Thinking that all pearls are created equal? Think again… just like diamonds there is a huge difference between high quality pearls and the dime-store version. Things to consider when shopping for pearls are: Quality, Color, Luster, Shape, Surface Markings, Size and Type – Freshwater, South Sea and Tahitian Pearls. Gause and Son Jewelers is the area’s exclusive dealer for Mikimoto, the finest pearls available.
If you tried to find a pearl in nature, you would have to open literally thousands of oysters to find one pearl. Because of this scarcity, most pearls are cultured. That is, a tiny starter “seed” is implanted in the oyster. This seed is coated with a substance called nacre. Nacre is what gives pearls their luster and beauty. The thicker the nacre is on a pearl, the deeper the luster is. To achieve a thick nacre, the pearls have to be in the water for longer periods of time prior to harvesting.
Pearls come in a variety of colors. The general color of a pearl is known as its bodycolor. The typical pearls come in white, crème, white rose, black, silver, gold and pink. There are many variations of these colors and many pearls are dyed as well. Pearls can also have a secondary color called an overtone, which is seen when light reflects off of the pearls surface.
Fine pearls produce an intense, deep shine called Luster. The strength of the luster is dependant upon the number of layers of nacre. The more nacre, the more luster. Nacre is the substance an oyster secretes to coat the seed pearl. It is composed of tiny calcium carbonate crystals and when light reflects off of these crystals a “luster” is the result.
Pearls come in a variety of shapes, the most rare actually being round. When you are looking at a strand of pearls take notice if the pearls all have the same shape and size…. a fine pearl strand has the consistency of both size and shape throughout.
As an oyster creates a pearl, the layers of nacre do not always lay evenly. Sometimes small spots and bubbles can appear. These are natural imperfections. Pearls with the smoothest surface are the highest quality and the most sought-after pearls.
The size of the pearl can vary greatly depending on the type of pearl it is. Akoya (saltwater cultured) pearls range from about 5.5-8.5mm in diameter. Freshwater pearls are smaller and range from 3.0mm-7.0mm and the largest pealrs are the South Sea and Tahtian variety which can get up to 13mm in diameter.
Types of Pearls
Akoya pearls are beloved for their rich luster. They are the classic pearl most people think of. The process of making a cultured akoya pearl was perfected in 1893 by Kokichi Mikimoto (1858-1954). He is considered the father of the cultured pearl industry and the founder of Mikimoto Pearls. Gause & Son jewelers is the area’s exclusive dealer for Mikimoto, the finest pearls available, at all three of our locations.
Akoya pearls are the specialty of Japanese pearl farms. The akoya pearl are, on average, smoother, rounder and more lustrous than freshwater pearls. Because Mikimoto akoya pearls are such high quality, you will find them set with only 18k gold or platinum. Mikimoto pearls are well matched for size, shape and color.
Although there is no universal grading system for pearls as there is for diamonds, Mikimoto has developed their own system that has made it easy for you to know what quality pearl you are buying.
Freshwater pearls are available in a variety of shapes and sizes and cost about 1/5 that of the akoya pearls. Freshwater pearls can range from looking like a piece of rice, “rice pearls” to a round, cultured pearl somewhat similar to an Akoya pearl.
Freshwater cultured pearls can be created in a number of colors. Many popular colors are achieved through natural means. It is an accepted practice to dye or irradiate Freshwater pearls in order to achieve a particular color.
Most freshwater pearls come from China and are produced in a process such that a single mussel can yield multiple pearls. Freshwater pearls are generally smaller, less symmetrical, are not quite as well matched on a strand and do not produce the deep luster of an Akoya pearl. Honora, a pearl designer sold at the downtown Ocala location, has a wide selection of freshwater pearls at very competitive prices.
South Sea Pearls
South sea pearls are cultivated mainly in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They are grown in the gigantic Pincatada maxima oyster and have a wider range of available sizes than any other pearl. Because of the rarity and sensitivity of this type of oyster, cultivation of these pearls is much more difficult, thereby making them more expensive. You can buy them as small as 7mm and as large as 20mm. Generally, availability tapers off sharply above 15mm.
South sea pearls are most common in different shades of white, although there are some south sea pearls deemed “fancy color” because they contain more yellow than white overtones. The most prized South Sea fancy colors are labeled apricot, peach and cognac. These are all subcategories of gold, a broad color classification of premium South Sea Pearls.
Tahiti, a well known paradise, is world famous for the cultured pearls it has been producing since the 1960’s. Tahitian pearls are not really black. Instead, they run the range from a metallic silver to the color of graphite. Within this range of colors they can have bluish, purplish or greenish overtones.
For unknown reasons, Tahitian pearls excel at the amount of luster they have. Tahitian pearls are grown in a large, black-lipped oyster known as the Pinctada margaritifera. The pearls are grown for two to three years to increase the thickness of the nacre, thereby imparting the deep, rich luster it is known for.
Tahitian pearls are similar in size to the South Sea pearls. They range in size from 7mm up to 20mm (extremely rare). Tahitian pearls larger than 14mm are extremely rare and quite valuable. Tahitian pearls offer a unique aesthetic, stop by Gause & Son Jewelers to see our collection of Mikimoto Tahitian pearls. A gift of Tahitian pearls makes an extraordinary, unique gift.