Cultured pearls are classic and timeless. They can be worn casually or for special occasions. They come in a wonderful variety of colours, sizes and qualities; cultured pearl necklets can be worn in a wide variety of lengths.
Throughout history, the pearl, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence has been one of the most highly-prized and sought-after gems.
The Ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much that they were buried with them. In ancient Rome pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing. The Greeks held the pearl in high esteem for both its unrivalled beauty and its association with love and marriage. The Renaissance saw the royal courts of Europe awash with pearls. In some European countries laws were passed allowing only nobility to wear pearls.
Until the early 1900s natural pearls were accessible only to the rich and famous.
Today, with the advent of pearl cultivation, pearls are affordable and available to all.
A cultured pearls is born
The birth of a cultured pearl is truly a miraculous event. A small polished bead and a piece of mantle tissue are seeded carefully into a pearl oyster. In an effort to ease this irritant the oyster takes defensive action. Over some years and after much care and attention, the oyster secretes layer upon layer of smooth hard nacre, the crystalline substance that forms the cultured pearl.
A perfect pearl is a rare event, blessed by nature and highly valued. Less than five percent of nucleated oysters yield cultured pearls of such a perfect shape, lustre and colour to be considered pure gem quality. They are the precious treasures of pearl cultivation and the rare prizes of any jewellery collection. Lucky indeed is any woman who can possess and wear them.
Varieties of cultured pearl
(grown in Japan and China)
Akoya pearls are the classic cultured pearls of Japan. They are the most lustrous of all cultivated pearls found in the world. At this time Chinese pearls are not as lustrous.
White South Sea
(Grown in Australia, Myanmar and Indonesia)
White South Sea cultured pearls are grown in large tropical or semi-tropical oysters. They generally range in size from 10mm to 20mm and command premium prices because of their rarity and large sizes.
South Sea Black
(grown in French Polynesia)
South Sea Black cultured pearls are grown in a variety of large pearl oysters. Their beautiful, unique colour and large size can command very high prices.
(grown in Japan, China and USA)
Freshwater pearls can be found in bays and rivers throughout the world. They are easily cultivated from freshwater molluscs. Many are less lustrous than salt water cultured pearls, but their price, varying shapes and colours have made them popular jewellery items in recent years.
(grown in Japan, Indonesia and Australia)
Mabe pearls are hemispherical cultured pearls grown against the inside of an oyster rather than within the oyster’s body. They are generally used in earrings of rings that conceal their flat backs.
Buying cultured pearls
At Swag we have experts who can help you to learn more about cultured pearls. You can value any piece of cultured pearl jewellery form the following quality factors.
Lustre is a combination of surface brilliance and a deep seated glow. The lustre of a good quality pearl should be bright. Any pearl that appears too white, dull or chalky indicates low quality.
The fewer disfiguring spots, bumps or cracks on the surface of the pearl, the more valuable it is.
It is very rare to find a perfectly round pearl. However, the rounder the pearl the higher the quality.
Cultured pearls come in a variety of colours from rose to black. Colour is a matter of the wearer’s preference. However rose or silver/white are usually more valuable than cream and gold.
Other factors being equal, the larger the pear the more valuable it will be. Popular sizes are from 6.5mm to 7.5mm
Natural and cultured pearls: the difference
On the outside there is no difference between natural and cultured pearls. Even experts cannot always distinguish between them without using an X-ray. The difference in that a cultured pearl has fine layers of nacre built up over a mother-of-pearl bead; a natural pearl is solid nacre over an irritant such as a grain of sand.
Are cultured pearls imitation pearls?
Not they are not. Imitation pearls, which are often highly-priced to give the illusion of value, are manmade and have little intrinsic value. The deception is often compounded by the use of terms designed to imply a natural origin; e.g. organic, semi-cultured, faux, Mallorca, etc.
Caring for your cultured pearls
Cultured pearls are relatively soft compared with other gemstones and precious metals, so it is important to take special care of your pearls to ensure they remain bright and beautiful.
- Keep perfumes, hair sprays and facial cosmetics away from your pearls; apply cosmetics before you wear your pearls
- Wiping the pearls with a soft damp cloth will help to protect them from the effects of cosmetics and sprays. Do not use detergents to clean your pearls.
- Pearls are best kept in a soft lined box or bag and away from other jewellery.
- If you wear your pearls several times a week it is best to have them restrung about once a year. Experts recommend silk thread and knotting between each pearl.
We're here to help
At Swag we have experts who can help you choose high-quality cultured pearls and necklets. Our people are here to help you, not just to sell to you. We take a pride in building long-term relationships with our customers. We hope you'll always come back to us when you need a special gift or when you celebrate your special occasions.