Saturday, March 3, 2012
South Sea Pearls
South Sea (or Tahitian as they are sometimes called although they aren't all from Tahiti) are the big boys of the pearl industry. They are grown in much larger oysters than cold water saltwater pearls and they are consistently larger than cold water saltwater pearls, usually starting at about 8 mm in size and going up to as much as 16-17 mm. Most people are familiar with black South Sea pearls but they come in a variety of colors including whites, greys, yellows and varying shades of black with different overtones of color. The Tahitian government has tried for quite some time to regulate a minimum quality level of pearls released to the public from their farms but there are more sources than just Tahiti so, as with most gem materials, you will see some high quality and some low quality merchandise out there. Generally speaking South Sea pearls are the most expensive of the pearls out there, with true round, high quality, strands in the 11-14 mm range starting in the $10,000 range. Baroque shaped pearls will be less. And yes there are some very low quality strands that start in the $1000 range (not that you would see those in my store).
Individual South Seas make wonderful pendant stones and earrings as well and I routinely put them out in both. I also have a strong preference for pearls that have strong pink and green overtones to them. I think that emeralds and pink sapphires make excellent complements to pearls in this color range but also they just seem to glow more. Some black pearls are a kind of dead black, and while these can be quite expensive in large sizes, I find them to be boring and uninteresting. I am also not a big fan of the yellow (or golden as the marketers like to call them) South Seas but they are very popular these days and you are seeing more of them in the marketplace.
Keshi pearls are some of my favorite pearls. The picture in my last blog article is of a South Sea keshi pearl strand. There are two types of keshi pearls. The South Sea keshi pearls are formed spontaneously when a bead nucleus is inserted into an oyster to start a pearl. It doesn't happen every time but occasionally the oyster will create the secondary pearl. These pearls are never round and because of the irregular shape often have some quite wonderful luster. I find them to be far more interesting pearls both because of the shape and the fact that they are as close to a "natural" pearl as you can get these days.
Freshwater keshi pearls are formed quite differently. In this case the pearl farmers insert a piece of mantle tissue into a mussel to grow a freshwater pearl. A sac forms in the mollusc around the pearl. The farmers then cut the sac open and remove the pearl; then they throw them back into the water and sometimes the mussel will spontaneously generate a new pearl in the sac. Again these pearls will be irregular in shape, often have some very intense luster and come in a range of colors.
Mobe pearls are another form of pearl. In this case a half bead nucleus is attached to the shell of a mollusc and a nacreous growth forms over it. The bead and the growth is then cut off from the shell, the nucleus is removed and replaced with another filler and then a mother of pearl back is glued onto it. Mobe pearls can provide a very large pearl look without it being round making them excellent for stud earrings and pendants where a full round pearl will simply be too large. Mobes also will come in a variety of colors.
Okay enough about pearls. If you have any more questions feel free to ask them on here. Also anyone who can identify the Woody Allen movie that has the gangster's moll saying: Black pearls? I don't want no stinking black pearls!" can get a voucher good for 5% off your next purchase here. I'll try not to be away for so long next time!