There are two types of genuine pearls-natural and cultured. Natural pearls occur in the wild when a speck of organic matter gets into an oyster. The oyster forms a small sac around the intruder and over time covers it in layers of nacre, a substance that builds up to form the pearl. Natural pearls are very rare, occurring in less than 1% of mollusks. Cultured pearls form in a very similar matter, but the initial irritant that begins the process is purposefully implanted.
Cultured akoya pearls come in a spectrum of hues. While some manufacturers achieve variety through a dyeing process, the required chemicals damage the pearls structural integrity, which diminishes luster. High quality come from a more organic process. Different oysters produce different colored pearls. Akoya pearls grow in shades of cream, pink, blue, and silver inside Japanese Akoya Oysters. Black-lipped Oysters produce charcoal, green, and silver Tahitian Black Pearls. South Sea Pearls in shades of gold and white and are harvested from Silver-lipped Oysters. The specific color depends on factors like the location of the irritant’s implantation, depth, temperature, and minerals present in the water.
They range in size from 7mm to 20 mm, depending on the type of pearl and the way it is cultured. For example, Akoya pearls are grown between 20C and 25C. At warmer temperatures, oysters quickly produce thick layers of nacre, which results in large but dull pearls. At cooler temperatures, oysters slowly produce thin layers of nacre, creating small pearls with great color and luster. To harvest large pearls with the best optical properties, experienced farmers grow them in warm water and switch to cooler water towards the end of the culturing process.
Oysters must be closely monitored to ensure a beautiful pearl. Fully grown pearls are checked for quality, cleaned, and sorted by size and hue. They are used in various types of jewelry, including earrings, bracelets, brooches, rings, and necklaces. Akoya strands are very popular, especially ones made from cream colored pearls. They come in a variety of lengths, from the classic princess necklace to the elegant opera necklace, which dips below the bust line. These are extremely versatile accessories that are great for everything from sprucing up jeans and a t-shirt to complementing a formal evening gown.