About Pearls

How Pearls are made

Freshwater or river pearls are cultured, farmed and harvested inside the shell of large mussels. Living in freshwater, a mussel produces 20-30 pearls at a time. Oyster pearls are farmed in salt water in the ocean and an oyster produces a single pearl per harvest. Clean clear lakes, rivers and ponds of mainland China is where the majority of the worlds freshwater pearls are produced. A former rice paddy can be flooded 2–3 metres deep for successful cultivation. The fresh water environment must be at optimum conditions (peaceful, stable & pure) for mussels to thrive & to provide them with a wealth of nutrients

A pearl consists mostly of crystallised calcium carbonate & conchiolin. This combination is called nacre also known as Mother-of-Pearl & accounts for the shimmering lustre. Lustre refers to a pearl's iridescence or inner glow & the way the surface reflects light. A mollusc releases nacre to build the lining of its own shell; pearl formation is an accidental by-product of a natural function. In nature, a foreign body like a grain of sand or a parasite within a mollusc causes it to coat the intruder with nacre to form a pearl. In freshwater pearl cultivation, tissue from a donor mussel is carefully implanted. The mussel begins to coat the intruders with layer upon layer of nacre which become beautiful pearls. Freshwater pearls today are bigger, stronger, lustrous & more beautiful due to improved conditions & longer cultivation times

Since the early days of Rice Krispy pearls, freshwater pearls are irregular shapes as well as round, rice, egg, button, dome, pear & baroque. Natural colours are delicate shades of pink, peach, golden apricot, lavender, silvery metallic and cream. Brightly coloured freshwater pearls are carefully died to colours such as peacock, silver-grey, lime green, teal & aubergine. Cultured freshwater Biwa, Keshi and Coin pearls have unique shapes. Oyster pearls are Akoya, South-Sea and Tahitian

Farming the Pearls Opening the shells Sorting the Pearls Ready to use

 Story of Pearls

Pearls have been worn for thousands of years in Middle Eastern and Asian societies as early as 3500 BC. Pearls are referenced throughout mythology, folklore and Scripture. They were considered magical & mysterious, resembling the moon & connected to the Gods. Ancient Greeks used pearls for romantic customs and ceremonies regarding them as symbols of love, devotion and marriage

The Romans revered pearls & ladies of privilege were adorned with them announcing their status. To prove Egypt’s wealth & power, Cleopatra proposed the most expensive dinner date in history. She crushed a pearl into powder dissolving it in wine and drank it as a challenge to Marc Antony, who conceded defeat (don't try this at home). General Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling a single pearl earring belonging to his mother (another bad idea)

At the dawn of Christianity pearls continued their popularity. The Bible refers to pearls several times and the value placed on this natural gem. Following the sacking of Rome, Constantinople became the centre of wealth due to its fortunate position situated between the source of pearls and the consumer

Elizabeth l wore pearls as symbols of power & purity. The Armada portrait of 1588 features six long pearl strands reaching her waist, a halo of hair pins made of large drop pearls & a multitude of pearls sewn into the lines & decorative bows of her gown. Elizabeth owned 3000 gowns embroidered with pearls & jewels plus 80 pearl studded powdered wigs

La Peregrina, a pure white pear shaped pearl, was found in Panama by a slave who surrendered it in return for his freedom. In 1570, a Conquistador sent it to King Philip II of Spain & it landed in the bosom of Mary Tudor. It became the property of Napoleon III. It was sold to the Duke of Abercorn whose familysold it at Sotheby’s. It was famously purchased by Richard Burton for Elizabeth Taylor on St.Valentines day. La Peregrina meaning The Wanderer was sold once again at auction for over £7 million

The Persian Gulf remained the epicentre of pearl trading for more than 4000 years.  It has produced some of the finest natural pearls since ancient times. The largest pearl in the world is said to be the Pearl of Asia, presented as a gift from the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan to his favoured wife, Mumtaz. He also built The Taj Mahal in her honour

Pearls had finally been eclipsed by diamonds. Louis XIV the Sun King, brought sparkle to his kingdom following the discovery of diamonds. Purchasing an entire cache of diamonds from India, Louis XIV had them all sewn on to a sparkling cloak. The abundance of diamonds made the cloak unbearably heavy & unable to support the weight, the King was forced to change it for a lighter cloak during a banquet.

In the early 1900s, 3 Japanese men independently discovered the secret of culturing pearls: Kokichi Mikimoto is the most famous and he purchased the rights from the others to start the famous Mikimoto cultured Akoya pearl industry

Jacques Cartier purchased his famous store on New York's Fifth Avenue in 1916 for the price of two perfect pearls 

Towards the end of the 20th century the Chinese successfully mastered the art of culturing beautiful quality freshwater pearls. Until the discovery of diamonds, pearls were the most valuable gems. Before culturing, natural pearls were rare & expensive, available only to Royalty and the well connected. Today you can own & wear beautiful pearls at prices unimaginable 100 years ago