Next to the diamond, there is no gem that has fascinated mankind more than pearl. The oldest known natural pearl necklace is more than 4,000 years old. Today’s birthstone for June is pearl, the pearl was long believed to possess a special mystical quality, symbolized by the glow that seems to radiate from its very center. This glow signified to the ancient world a powerful inner life. In fact, Roman woman are believed to have taken pearls to bed with them to sweeten dreams! Over time the pearl has acquired strong associations with love, success, happiness, and the virtues of modesty, chastity, and purity, which it’s a popular choice for brides on their wedding day.
A pearl is the gem produced by oyster in saltwater, or by a freshwater mollusc. In either case, a small foreign object finds its way into the shell, and then into the tissue of the mollusc. If the intruder becomes trapped, and the oyster can’t rid itself of it, the foreign body becomes an irritant. To ease the discomfort this irritant creates, the mollusc takes defensive action, and produces a blackish substance called conchiolin, over which another substance, a whitish substance called nacre, is secreted. The nacre is composed of microscopic crystals, each crystal aligned perfectly with others so that light passing along the axis of one is reflected and refracted by the others to produce a rainbow like glow of light color. The pearl is the result of the build up of layer after layer of this nacre. The thicker the nacre, the more beautiful the pearl.
While different pearl varieties have different price structures, they are judged by the same five basic quality factors:
Pearl strand and pair prices are also affected by how well the pearls are matched in all the quality factors. A strand of pearl should have consistent luster, color, surface quality, and shape. Color should be matched perfectly, if it is a single color strand. But, you also have the option of multi color strands, which are particularly fashionable in Tahitian cultured pearls. For size, strands should all have an even size or graduated size, in which case they should increase in size in a smooth graceful steps.
Luster is most important value factor when it comes to beauty. Luster is the shine and glow of the pearl, the way it handles light. What make it pearly? Basically, it is reflecting light back and refracting through its translucent top layers of nacre at the same time. This gives it a depth, a warm soft glow unlike any other material. High luster pearl reflect objects near them clearly.
The smoother and more regular the topography of the pearl, the higher the surface quality. Pearls are natural, so when you look at them closely, most of them have tiny spots. divots, bumps, and winkles. The fewer the blemishes, the more valuable is the pearl.
The pearl shape is very important when it comes to price, because most people expect pearls to be round. Off round, baroque pearl (non-symmetrical shaped pearl), and circle (ridged) pearls are the pearl world’s biggest bargains, because most people do not consider these non round pearls. With exception of pear shape or drop pearls, which are particularly great for pearl pendants and pearl earrings. Matched pairs of drop pearls are particularly prized. One interesting fact; baroque pearls, in particular Tahitian baroque pearls, are lustrous because the extra curves on the surface help to increase reflection.
As with every gem, the bigger the pearl size, the higher the cost. Pearl size is measured in millimeter, and it refers to the diameter of the pearl.