History’s Eldest Gem
It was once said, “when a single drop of rain fell from the heavens and became the heart of an oyster, a pearl is born.” Although this is quite the creative tale for how a pearl comes to be, we know this is not the truth. So, what do we really know about pearls other than the fact that they come in many sizes, colors, and are traditionally given as wedding gifts? First, not all pearls are grown the same, look the same, or are priced the same.
The least expensive and most commonly worn are freshwater pearls. As it is in the name, these white, usually off-round pearls come from freshwater clams rather than oysters or mollusks in saltwater. Cultured pearls are those which have literally been cultivated in saltwater oyster beds. Farmers create these beds typically with Akoya oysters. Mikimoto- a man known for producing the most magnificent of pearls- created this cultivation process. Real, or natural pearls found in oysters from the sea (not farmed in the sea) are extremely rare and therefore, incredibly expensive. This is why most all pearls you see come from farms. Cultured pearls range from 3-10mm in size, are typically completely round, and range in color from white, pink, cream, silver, blue and light green.
Varying oysters in varying regions produce their own color, shape and size pearl. For example, the South Sea contains the golden-lipped oyster which generates the beautiful color ranges of champagne to gold. These pearls start at 9 millimeters in size and range in shape from round to oval to pear. These oysters can also produce white pearls, but the golden color is the most valued and sought after.
Tahitian pearls are harvested from the black-lipped oyster, hence the Tahitian pearl's ranges of grey or black color. Tahitian pearls can vary in shades of green or possess hints of green, blue or pink. These pearls start at 8 millimeters in size and include varying shapes of round, teardrop and oval.