Pearls-An Overview
Pearls are one of the most popular types of jewelry. One of the reasons for this is their obvious ...
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Pearls-An Overview


Pearls are one of the most popular types of jewelry. One of the reasons for this is their obvious luminescent beauty but they are also popular because they are completely organic, created by living creatures. The creation of pearls begin when a small piece of grit finds its way into a mollusk shell. The shell can be either freshwater or marine and could be from a clam or oyster. Either way, the shell contains a type of self-defense measure that is automatically activated and begins to coat the piece of grin with many layers of a substance that is called nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. These layers eventually become so thick a pearl is formed.

There are many different types of pearls, each of which is classified by shape and origin. One classification of pearls is natural pearls. These pearls are formed when the nacre begins to form around a particle or piece of grit that enters the shell of a mollusk, as previously described. The layers of nacre that then form around the particle are much like the layers of an onion. Because this is a natural process, these pearls can vary widely in shape. This also makes natural pearls very rare and subsequently very expensive. Natural pearls are typically sold by what is known as carat weight. Natural pearls today are most commonly vintage pearls.

Another category of pearls is known as cultured pearls. These pearls grow inside a mollusk like natural pearls; however, they are helped along in the process by human intercession. In this process the shell will be opened and the particle inserted. The shape of the particle that is inserted will depend on the desired shape of the final cultured pearl. The remainder of the process is very similar to the natural process. The objected that has been inserted will become coated with layers of nacre, or mother-of-pearl. In many cases the depth of the layers will depend on the type of mollusk used, the type of water and how long the object is left in the shell before it is removed. The durability as well as the quality of the cultured pearl will increase as the thickness of the nacre increases. Unlike natural pearls cultured pearls are most often sold by size in millimeters.

Pearls may also be classified by whether they are saltwater or freshwater. Saltwater pearls start out in a mollusk in saltwater. These pearls can be either cultured or natural. Freshwater pearls, of course, originate in freshwater mollusk shells; such as a lake or river.

There are several different shape classifications for pearls as well. The most desirable pearls are those which are round, known as spherical pearls. Rounder pearls are more expensive. Pearls which are symmetrical may include pear shaped pearls as well as other sizes; but do not include round pearls. In some cases pearls may be irregular shaped. These are known as baroque pearls. These are usually less expensive than other types of pearls; but are still very beautiful.

Pearls can also range widely in colors. Although the most well known pearls are white, pearls can also be black as well as just about any other color. While some pearls are cream colored or even silvery white in many cases the color of a pearl is often a melding of color and overtone. Pearls which have a lustrous cream or rose color are known as Akoya pearls. These pearls can also have overtones of greenish-white or silver-white; however, cream and rose are the most common. Freshwater pearls can also come in pastel shades such as peach, pink, purple, plum, lavender and tangerine. Pearls which are similar to Akoya pearls in color are known as South Sea pearls; however, the latter are typically larger. Black pearls are also known as Tahitian pearls. They are commonly either black or gray.
 
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