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© 2019 PLAX Jewellery  UK Ltd.

THE GLORIOUS POWER OF PEARLS

We will never know when the first pearl was discovered, when someone opened an oyster and discovered the unusual pearlescent object lodged in the mussel of the oyster, looking gloriously out of place but having every right to be there for it was borne of the oyster from even more bizarre circumstances, where discomfort is translated to beauty from which a pearl is born.

The Book of Pearl, written by George Fredick Kunz in 1908, offers the concept that pearls may have been first discovered by an ancient fish-eating tribe along the Indian coast who may have discovered pearls when they opened up an oyster to eat as food.

 

The discovery of pearls may never known, but what we do know through history is that they are the oldest jewels known to man with oldest surviving pearl necklace nearly 2000 years old. Known as the ‘Queen of Gems’ pearls are exceptional amongst gemstones, they are the only gems borne from a living organism and they require no additional enhancement, such as cutting or faceting to reveal their true beauty, they are simply borne, divine.

In ancient times pearls were so highly desirable and of incomparable value, worn only by royals and nobles to symbolise Power, Wealth and Status. At the height of the Roman Empire pearls were the ultimate jewels of high social standing and status. They were incredibly valuable and extravagantly expensive so much so that the Roman General Vitellius was rumoured to have financed an entire army crusade through the sale of just one of his mother’s pearl earring.

The Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra, was alleged to have crushed a single pearl dissolved in vinegar and drank it to win a wager with Marc Anthony that she could spend a veritable fortune; equivalent to the wealth of an entire nation, on a single meal.

In ancient Greece, pearls were rated in the highest of esteems for their immense beauty and were associated with prosperity in love and marriage. Aristocrats were the only people permitted to wear pearls in medieval France and in Elizabethan England pearls were the preserve of royalty, highly fashionable and expensive, worn exclusively by the royals and their court. Queen Elizabeth 1 is often depicted wearing pearls in various designs and was rumoured to have worn layers of pearls that reached down to her knees.

Pearls were regarded as a mythological gem possessing powers to protect the wearer. During the dark ages gallant knights often wore pearls into battle believing the pure lustrous gem possess mythical powers to protect them. Pearls also feature greatly in religion, the Christian scriptures tells a parable of a man finding a pearl so valuable that he sells his entire possession to retain The Pearl.

Historically and even today, pearls has captured the hearts and captivated people with its divine glorious beauty. It has to be said that there is something innately powerful, magical and mystical about a pearl that is inexplicable, possessing transformative power, that men and women through history sought to use the gem to translate and relate, transform, inform and reform.

Today, pearls are still highly desirable possessing the same powers to capture and captivate multitudes with their ornate divine beauty. In contrast to ancient times when pearls were only afforded to royalty and nobility, the cultivation of cultured pearl in early 1900 broke the barriers enabling more people to enjoy and experience the glorious beauty of this exceptional gemstone.

The timelessness of this classic yet utterly modern gem is so alluring and quite simply irresistible. Still highly favoured by royalty, they have become a staple preserve for reflecting elegance, femininity, power and style.

Pearls are adorned and adored by women worldwide today not just as adornment but to reflect style, statement and symbolism. 

They have become a statement of beauty, elegance, splendour, sophistication, femininity and power. Jackie O, one of the world’s most stylish women was usually seen in her pearls, and today so are many leading, powerful, stylish and pioneering women in all spectrum of society.

Afterall, as the famous saying goes:

The Pearl is the Queen of Gems and The Gem of Queens’.

 

GETTING TO KNOW PEARLS BETTER

Pearls are the only gemstone borne from a living organism, most gemstones are mined from the earth. Pearls are a precious gift of nature birthed from extraordinary circumstances and resulting in a beautiful love story.

Pearls are individually unique and come in a multitude of colours and types, which enables design one to fall in love more deeply and immerse oneself in a sea of pearl glory, collating a delightful collection of pearl jewellery along the way.

HOW A PEARL IS FORMED

A Pearl is a miracle of nature. It is formed when a parasite, usually a grit, enters an oyster, mussel or clam. The oyster’s natural defence mechanism and response to this irritation is to build layers and layers of nacre – the iridescent, resilient, pearlescent substance that makes up a Pearl – around the intruder, covering it patiently and thoroughly, until a Pearl is born.  

There are 3 categories of Pearls:

  1. Natural

  2. Cultured

  3. Faux

1. NATURAL

Natural pearls are formed through ‘accidents of nature’. They occur spontaneously when a certain type of irritant becomes lodged in the mollusc (oyster), this causes the oyster to react naturally by secreting a calcium carbonate substance called nacre to protect itself and as a defence mechanism. Nacre is the shiny iridescent substance that forms a pearl, the oyster builds layers and layers of nacre around the irritant to protect itself until finally a beautiful pearl is borne out of the most extraordinary circumstances.

The build-up of nacre is formed in layers at irregular intervals and it can take up to 20 years to produce a single natural pearl as formation is completely dependent on the oyster’s natural reaction, if and when it secrets additional layers.

This makes formation of a single pearl incredibly slow with very few pearls deemed suitable for use, which resulted in astronomical prices as they became rare with limited availability.

Man been forward thinking devised a way to make pearls more accessible and reduce the time formation process without tremendously hindering the quality of this precious gemstone; this led to the era of Cultured Pearls.

2. CULTURED

Cultured pearls are formed in a similar fashion as natural pearls, however, rather than anticipating ‘accidents of nature’, man intervenes by introducing the irritant so in essence ‘nature is assisted’.

The irritant is planted inside the oyster, which induces the oyster natural reaction by secreting the calcium carbonate substance called nacre as a defensive and protective measure. 

The nacre is built layer by layer over a number of years but the formation process is quicker as dependence on nature has been reduced tremendously. It can take between 2 to 7 years for a cultured pearl to form.

The cultivation of pearls has not only made them more accessible and affordable but has enabled consistency in shapes, sizes and quality compared to natural pearls which produced great inconsistencies in shapes and sizes rendering only a selected few eligible for use in high quality jewellery.

Most pearls today are cultured. The only difference between a cultured and a natural pearl is the intentional implantation of the irritant to stimulate the pearl formation process, the same natural reactive process follows thereafter. A cultured pearl is distinguishable from a natural pearl only through the use of an x-ray which displays the internal structure of the pearl, other than that they bear similar characteristics cultured pearl are real pearls borne by nature with a little assistance from man.

3. FAUX

Faux pearls are not really worth a mention but it is important to know and to be able to distinguish real from fake, yes I guess you have guessed it, they are not real pearls.

Faux pearls are synthetic pearls made from materials such as glass and plastic with the intention of resembling real pearls, which they very seldom do.

TYPES OF PEARLS

There are four main types of cultured pearls:

  1. South Sea 

  2. Tahitian 

  3. Freshwater

  4. Akoya

1. SOUTH SEA

South Sea pearls are the most exquisite and rarest of all cultured pearls. They are huge, opulent, high-end luxury, the Rolls Royce of pearls, renowned for their extraordinary large size and divine distinction in shine and lustre.

South Sea pearls are formed by extraordinary large oysters, some measuring more than a foot, found in the South Sea waters. The pearls originate primarily from Australia, Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar. The size of the oyster enables the production of larger sized pearls ranging from 9mm-20mm, with the average size of 13mm. South Sea pearls come in natural colours White, Silver and Golden.

The formation process is much longer in comparism to other cultured pearl due to its size, it also has a much thicker layer of nacre which results in the most beautiful and divine satin-like glow that is a distinctive characteristic of the South Pearls.

2. TAHITIAN

Tahitian pearls are known for their dark mysterious colour and are classed as some of most beautiful pearls in the world. Tahitian pearls are produced in black-lipped oysters found in French Polynesia and Tahiti.

Tahitian pearls come in substantial sizes, slightly smaller than South Sea pearls. Their distinctiveness is the dark colour, a black-like pearl with hues of silver, grey, purple and green. The pearls are mesmerising and though appear black in colour when closely inspected reflects hues of other colours.

3. AKOYA

Akoya pearls are produced by Seawater oysters, oysters that live in saltwater, and originate mainly from Japan, China, Australia, the finest been found in Japan.

Akoya are high quality pearls renowned for their extreme lustre. They are consistently round and come in typically small sizes between 2mm-7.5mm, with sizes 8mm-11mm rare and more expensive. They come in natural colours white or cream with overtones of rose, silver or cream. Japanese Akoya pearls are significantly more luxurious and of better quality than those produced in other region, and as such we only use fine Japanese Akoya pearls in our collection.

4. FRESHWATER

Freshwater pearls are the most popular and more commonly known cultured pearls. Freshwater pearls are produced by oysters that live in freshwater environments, such as ponds and lakes as opposed to Seawater. Freshwater pearls originate predominately from China and are also found in Japan and the USA.

Freshwater pearls do not have the extreme lustre of Seawater pearls such as Akoya and South Sea, however they come in a variety of size, colours and shapes making them more affordable and prevalent in pearl jewellery fashion and design due to their affordability and experimentation with design, shapes and colours.