Pearl is par excellence the feminine gem, symbol of love, happiness,
affection, generosity; for the western ancient peoples it represented the
pureness and for the Romans evoked love and pleasure. There are many legends
inspired by pearls: for the Eastern peoples they represent wisdom and the
ancients explained their origins by means of a delicate and magic interpretation:
when the moon, queen of the night sky, spreads its sweet silver light over
the earth, pearl-oysters leave the seabed to rise up to the billowing waves
and they let themselves gently swing, thus becoming impregnated in a bond
of love of night dew and pure moon rays, and from this union pearls are
Although it would be nice to believe in this legend, let's try to understand where they really come from, where they are formedand the reasons for the thousands of differences of these real miracles of nature:
NATURAL PEARLS: pearls are defined as natural when they are randomly
produced by the mollusc without any human intervention.
The formation of a natural pearls occurs when a foreign body penetrates into the oyster and, if it is not able to expel it, the glands secrete an iridescent substance which will slowly isolate the intruder and form the beginnings of a pearl.
CULTURED PEARLS: cultured pearls are defined as those which are
produced following human intervention, whether or not they have a nucleus.
In 1893, using a mollusc called "Akoya", Kokichi Mikimoto produced the
first cultured pearl, of irregular shape and it was only in 1907 that the
first round pearl was produced.
The places where oysters are reared are called farms. The implanting operation occurs when the oyster is from 2 to 3 years old and consists of the insertion of spherical nuclei of 2 to 9 mm in diameter, as well as two pieces of epithelial tissue containing secreting glands, extracted from another oyster, which is thus sacrificed..
The nuclei are obtained from the shell of a mollusc which lives in the Mississippi river.
The rearing lasts from one and a half to two and a half years and the mortality rate in the time between the operation and the harvest is about 50%. Only 5% of the harvest will be of prime quality and only another 10% will be used in jewellery. The criteria for the valuation of pearls are: size- shape - colour - orient and shininess - skin (pureness and homogeneity of the surface) - thickness of the nacre (mother of pearl). When the layer of the nacre that covers the nucleus is less than 10% of the diameter the quality is considered to be poor - at 15% it is good - from 20% to 25% extra.
With this short description I don't believe that I have made you experts in the subject of pearls, but just to have given you some information. It will in any case be your competent jeweller that will guide you to the string of pearls nearest to your requirements.
"SOUTH SEA" PEARLS: this is a variety which is subdivided into two categories, which are called: light group and dark group. The first kind are produced by an oyster called "Pinctada Maxima" and forms large pearls of silver or golden tonality, according to the characteristics of the mollusc. The second kind is called "Pinctada Margaritifera" or more simply black-mouth oyster and produces large pearls of tonalities ranging from blue-grey up to the much sought after and legendary black pearl.
FRESH WATER PEARLS: more commonly known as "river pearls", they
are obtained using a type of culture without nucleus, from a large
mollusc called "IKECHO" that can contain up to 30 pearl-sacks and can therefore
produce several pearls at the same time.
The traditional shape is like a grain of rice, but there are other shapes, sizes and colours.
KESHI PEARLS: in all oysters, during the phase of the implanting
of the nucleus, a small piece of epithelial tissue is also inserted, which
is needed for the formation of the pearl-sack. Small fragments of this
tissue dispersed inside the oyster cause the spontaneous formation of other
pearls, other than the one seeded.
In the harvest phase, the cultivator may sometimes find, to his surprise, pearls the size of a pin head or spheres as large as 10 mm. In South Sea oysters, these pearls may be considered natural and are rather precious.
MABÉ PEARLS: the name Mabé is used for pearls harvested
from a beautiful rainbow coloured oyster which has the scientific name
This variety is used for the cultivation of hemi-spherical pearls. The seeding procedure is very simple: it is sufficient to attach the nuclei (hemi-spherical or of another shape, if desired) to the two valves of the oyster, which will then be coated with layers of the oyster's nacre. This is then cut, modelled and lined on the lower side with another false mother of pearl.
HOW TO LOOK AFTER PEARLS: Pearls contain water and conchioline:
the former may evaporate, so it is important to avoid getting too near
to sources of heat, because the pearls could dehydrate and crumble; the
latter, being an organic material, is sensitive to chemical agents, so
the corrosive substances in detergents, soaps, cosmetics, perfumes and
sweat can seriously damage pearls.
You can safely wear your string of pearls, being careful to clean it with a soft cloth when you take it off: this will prevent the uric acid in the sweat from attacking the surface of the pearls. For the same reason, have the string changed every one or two years, so as to prevent the sweat which gets absorbed by the string from attacking the pearl from the inside and to avoid friction between the pearls, thus eliminating the risk of corrosion that on a long term basis could make the nucleus become visible if the layer of nacre is thin.
Never wear your pearls when you go swimming in the sea, the salt and the sun could damage them irreparably.
Your string of pearls expresses your femininity, protect it!
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