In general, cultured pearls are less valuable than natural pearls, and imitation pearls are less valuable than cultured pearls. One way that jewelers can determine whether a pearl is cultivated or natural is to have a gem lab perform an x-ray of the pearl. If the x-ray reveals a nucleus, the pearl is likely a bead-nucleated saltwater pearl. If no nucleus is present, but irregular and small dark inner spots indicating a cavity are visible, combined with concentric rings of organic substance, the pearl is likely a cultured freshwater. Cultured freshwater pearls can often be confused for natural pearls which present as homogeneous pictures which continuously darken toward the surface of the pearl. Natural pearls will often show larger cavities where organic matter has dried out and decomposed.
Some imitation pearls are simply made of mother-of-pearl, coral or conch, while others are made from glass and are coated with a solution containing fish scales called essence d'Orient. Although imitation pearls look the part, they do not have the same weight or smoothness as real pearls, and their luster will also dim greatly.
There is also a unique way of naming pearl necklaces. While most other necklaces are simply referred to by their physical measurement, strings of pearls have their own set of names that characterize the pearls based on where they hang when worn around the neck. A collar will sit directly against the throat and not hang down the neck at all; they are often made up of multiple strands of pearls. Pearl chokers nestle just at the base of the neck. The size called a princess comes down to or just below the collarbone. A matinee of pearls falls just above the breasts. An opera will be long enough to reach the breastbone or sternum of the wearer, and longer still, a pearl rope is any length that falls down farther than an opera.
Necklaces can also be classified as uniform, or graduated. In a uniform strand of pearls, all pearls are classified as the same size, but actually fall in a range. A uniform strand of akoya pearls, for example, will measure within 0.5 mm. So a strand will never be 7 mm, but will be 6.5-7 mm. Freshwater pearls, Tahitian pearls, and South Sea pearls all measure to a full millimeter when considered uniform. A graduated strand of pearls most often has at least 3 mm of differentiation from the ends to the center of the necklace. Popularized in the 1950s by the GIs bringing strands of cultured akoya pearls home from Japan, the graduated style was much more affordable as most pearls in any given strand were small.
Earrings and necklaces can also be classified on the grade of the color of the pearl. While white and more recently black pearls are by far the most popular colors other tinges of color can be found on pearls. Pink, blue, champagne, green and even purple can be found, but to form a complete string of same size and shade pearls can take years. Some colors like purple can only be found in certain types of clams, while other clams can produce a variety of colors if given the right environment.


Pearls in jewelry :
The value of the pearls in jewelry is determined by a combination of the luster, color, size, lack of surface flaw and symmetry that are appropriate for the type of pearl under consideration. Among those attributes, luster is the most important differentiator of pearl quality according to jewelers. All factors being equal, however, the larger the pearl the more valuable it is. Large, perfectly round pearls are rare and highly valued. Teardrop-shaped pearls are often used in pendants.

Inexpensive, button-shape cultured freshwater pearls used in a necklace and bracelet.
Pearls come in eight basic shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, and circled. Perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable shape. Semi-rounds are also used in necklaces or in pieces where the shape of the pearl can be disguised to look like it is a perfectly round pearl. Button pearls are like a slightly flattened round pearl and can also make a necklace, but are more often used in single pendants or earrings where the back half of the pearl is covered, making it look like a larger, round pearl.
Drop and pear shaped pearls are sometimes referred to as teardrop pearls and are most often seen in earrings, pendants, or as a center pearl in a necklace. Baroque pearls have a different appeal to them than more standard shapes because they are often highly irregular and make unique and interesting shapes. They are also commonly seen in necklaces. Circled pearls are characterized by concentric ridges, or rings, around the body of the pearl.


The history of pearl hunting and pearl farming :

Pearl hunting :
For thousands of years, most seawater pearls were retrieved by divers working in the Indian Ocean, in areas like the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and in the Gulf of Mannar (by the ancient Tamils).
Starting in the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD), the Chinese hunted extensively for seawater pearls in the South China Sea.

Catching of pearls, Bern Physiologus (IX century)
When Spanish conquistadors arrived in the Western Hemisphere, they discovered that around the islands of Cubagua and Margarita, some 200 km north of the Venezuelan coast, was an extensive bed of pearls. One of them, the Peregrina, was offered to the Spanish queens. This pearl later became very famous when Richard Burton purchased it for his wife Elizabeth Taylor. Margarita pearls are extremely difficult to find today and are known for their unique yellowish color. The most famous Margarita necklace that any one can see today is the one that then Venezuelan President Romulo Betancourt gave to Jacqueline Kennedy when she and her husband, President John F. Kennedy paid an official visit to Venezuela.[citation needed]
Before the beginning of the 20th Century, pearl hunting was the most common way of harvesting pearls. Divers manually pulled oysters from ocean floors and river bottoms and checked them individually for pearls. Not all natural oysters produce pearls. In a haul of three tons, only three or four oysters will produce perfect pearls[citation needed].

The development of pearl farming :
However, almost all pearls used for jewelry are cultured by planting a core or nucleus into pearl oysters. The pearls are usually harvested after one year for Akoya, and 2-4 years for Tahitian and South Sea, and 2-7 years for freshwater. This mariculture process was first developed by Tatsuhei Mise and Tokichi Nishikawa in Japan.
The nucleus is generally a polished bead made from freshwater mussel shell. Along with a small piece of mantle tissue from another mollusk to serve as a catalyst for the pearl sac, it is surgically implanted into the gonad (reproductive organ) of a saltwater mollusk. In freshwater perliculture, only the piece of tissue is used in most cases, and is inserted into the fleshy mantle of the host mussel. South Sea and Tahitian pearl oysters, also known as Pinctada maxima and Pinctada margaritifera, which survive the subsequent surgery to remove the finished pearl are often implanted with a new, larger nucleus as part of the same procedure and then returned to the water for another 2-3 years of growth.
Despite the common misperception, Mikimoto did not patent the process of pearl culture. The accepted process of pearl culture was developed by a team of scientists at Tokyo University between 1907 and 1916. The team was headed by Tokichi Nishikawa and Tatsuhei Mise. Nishikawa was granted the patent in 1916, and married the daughter of Mikimoto. Mikimoto was able to use Nishikawa's technology. After the patent was granted in 1916, the technology was immediately commercially applied to akoya pearl oysters in Japan in 1916. Mise's brother was the first to produce a commercial crop of pearls in the akoya oyster. Mitsubishi's Baron Iwasaki immediately applied the technology to the south sea pearl oyster in 1917 in the Philippines, and later in Buton, and Palau. Mitsubishi was the first to produce a cultured south sea pearl - although it was not until 1928 that the first small commercial crop of pearls was successfully produced.
The original Japanese cultured pearls, known as akoya pearls, are produced by a species of small pearl oyster, Pinctada fucata martensii, which is no bigger than 6 to 7 mm in size, hence akoya pearls larger than 10 mm in diameter are extremely rare and highly prized. Today a hybrid mollusk is used in both Japan and China in the production of akoya pearls. It is a cross between the original Japanese species, and the Chinese species Pinctada chemnitzii.[7]


Different types of cultured pearls :

Black pearls, frequently referred to as Black Tahitian Pearls, are highly valued because of their rarity; the culturing process for them dictates a smaller volume output and can never be mass produced. This is due to bad health and/or non-survival of the process, rejection of the nucleus (the small object such as a tiny fish, grain of sand or crab that slips naturally inside an oyster's shell or inserted by a human), and their sensitivity to changing climatic and ocean conditions. Before the days of cultured pearls, black pearls were rare and highly valued for the simple reason that white pearl oysters rarely produced natural black pearls, and black pearl oysters rarely produced any natural pearls at all. Since pearl culture technology, the black pearl oyster found in Tahiti and many other Pacific Island area has been extensively used for producing cultured pearls. The rarity of the black cultured pearl is now a "comparative" issue. The black cultured pearl is rare when compared to Chinese freshwater cultured pearls, and Japanese and Chinese Akoya cultured pearls, and is more valuable than these pearls. However, it is more abundant than the south sea pearl, which is more valuable than the black cultured pearl. This is simply due to the fact that the black pearl oyster Pinctada margaritifera is far more abundant than the elusive, rare, and larger south sea pearl oyster - Pinctada maxima, which cannot be found in lagoons, but which must be dived for in a rare number of deep ocean habitats. Black cultured pearls from the black pearl oyster — Pinctada margaritifera — are NOT south sea pearls, although they are often mistakenly described as black south sea pearls. In the absence of an official definition for the pearl from the black oyster, these pearls are usually referred to as "black Tahitian pearls". The correct definition of a south sea pearl — as described by CIBJO and the GIA — is a pearl produced by the Pinctada maxima pearl oyster. South sea pearls are the color of their host Pinctada maxima oyster — and can be white, silver, pink, gold, cream, and any combination of these basic colors, including overtones of the various colors of the rainbow displayed in the pearl nacre of the oyster shell itself.


Freshwater and saltwater pearls :
Freshwater and saltwater pearls may sometimes look quite similar, but they come from very different sources.
Freshwater pearls form in various species of freshwater mussels, family Unionidae, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. These freshwater pearl mussels occur not only in hotter climates, but also in colder more temperate areas such as Scotland: see the freshwater pearl mussel. However, most freshwater cultured pearls sold today come from China.
Saltwater pearls grow within pearl oysters, family Pteriidae, which live in tropical oceans. Saltwater pearl oysters are usually cultivated in protected lagoons. The three main types of saltwater pearls are Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian.

[edit] Creation of a pearl
The difference between natural and cultured pearls focuses on whether the pearl was created spontaneously by nature — without human intervention — or with human aid. Pearls are formed inside the shell of certain bivalve mollusks: as a response to an irritant inside its shell, the mollusk creates a pearl to seal off the irritation.
The mantle of the mollusk deposits layers of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) in the form of the minerals aragonite or calcite (both crystalline forms of calcium carbonate) held together by an organic horn-like compound called conchiolin. This combination of calcium carbonate and conchiolin is called nacre, or as most know it, mother-of-pearl. The commonly held belief that a grain of sand acts as the irritant is in fact rarely the case. Typical stimuli include organic material, parasites, or even damage that displaces mantle tissue to another part of the animal's body. These small particles or organisms enter the animal when the shell valves are open for feeding or respiration. In cultured pearls, the irritant is typically a cut piece of the mantle epithelium, together with processed shell beads, the combination of which the animal accepts into its body. [1][2][3]

[edit] Natural pearls

Cross section illustration showing natural and cultured pearls.
Natural pearls are nearly 100% nacre. It is thought that natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or parasite enters a bivalve mollusk, and settles inside the shell. The mollusk, being irritated by the intruder, secretes the calcium carbonate substance called nacre to cover the irritant. This secretion process is repeated many times, thus producing a pearl. Natural pearls come in many shapes, with round ones being comparatively rare.

[edit] Cultured pearls
Cultured pearls (nucleated and non-nucleated or tissue nucleated cultured pearls) and imitation pearls can be distinguished from natural pearls by X-ray examination. Nucleated cultured pearls are often 'pre-formed' as they tend to follow the shape of the implanted shell bead nucleus. Once the pre-formed beads are inserted into the oyster, it secretes a few layers of nacre around the outside surface of the implant before it is removed after six months or more. When a nucleated cultured pearl is X-rayed it will reveal a different structure to that of a natural pearl. It exhibits a solid center with no concentric growth rings, compared to a solid center with growth rings.

[edit] Gemological identification
A well equipped gem testing laboratory is able to distinguish natural pearls from cultured pearls by using a gemological x-ray in order to examine the center of a pearl. With an x-ray it is possible to see the growth rings of the pearl, where the layers of calcium carbonate are separated by thin layers of conchiolin. The differentiation of a natural pearls from or tissue-nucleated cultured pearls can be very difficult without the use of this x-ray technique.
Natural and cultured pearls can be distinguished from imitation pearls using a microscope. Another method of testing for imitations is to rub the pearl against the surface of a front tooth. Imitation pearls are completely smooth, but natural and cultured pearls are composed of nacre platelets, which feel slightly gritty.



Today 99% of the people we see using pearls are actually using CULTURED- pearls. These cultured-pearls are considered to have little astrological (Moon) influence, if any, because the main body of the so-called pearl is NOT PEARL, but some pre-formed shell-ball implant. That means it is not a natural complete unit, but just a thin covering of real pearl substance (called nacre) on the surface of a pre-shaped and pre-sized non-pearl bead. A cultured-pearl contains only a small percentage of pearl, most of the body is NOT PEARL.
In ancient Oriental and European histories we know that the "Pearl" they referred to was 100% natural pearl, because cultured-pearls were not known until recently. But at the present time practically everyone (except a learned gemologist) now thinks that the hollow "cultured pearl" pearl-imitations are the real thing. This is mass ignorance, and should be addressed by all cultured persons who care about the true nature of things.
Natural pearls are 100% 'pearl' or nacre. It is thought that natural pearls form under a set of accidental conditions when a microscopic intruder or grain of sand enters an oyster (mollusk) and settles inside the shell. The oyster, being irritated by the intruder, secretes the pearl substance called nacre to cover the irritant. This process is repeated for many years, thus producing a real pearl which may (or may not) be found by man. For a natural pearl to form with a nice round or oval shape, and be free of any flaws, is actually a real-life "miracle." The odds of a perfect natural pearl are 1 in a million.
Think about your knowledge of pearls... Did you know that 'cultured' pearls (nucleated and non-nucleated or tissue nucleated cultured pearls) and imitation pearls can be distinguished from natural pearls by X-ray examination? Nucleated cultured pearls are often 'pre-formed' as they tend to follow the shape of the implanted shell bead nucleus. Once the pre-formed beads are inserted into the oyster, it secretes a few layers of nacre around the outside surface of the implant before it is removed after six months or more. When you X-ray a nucleated cultured 'so-called' pearl it will reveal a different structure to that of a natural pearl (solid center with no concentric growth rings, compared to a solid center with growth rings). Many nucleated cultured pearls used in the trade today are in fact mostly shell bead nuclei with very thin to thin nacreous coatings over them. A natural pearl however is solid nacre or 100% pearl.
Any well equipped internationally recognized gem testing laboratory such as the GIA's Gem Trade Laboratory or the new AGTA Gem Lab (under super-vision of noted pearl expert, Kenneth Scarratt) is able to separate natural pearls from their counterparts viz., cultured pearls, non-nucleated cultured pearls and imitation 'pearls'.



A pearl is a hard, roundish object produced within the soft tissue (specifically the mantle) of a living shelled mollusk. Just like the shell of mollusks, a pearl is composed of calcium carbonate in minute crystalline form, which has been deposited in concentric layers. The ideal pearl is perfectly round and smooth, but many other shapes of pearls (baroque pearls) occur.
The finest quality pearls have been highly valued as gemstones and objects of beauty for many centuries, and the word pearl has become a metaphor for something rare, fine, and admirable.
Almost any shelled mollusk can, by natural processes, produce some kind of "pearl" when an irritating microscopic object becomes trapped within the mollusk's mantle folds, but virtually none of these "pearls" are valued as gemstones.
True iridescent pearls, the most desirable pearls, are produced by two groups of molluscan bivalves or clams. One family lives in the sea: the pearl oysters. The other, very different group of bivalves live in freshwater, and these are the river mussels; for example, see the freshwater pearl mussel.
Saltwater pearls can grow in several species of marine pearl oysters in the family Pteriidae. Freshwater pearls grow within certain (but by no means all) species of freshwater mussels in the order Unionida, the families Unionidae and Margaritiferidae. These various species of bivalves are able to make true pearls because they have a thick iridescent inner shell layer which is composed of "mother of pearl" or nacre. The mantle tissue of a living bivalve can create a pearl in the same manner that it creates the pearly inner layer of the shell.
Fine gem-quality saltwater and freshwater pearls can and do sometimes occur completely naturally, but this is rare. Many hundreds of pearl oysters or pearl mussels have to be gathered and opened, and thus killed, in order to find even one pearl, and for many centuries that was the only way pearls were obtained. This was the main reason why pearls fetched such extraordinary prices in the past. In modern times however, almost all the pearls for sale were formed with a good deal of expert intervention from human pearl farmers.
A true pearl is made from layers of nacre, by the same living process as is used in the secretion of the mother of pearl which lines the shell. A "natural pearl" is one that formed without any human intervention at all, in the wild, and is very rare. A "cultured pearl", on the other hand, is one that has been formed on a pearl farm. The great majority of pearls on the market are cultured pearls.
Imitation or fake pearls are also widely sold in inexpensive jewelry, but the quality of the iridescence is usually very poor, and generally speaking, fake pearls are usually quite easy to distinguish from the real thing.
Pearls have been harvested, or more recently cultivated, primarily for use in jewelry, but in the past they were also stitched onto lavish clothing, as worn, for example, by royalty. Pearls have also been crushed and used in cosmetics, medicines, or in paint formulations.
Pearl is considered to be the birthstone for June.