Pearls - Information & Care
How to Take Care of Your Pearls:
Pearls are unique as they are nature’s only organic gemstone. For yours to have lasting beauty, they need special care and attention.
- Pearls are soft and can easily be scratched or damaged. Keep them separate from other jewelry in a pouch or felt-lined container.
- Pearls are also very porous compared to other gemstone surfaces. They can easily soak up skin oils, perfume, hairspray, etc., which dull their luster or brilliance. Put them on after applying toiletries.
- After wearing pearls, gently wipe them with a soft, damp cloth.
- For a more extensive cleaning, occasionally wipe them with a gentle soap solution.
- If you wear your pearls often, have your strands restrung every couple of years to ensure they do not break. It is advisable to have your strands knotted between each pearl so you do not lose the whole strand if you do have a break. In addition, your pearls will not rub against each other and cause damage.
- By taking care of your pearls, they will remain beautiful for a lifetime!
Pearls have the distinction of being the first gemstone prized and admired by humankind. The Chinese are believed to be the first people to give pearls as gifts to royalty over 4,000 years ago. The Roman aristocracy especially prized pearls as a status symbol, as did the Greeks, who regarded it as a symbol of love. Later, Native Americans used freshwater pearls extensively to decorate clothing, as jewelry and as a medium of trade. Up to the late 1800’s, pearls had to be harvested in the wild, making their acquisition a rare and time-consuming event. The Japanese then discovered that pearls could be “cultured,” that is, inserting a shell bead into an oyster that nearly guarantees a pearl forming every time. Once available only to the very wealthy and the aristocracy, pearls became available to anyone who could appreciate and treasure their unique beauty as nature’s only organic gemstone.
Did you know that the world’s largest pearl weighs nearly 450 carats (over 3 ounces!) and is called the Hope Pearl, after its owner, Henry Phillip Hope. It is 2.5 inches by 4 inches long. You may know Henry Hope who is; he also owned the Hope Diamond.
There are five characteristics to grading a pearl:
Luster is the most important characteristic of pearl quality. A pear’s luster comes from the many layers and thickness of nacre that forms the body of the pearl; nacre channels and refracts light from these different layers as though they were prisms. If a pearl has more uniform and thick layers of nacre, generally the higher the quality of that pearl’s luster. Very high quality pearls have such great luster that it is difficult for the eye to determine where the surface of the pearl is! While man can color or bleach pearls, he cannot improve the quality of a pearl’s luster!
Cultured pearls are generally available in sizes between 10mm and 15mm. Pearls sized from 16mm to 20mm are rare and highly prized.
Pearls come in eight basic shapes: round, semi-round, button, pear, drop, oval, baroque, and ringed (or circled). Perfect rounds are the most valuable, with the ringed the least valuable.
Pearls come in an infinite number of shadings in several main colors, with white dominating.
Natural black pearls are very rare; even cultured black pearls are rare when compared to the more common cultured white pearls. It is important to note that many inferior cultured pears are artificially colored after harvesting; be on guard as these inferior pearls will not maintain their appearance over time.
Another critical component to a pearl’s quality is it complexion. A pearl will have natural surface blemishes that are rated as moderate, light, clean or very clean.
After evaluating a pearl’s luster, size, shape, color and complexion, a judgment is made regarding its overall quality. Please note that there is no worldwide-standardized grading system for pearls as there is with diamonds. Generally, however, most dealers use a AAA to A system, with AAA being the highest quality.
- AAA pearls have very high luster and are virtually flawless, with at least 95% of its surface free from any visible defects.
- AA pearls have high luster with at least 75% of its surface free from any visible defects.
- A pearls are the lowest quality, jewelry-grade pearls with low luster and only 25% of its surface free from visible defects.