The Journey of a Pearl









The Journey of a Pearl

Pearls for centuries have been known as the symbol of Love, Happiness and good Fortune.

They create create a beautiful and useful piece of jewellery, transforming the most simplest of outfits, with their natural lustre and elegance.

Mythology tells of the Hindu God Vishnu searching the oceans for the most perfect pearl to give to his daughter for her wedding day.


And history tells us of the Russian Czars and Spanish Royalty passion for pearls.  


In the 17th Century, an African slave found the most beautiful pearl ever seen.  He gave it to king Philip IV of Spain, who rewarded the slave with his freedom.

The pearl, know as "The Pelegrina", was so beautiful and of enormous size.

A much prized pearl and worth much money the King of Spain sold the pearl to the house of Yospov, part of the Bolshavik Russians.  During the Russian revolution in 1917 it was smuggled out of the country by the family for safe keeping to be later sold for much needed funds.  

"The Pelegrina", was such a prized pearl that the actor Richard Burton, know for his generous presents to his wife, bought it for Elizabeth Taylor as a Valentines present, for the small sum of $37,000.

Elizabeth treasured the pearl and wore it on many many occasions. After her death it was sold to an un-named buyer for $117 million!


Other famous names associated with pearls and their love of the beuatiful gem are Princess of Monaco, The Queen and Queen Mother, Audrey Hepburn, Angeline Jolie, Michael Jackson and todays much admired Duchess of Cambridge.


Pearls, are the natural product of an oyster.

In the wild, oysters live in colonies called "Beds". They have highly efficient body systems and in safe conditions they can live to 30 years or more.  They have a headless body with 3 hearts and 2 kidneys. The oysters collect nutrients from the sea through their gills and these nutrients contribute to the colour and quality of a pearl They are all born male and half will transform to females to lay eggs reverting to males after laying. An adult oyster can produce up to 70 million eggs a season, but many perish due to the dangers of the oceans, such as storms, pollution and predators.

Sometimes only 15 could survive to develop into baby "Veligers", as they are known. The veligers, grow a foot, which they clamp down onto the sea bed or rocks where they secrete calcium carbonate to create their shell and home. The adult oyster prefers a clean home with no imposters and when a grain from the sea bed enters, they secrete a "nacre" over the grit to keep their homes clean and tidy. This is the beginning of a pearl.

It can take up to 2 years, often 4, before a small pearl is fully developed and up to 20 years for a 10 to 12mm pearl.

Because of the dangers in the ocean that the pearls are subjected to, natural pearls are a rare these days. And the majority of pearls come from Farms, where pearls are cultured. The very first Pearl farm was started in 1893 by the now very famous and well known Mikimoto.
Oysters and there shells are impregnated
in laboratory conditions with small pieces of an oyster or piece of grit.
Then in well controlled beds of nets the oysters and their homes are cared for and cleaned on a regular basis by divers.   
The shells with their prized pearls are harvested  and the pearls removed for grading. Grading is carried out slowly by hand and there are 6 qualities that make a first class pearls.
Shape, Lustre, Blemishes, Colour and Depth of the nacre that has been secreted by the oyster. 
Treasured Akoya and Tahitian pearls, the" creme de la creme" of pearls, need to have at least an 8mm depth of nacre and will be xrayed to ensure this.
Pearls farmed in Saltwater conditions may only produce 1 - 10 pearls, whereas Freshwater pearls are impregnated many more times and can produce up to 400 pearls.
You can start to see now, why some pearls are quite expensive and the Freshwater pearls less so.
Nothing from pearl farm is wasted.  During harvesting women will follow the fishermen bringing up the nets and clean the nets of crabs, other molluscs , small fish and vegetation to feed the farm workers.  The harvested shells are crushed for chicken feed supplement, which helps the fowl produce strong egg shells, which is then used as a PH balance in fish ponds and aquairums.  The delicious oysters are naturally, eaten by the farm workers too.
  Saltwater Pearls come naturally in many colours. White, cream, grey, pink, lemon, lavender, peach, cherished pale blue, peacock and golden.
   Fresh water pearls are white, grey pink and peacock and often dyed very exciting electric colours for more fahsion statement.
The most cherished pearls come from Japan and the South Seas with freshwater coming from many parts of the world.
Shapes are very varied too. Classic round, potato, rice, baroque and fintail, mabe, coin, seed, drop oval and keshi to mention a few.
Pearls are the birthstone for April, represent 30 years of marriage, beautiful gifts to celebrate weddings, garduation and coming of age.
Nothing is quite as good as owning your first set of pearls, earrings or necklace.
And when you start to understand the incredible journey , nothing is as beautiful as the uncut, unpolished gem of nature's oysters.

nn0127wa.jpg           c22e.jpg     yp018e.jpg