In part 1, I talked about picking out a great string of pearls. Here are some additional terms or definitions that you might run across while shopping for those pearls.
Various Pearl Strands
Nacre – what is it?
Nacre is a technical term you’ll sometimes hear people talking about in relation to pearls. Nacre is the natural substance secreted by mollusks that essentially creates the pearl. The thicker the nacre, the higher the quality. Nacre is also found on the inside of the oyster shells—we call this mother-of-pearl. Nacre gives pearls their shine and luster.
These days, almost all pearls—whether freshwater or seapearls—are cultured or grown on pearl farms. Very few occur naturally.
How are Cultured Pearls “made”?
Small shell beads are surgically implanted into live oysters, which are then returned to the sea (or fresh waters, for freshwater pearls). After much time and effort (the oysters need to be monitored, moved to warm waters, etc), a pearl is born as the oyster continues to secrete nacre around the bead.
Freshwater Pearls (Triple Strand)
Most freshwater pearls are cultured pearls (i.e. they are “grown” on pearl farms), grown in fresh waters. Many freshwater pearls are grown in China—and come in many shapes and sizes. Because they’re relatively inexpensive, freshwater pearls can be used in many different ways—dyed to match clothing, mixed with semi-precious stones, and used to make fashion jewelry. In spite of their affordability, freshwater pearls are still very beautiful and luminous.
All the freshwater pearls used in Imports Oriental jewelry are cultured pearls from China, grown in various freshwater lakes around the country. Freshwater pearls come in many shapes and sizes, from round or rice to baroque or ringed.
Freshwater pearls come in many grades and sizes. For fun, freshwater pearls are dyed different colors, then mixed with semi-precious stones like amethyst, garnet, agate and turquoise. Most of our “fashion jewelry” collection deals with dyed freshwater pearls.
Akoya, Tahitian & South Sea Pearls
These three names specify the three main types of seapearls, Akoya being the most typical. Akoya seapearls are smaller than Tahitian and South Sea Pearls—usually making them less expensive. China grows Akoya seapearls on their pearls farms.
Chinese sea pearls seldom grow larger than 7.5-8 mm pearls. For this reason we use round freshwater pearls when the jewelry calls for a larger pearl, such as in our rings (9-9.5mm pearls).
Coin Pearls (Five Strand Necklace)
Sometimes called button pearls, coin pearls are flat circular pearls that are formed in oysters. They are real pearls. They actually take longer to form than regular freshwater pearls, so they are slightly more expensive than round freshwater pearls.
Biwa Pearls (Necklace/Bracelet Set)
Sometimes called stick pearls, Biwa Chips are also real freshwater pearls that formed into “stick” shapes. Very popular with different fashion jewelry designers.
Rice Pearls are freshwater pearls that are oblong in shape (similar to a grain of rice). All rice pearls are real pearls.
Mother of Pearl Shells
Mother of Pearl Shells are created from real shells that have been dipped into melted Mother of Pearl liquid for a shiny, even luster. They are not real pearls. However, they look great and are a lot of fun (and inexpensive) to put together with ribbons or for casual necklaces.
Triple Strand with Blister Clap
Blister clasps are set in sterling silver. The “blister” is actually a bubble in the Mother of Pearl layer inside an oyster, which is then cut out and set in silver.