Pearls are popular jewelry stones. Learn about their properties and varieties, as well as practical tips for repairing and working with them.
Aesthetic interpretations are as unique as fingerprints. Give three people the same trendy sweater and each will wear it in a different way. Give three jewelry designers the same unusual cultured pearl and each will design a distinctly different piece. Such was the challenge MJSA Journal posed to three innovative talents in the jewelry industry: Katey Brunini of Solana Beach, California; Ernesto Moreira of Houston; and Alishan Halebian (best known as only Alishan) of Irvine, California.
These 950 Palladium earrings were designed by Tom McLaughlin of Lennons Jewelers, Syracuse, NY. The top portion of the design is bead set with small round brilliant diamonds on one side. When worn, the bottom portion swivels and is bead set with small round brilliant diamonds on both sides. The two sides of the bottom portion are separated by 18-karat yellow gold spacers. The diamonds on each side of the bottom portion accent the round Tahitian cultured pearls as they swivel when worn.
When buying cultured pearls, consumers must consider several quality characteristics that are very different from the four C’s of diamonds or gemstones. Nacre quality is very important. The nacre is the layers of protective coating – a pearly substance – that grows around a pearl nucleus. Experts warn that only pearls with a sufficient layer of nacre will last through years of wear; thin-nacre pearls often peel or crack. A nacre that is less than 0.35 mm is considered too thin, and thicker is always better.
When Chinese freshwater pearls began flooding the market several years ago, craft artists took notice. It is not that pearls were new to them. Studio jewelers had been incorporating pearls into their designs for decades, long before the current wave of Chinese freshwater pearls reached these shores. But the growing availability of Chinese freshwater pearls has allowed artists to indulge their passion for pearls as they never could before.
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it…” I often recall those words from “Mission Impossible” as I approach a design project. The pearl necklace “mission” shown here presented some interesting and subtle challenges. The following are the client’s specifications…
When the first warnings about color enhancement of golden South Sea pearls came out five years ago, fear struck the South Sea pearl industry. Some of the new enhancement methods for golden pearls were nearly undetectable, leaving dealers and retailers guessing how many pearls on the market were treated and wondering whether golden pearls were going to be the gem world’s next disclosure scandal.
Design ideas often begin one way, then evolve into something different. Such was the case with Robin Waynee’s two-sided palladium pendant with pink sapphires, diamonds, and a rolling Tahitian pearl. Waynee, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, first envisioned this as…
China was one of the first to master the art of culturing. The Middle Kingdom began producing cultured pearls in the fourteenth century. In the 1960s a state-controlled industry introduced freshwater cultured pearls to the world market. Originally cultured using the wild Cristaria plicata or cockscomb mussel, initial production was of low quality baroque pearls, disparagingly known as rice crispies.
This article showcases book reviews for “The Art of the Jeweler”, “Bead Setting Diamonds, with Pavé Applications”, “Custom Knifemaking: 10 Proiects From a Master Craftsman” and “Pearls: Their Origin, Treatment & Identification” published in the 1986 Spring issue of the Metalsmith…
Since the beginning of time, man has sought to improve upon nature. Pearls are no exception. The majority of today’s cultured pearls have undergone some form of processing or treatment after their removal from the mollusk. The only way to confidently buy in the wholesale arena is to learn what to look for and what to beware of.
Pearls don’t need polishing or faceting to reveal their natural beauty. That’s why pearls were among the first gems worn by humans. The oldest known pearl necklaces graced the necks of women more than 4,000 years ago.
In addition to black pearls, the sultry waters of the South Pacific also produce white pearls. Three species of pearl oyster are found in southern Pacific waters. The most important of these, the Pinctada maxima, is the largest of the pearl oysters. Three subspecies or varieties of Pinctada maxima are the white lip, silver lip, and the yellow or golden lip oysters. The largest known pearl produced by the Pinctada maxima oyster is 24mm in diameter. These three siblings produce pearls that range from a white to silver white through yellow to a distinct golden hue.
Pearls are organic gem materials form in a variety of mollusks when the mollusk covers an irritant with layers of nacre. Oysters, mussels, conch, and abalone can produce pearls. Oysters and mussels can do this job by themselves when an irritant accidentally enters its shell to produce natural pearls or can be aided by man introducing a bead into the mollusk to produce cultured pearls.
Warming waters, changes in weather patterns, and increases in storm activity may all affect the future success of pearl farms, both freshwater and ocean-based. Precisely what impact they will have is a little harder to determine: Relatively little research has been done into oyster husbandry.
Thirty years after Robert Wan began culturing his first Tahiti black pearls in the seas of French Polynesia, he is still fascinated by the darkly shimmering treasures. When discussing his successful journey to become one of the most influential suppliers of cultured Tahiti black pearls, he still beams and comments, persuasively, “I love pearls!”.
The black pearl was not known at all in the West in ancient times. Black pearls first came on the market in 1845. Originally they were not highly esteemed, selling for a fraction of the price brought by white pearls from the traditional sources in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Mannar. The Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, was the person most responsible for bringing the black pearl into fashion. After the fall of Napoleon III, a fine necklace owned by the former Empress was auctioned at Christies for twenty thousand dollars, the equivalent of several hundred thousand of todays dollars.
Ginseng, green tea, and herb and oil extracts are just a few of the main ingredients in millions of cosmetics on the market today. And now pearls have entered the picture in a bigger way, hoping to take the cosmetics industry by storm. But the use of pearls in cosmetics is not a new concept. For thousands of years, people in Asia, especially in China and Japan, have been using pearl powder as a natural remedy to maintain the appearance of youthful skin. It has also been used in traditional Chinese medicine as a dietary supplement, usually in capsule form, to supply the body with amino acids and minerals.
The romance of the South Seas! The exotic mystery of the black pearl! It is this combination that has lured me to travel over ten thousand miles to Manihi Island, a remote speck of land in the Tuamotu island group, three hundred fifty miles northeast of Tahiti. It is only in these far-off islands that the natural conditions exist for the culture of this unique gem.
When taking in a piece of pearl jewelry for repair, it may be necessary to remove the pearl to avoid damaging it. Since most pearls are held in place with glue, you can remove them by gently warming the jewelry piece. You want the part near the pearl to get warm and soften the glue. Most glues will soften with heat, allowing you to pull the pearl off the peg easily.
Both natural and cultured pearls are formed when an irritant lodges in a mollusk. The mollusk then deposits layers of nacre, covering the irritant and producing a pearl. In a natural pearl, the irritant may be organic or inorganic matter. In cultured pearls, the irritant is a mother of pearl bead or a piece of tissue placed in the mollusk by a technician. The mollusk covers the nucleus with alternating layers of conchiolin (a protein-like substance similar to human nails) and nacre. The latter consists of very fine crystals of calcium and aragonite, which are very soft minerals. It is delicate and can be scratched or chipped easily.