À propos des perles
Many thousands of years ago, long before written history, early man probably discovered the first pearl while searching the seashore for food.
Throughout history, the pearl, with its warm inner glow and shimmering iridescence has been one of the most highly prized and sought after gems. Count-less references to the pearl can be found in religions and mythology of many cultures from the earliest times.
The ancient Egyptians prized pearls so much they were buried with them. Reportedly, Cleopatra dissolved a single pearl in a glass of wine and drank it, simply to win a wager with Marc Antony that she could consume the wealth of an entire country in just one meal.
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. During the Dark Ages, while fair maidens of nobility cherished delicate pearl necklaces, gallant knights often wore pearls onto the battlefield. They believed that the magic possessed by the lustrous gems would protect them from harm.
The Renaissance saw the royal courts of Europe awash in pearls. Since pearls were so highly regarded, a number of European countries passed laws forbidding the wearing of pearls by others outside of the nobility.
During the European expansion into the New World, the discovery of pearls in Central American waters added to the wealth of Europe. Unfortunately, greed and lust for the sea grown gems resulted in the depletion of virtually all the American pearl oyster populations by the 17th Century.
Bred for Quality
Early pearl cultivation depended entirely on wild oysters. Now pearl cultivation is more selective. Japanese scientists isolate strains of oysters possessing superior pearl bearing qualities. These selectively bred oysters produce pearls of exceptional luster and color clarity.
Enter the Nucleus
Highly skilled technicians open the live pearl oysters carefully, and then surgically implant a small polished shell bead and piece of mantle tissue in each. The shell bead serves as the nucleus around which the oyster secretes layer after layer of nacre, the crystalline substance that forms the pearl.
Back to the Sea
The nucleated oysters are returned to the sea. There, in sheltered bays rich in natural nutrients, the oysters feed and grow, depositing lustrous layers of nacre around their nuclei. In winter, the oysters are moved south to warmer waters.
Pearl RaftsThe nucleated oysters are suspended from rafts such as these in order to provide the best growing conditions. Pearl technicians check water temperatures and feeding conditions daily at various water depths and then move the oysters up or down to take advantage of the best growing conditions.
Periodically, the pearl-bearing oysters are lifted from the sea for cleaning and health treatments. Seaweed, barnacles and other undersea growths that might impede feeding are removed from their shells. Then the shells are treated with medicinal compounds that discourage parasites from injuring the oysters.
The Birth of a Pearl
At last, the oysters are ready for harvest. Those that have survived such perils of the sea as typhoons, suffocating red tides, and attacks from predators are brought ashore and opened. If everything has gone well, the result is a lovely, lustrous and very valuable pearl.
Each year, millions of oysters are nucleated. But only a very small proportion live to bear fine quality cultured pearls.
Cultured pearls can never be a mass-produced factory-like product. Too much depends upon the whims of unpredictable Mother Nature. Many of the oysters do not survive the surgical nucleating operation. Others are weak and susceptible to disease. Heavy rains can flood the bays with fresh water, reducing salinity and killing the oysters. Sometimes, certain species of plankton undergo explosive growth, creating the dreaded “red tide” that exhausts oxygen in a bay and suffocates the oysters. Then there are typhoons, attacks of predators and parasites, or lack of sufficient nutrients in the water.
On the average, about fifty percent of the nucleated oysters do not survive to bear pearls. And only twenty percent bear marketable pearls. The rest are too imperfect, too flawed to be used as jewels.
A perfect pearl is a rare event, blessed by Nature and highly valued. Less than five percent of nucleated oysters yield pearls of such perfect shape, luster and color as to be considered fine 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!
Unlike imitation pearls, no two cultured pearls are ever exactly alike. Each has its own unique combination of size, shape, luster and color. The art of assembling pearls into a necklace, a pair of earrings or any other jewellery calls for refined skills in assembling similar looking pearls. Here, pearls are sorted by experts with highly trained eyes and years of experience.
Drill holes must be made with care and precision. An inexperienced operator can split or ruin pearls with careless handling. A hole is drilled even slightly off-center can ruin a necklace or piece of jewellery that depends upon the symmetrical assembly of its pearls. This stage in the preparation of cultured pearls for jewellery is a very delicate operation.
Stringing and Blending
Because no two cultured pearls are ever exactly alike, pearl dealers must cull through about 10,000 pearls to find enough that are so closely matched that they can be assembled together to make a single necklace. Here, closely matching pearls are blended to be strung into a beautiful necklace.
Akoya (Grown in Japan and China)
Akoya pearls are the classic cultured pearls of Japan. They are the most lustrous of all pearls found anywhere in the world. In recent years, China has been successful in producing Akoya pearls within their own waters. However, at this time they are unable to produce as brilliant a luster as high quality Japanese Akoya cultured pearls.
White South Sea (Grown in Australia, Myanmar, Indonesia and the Phillipines)
White South Sea cultured pearls are grown in large tropical or semi-tropical oysters in Australia, Myanmar, Indonesia and other Pacific countries. They generally range in size from 10mm to 20mm and command premium prices because of their relative rarity and large size.
Tahitian (Grown in French Polynesia)
Tahitian cultured pearls are grown in a variety of large pearl oysters found primarily in French Polynesia. Their beautiful, unique colors (which can range from light grey to black and green to purple) and large size can command very high prices.
Freshwater (Grown in Japan, China, and The United States)
Freshwater pearls can be found in bays and rivers throughout the world. They are easily cultivated from freshwater mollusks in China, Japan and the United States. Many are less lustrous than salt water cultured pearls but their low price, unique shapes and colors have made them popular jewelry items in recent years.
Mabe (Grown in Japan, Indonesia, French Polynesia and Australia)
Mabe pearls are hemispherical cultured pearls grown against the inside shell of an oyster rather than within the oyster’s body. They generally are used in earrings or rings which conceal their flat backs.
You can evaluate any piece of cultured pearl jewellery on the following quality factors. But always remember that the better the quality of pearls you select the more beautiful and valued them will be over time.
LUSTRE: Lustre is a combination of surface brilliance and a deep seated glow. The lustre of a good quality pearl should be bright and not dull. You should be able to see your own reflection clearly on Pteria Penguina the surface of a pearl. Any pearl that appears too white, dull or chalky indicates low quality.
SURFACE: Cleanliness refers to the absence of disfiguring spots, bumps or cracks on the surface of a pearl. The cleaner the surface of the pearl, the more valuable it will be.
SHAPE: Since cultured pearls are grown by oysters in nature, it is very rare to find a perfectly round pearl. However, the rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is. Baroque pearls, which are asymmetrical in shape, can be lustrous and appealing, and often cost less than round pearls.
COLOR: Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors from rosé to black. While the color of a pearl is really a matter of the wearer’s preference, usually rosé or silver/white pearls tend to look best on fair skins while cream and gold toned pearls are flattering to darker complexions.
SIZE: Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimetres. They can be smaller than one millimetre in the case of tiny seed pearls, or as large as twenty millimetres for a big South Sea pearl. The larger the pearl, other factors being equal, the more valuable it will be. The average sized pearl sold today is between 7 and 7-1/2 millimetres.