace of pearls.
In Church’s art they were regarded as invaluable signs of God’s love and they decorated sacerdotal vestments, altars and objects of piety. The passion of Elisabeth I for pearls was such that she usually carried seven rows of them and was proud to have not less than 3000 dresses embroidered with the most invaluable pearls than one could find.In America, Indians collected them and carried them with pride and one found some of them amongst the ritual objects of the great Indian tribes of Mexico and Peru.
They are formed around a foreign body, a grain of sand for example, which is introduced into an oyster which tries to reject it, but generally does not succeed. Then the oyster forms a mother-of-pearl wrapping around this core. With time and chance, a natural pearl is born.
Pearls of the South Seas
Fresh water pearls
How is a cultivated pearl born?
At a moment when the natural pearls threatened to disappear, the cultivated pearl was born in 1898 in Japan.
In order to produce a pearl, it is initially necessary to fish the matrix oyster in its natural environment. When it reaches at least 3 years, an expert hand half-opens it by means of wood corners and delicately introduces a foreign object in it, around which a layer of protection named hood is formed. The same process is applied to each oyster.
The transplant is an extremely delicate operation whose quality depends on the produced pearls. At the beginning several materials such as silver, gold or lead grains were tested, then they were replaced by polished mother-of-pearl spheres.
The mollusc is then replaced in its natural environment, where one will take the greatest care of it during three to four years.
During this period, the stockbreeder must protect his culture from storms, pollution, plankton’s attacks. He must supervise the temperature of the water and its content in salt.
As soon as the harvest is done, pearls are prepared for sale.
They are washed, then sorted by sizes. A specialist classes them according to categories such as pearls for brooches, rings, pendants, tie-pins…The biggest part will be used for necklaces. They are then dipped in a solution which will relieve them of stains or false colors. Then one determines their qualities according to their shape, colour, shine, thickness of their mother-of-pearl layer…
One quickly identifies the pearls of the South Seas because of their large size. Their diameter varies from 9 to 17mm. These are noble pearls which present a layer of strong and healthy pearl-bearing substance around a mother-of-pearl grafted core. This thick hood preserves their colour, gloss and orient for generations. They are called: "Queens of Pearls and Queen’s Pearls."
Dark pearls of the South Seas are mainly cultivated in French Polynesia and in Tahiti.
One cultivates the South Seas’ pearls of the clear category in a mollusc named Pinctada Maxima. One recognizes these pearls according to their silvery nuances, sometimes crossed by blue or metal sheens.
An oyster of this family, called "golden lips", because of their internal valves having gold reflections, produce pearls of golden champagne or light yellow nuances.
Pearls of South Seas present a large variety of colours.
The clear category resulting from Pinctada Maxima offers shades which varie silvery white to the purest gold, while passing by the nuances pink, cream-coloured, champagne, green, blue and yellow.
The clear category resulting from Pinctada marqaritifera lays out a kaleidoscope of colours wildly spread: deep black, black peacock, green, blue, grey, brown, red and, but rarely, silvery or white.Combined with this practically unlimited range of natural colours, the forms’ variety confers to the South Seas pearls a particular attraction. They all are different, not one is identical to the other: half-round, oval, button, lenses or baroques. One obtains a reduced percentage of perfectly round pearls, even if the grafted mother-of-pearl cores are always spherical. A single pearl of the South Seas is worth on average the price of a complete row of Akoya pearls.
White to silvery pearls reaching high prices. They are produced by an oyster with white lips, Pinctada Maxima, reaching a diameter of 25 to 30 cm for a weight of 3 to 5 kg. The ordinary method to obtain Pinctada Maxima in east Australia is fishing, even yet. Plungers collect them at a depth of 8 to 30 meters. The installation of ways of hatching progresses rapidly and the controlled reproduction of the mother oysters could soon replace traditional fishing.
Indonesia and the Philippines:
Progress in the quality and the offer of the cream-coloured, rosy, silvery and even dark yellow and gold shades. One also cultivates there pearls of the South Seas of reduced size, alternative to the traditional cultivated pearls of Akoya. The prices undergo great pressure to decrease due to the quantity which increases year by year.
An incarnation of charm and elegance. The natural and mystical glare of its coloured reflections is the secret of its indescribable beauty.The main pearls cultivators of the South Seas, installed in the marvellous atolls and islands surrounding French Polynesia, (first world producer of South Seas’ dark pearls), use an oyster with black lips: Pinctada Margaritifera.
This shell reaches a diameter of 12 to 20 cm. It produces pearls of 8 to 16mm. The internal edge of its valves is often very dark, even black. To obtain this oyster, the most current method consists in collecting the naissains in the center of the lagoons: the larvas, floating freely, fix themselves on the collectors that one lays out for this purpose. One collects carefully most beautiful young oysters when they reach 2 cm in order to raise them until the adult age in nurseries.
The biggest and darkest pearls of this variety belong to the subspecies cumingi which one finds surrounding Tahiti.
The black and grey cultivated pearls of the archipelago of Tahiti have the wind in their sails. They can be regarded as a good investment. However the development of these last years contributed to an overproduction of bad quality which almost could not be sold, with the result that the prices fell without however touching good and very good qualities which remained on the price level of these last years
It is the pearl of reference for women who like to combine charm with discretion and who are looking for traditional daily elegance. The cultivated pearls are dedicated to the women who live of seduction in a pure state.
Culture of the Akoya pearls in Japan.
The production of cultivated pearls decreases year by year. Unfortunately, the quality does not improve. The pearl-bearing layer is very thin for the biggest part of the production. This is why Japanese try to improve optical quality by practicing a more modern technique of finishing.
The keshis are very rare small pearls made up primarily of mother-of-pearl, most appreciated for their particularly intense gloss and their very irregular and natural shapes.
The Mabes are hemispherical pearls of varied forms and sizes.
The FRESH WATER PEARLS
They are mainly cultivated in China and are a beautiful opportunity to make oneself pleasure without having a high budget. They are distinguished from the Akoya pearls by unforeseeable forms and a broad pallet of colours. The mother oysters, larger than those which are produced in Akoya, they can live 15 years and be grafted several times. The fresh water pearls reach for the majority the size of 2 to 5 mm. They form crosses, doublettes, triplettes, courses, sticks. They offer shades going from white to pink, cream-coloured, orange....
The progress in the culture of the fresh water pearls is enormous. Recently they are round to almost round, without core, of 8-10 mm. Moreover, they are of very good quality. To the naked eye, one does practically not see a difference with the Akoya pearls, but they do not have a reputation yet.
CRITERIA Of APPRECIATION
It’s size, colour, surface and more particularly the gloss makes the pearl’s charisma, the intensity increases with the thickness of the mother-of-pearl coating and the form.