Treasures From the Sea
as the “Queen of Gems,” the pearl possesses a history and allure more
compelling than any other gem. In fact, a beautifully matched strand of
natural pearls is a treasure of incomparable value. Given the
incredible rarity of natural pearls, today’s cultured pearls combine the
beauty of nature with the genius of man to create an organic gem
available in a wide array of styles and prices. Cultured pearls are
formed when a small piece of mantle tissue, a bead, or both is implanted
into an oyster. Implanted material encourages the oyster to begin
producing a rich and luxurious material, called nacre, that creates the
pearl’s lustrous outer glow. Cultivated in both fresh and salt water,
cultured pearls come in many different shapes and colors. The most
popular shapes have traditionally been round, but more unusual shapes
like baroque and button are also available. Colors range from white and
cream to gray and black, as well as rich purples, golds and yellows.
Cultured pearl is the birthstone for June.
Saltwater cultured pearls are produced in the ocean bays, atolls and
inlets of Japan, China, Australia, French Polynesia, Myanmar, Indonesia
and the Philippines. Freshwater cultured pearls are produced in the
lakes and rivers of China and the United States.
Most of the lighter shades of cultured pearls are mildly bleached to
even out their color. Cultured pearls are sometimes tumbled to enhance
roundness. They may be dyed to produce overtones of pink or strong body
colors like teal, magenta or gold. Occasionally cultured pearls are
irradiated to create strong iridescence or dark hues like black or gray.
Cultured pearls are softer than most gemstones but durable enough
for everyday wear. Because oils, soaps and chemicals can damage the
beautiful nacre, you should apply cosmetics, perfumes and hairspray
before putting on your pearls. Wipe your pearls with a dry, soft cloth
after each wearing. Never clean cultured pearls with any harsh chemical,
and only use a commercial jewelry cleaner specifically made for cultured
pearls. The safest cleaning method is using a mild soap and cool water
solution, wiping with a soft cloth. Always lay strands flat to dry to
prevent the cord from stretching. To ensure years of enjoyment, be sure
to have your cultured pearl strands inspected regularly and re-strung as
needed by a Jewelers of America member jeweler.
Photo: Robert Weldon,
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