If you are thinking of buying pearls you are following in the footsteps of the wealthiest, most powerful and most famous people in history. The romance and mystery surrounding pearls has given the gemstone a unique status and a reputation that has lasted thousands of years.
For centuries no one understood why or how pearls grew with medieval alchemists declaring that a pearl formed where the tear of an angel fell into the heart of an oyster. Now we understand how to culture a pearl but that does not mean they are man made. Each pearl is still grown by a living creature, it is as unique as the animal that has grown it and the process is as unpredictable as the weather.
An oyster grows a pearl to cover something that it finds irritating. You or I might scratch an itch but an oyster layers a substance called nacre around its irritant forming a pearl. With cultured pearls man creates the irritant by using a mother of pearl bead but then it is a long wait while the oyster and nature actually create the pearl. The farmer tries to create the best conditions for the oyster to grow but chance plays a big part. Less than half of his oysters will produce a pearl with only 2% of these pearls being perfectly round and completely clean.
Different oysters live in different parts of the world and as you would expect they create different types of pearl.
Japanese Cultured Pearls: These are the classic white, cream and pink pearls that you immediately think of a bride wearing on her wedding day.
South Sea Pearls: These are larger pearls ranging in size from about 10mm to 15mm. They are found in the waters around Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Tahiti Pearls: These are the black and grey pearls found in the waters around Tahiti and its islands.
Freshwater Pearls: These are the product of a freshwater mussel rather than an oyster but come in a fascinating variety of beautiful colours.
There are five factors to look for when choosing your pearls: lustre, colour, shape, purity and size.
Shape: Generally, the rounder a pearl the higher the value, but there are also button pearls, pear shape drops, and irregular shapes known as baroque pearls. These can be just as attractive as round pearls and may suit your look better.
Colour: Not all pearls are white and part of the fun is choosing the colour that suits you best.
Lustre: The shimmering iridescence that you see on the surface of a pearl is the result of reflections and refractions through the millions of microscopic layers of nacre. This glow is the lustre and gives pearls their beauty.
Surface Purity: Generally the fewer surface blemishes the better, but these are just another sign that the pearl is grown by a living creature.
Size: Choose the size you want to wear, not just the biggest.
At Bicknells we have the experience to talk you through the different types of pearl, how to select the quality that is right for you and how to choose pearls that you will want to wear.