The ABCs of Pearls Reveal Fascinating Aspects of Gems from the Deep

Man stands in front a GIA banner that features gemstones.
Nicholas Sturman, senior manager of identification at GIA in Thailand, spoke on pearls at GIA’s 114th Gemstone Gathering in Bangkok. Photo by Lhapsin Nillapat/GIA

Pearls are unique among gemstones because they are created by living organisms and need minor additional processing before they are placed in jewelry. There are many little known and fascinating facts about pearls that are sure to pique your curiosity about them.

Nicholas Sturman, senior manager of identification at GIA in Thailand, gave a presentation on pearls to students and members of the jewelry trade in Bangkok on Dec. 19 at GIA’s quarterly GIA Gemstone Gathering. The talk, “The A-Z of Pearls,” covered at least one pearl-related subject for each letter of the alphabet.

He began with abalone for “A” for example, while “fluorescence” and “pigment,” represented the letters “F” and “P,” respectively. His goal was to encourage attendees to think more deeply about pearls.

This appeared to work with some of the guests, since comments like “I didn’t know there was so much variety in mollusks and pearls” and “I think I need to check out what GIA offers in the way of pearl courses” were overheard during the post-talk hands-on showing of various mollusks and pearl samples that were brought along to further educate the attendees.

More than a dozen people surround a table of pearl and mollusk samples.
Sturman and some of his team (back right) look at and discuss pearl and mollusk samples with some of the attendees. Photo by Lhapsin Nillapat/GIA

“It is always rewarding to see participants benefit in even the slightest way from such events,” Sturman said. “Hopefully the experience will lead them onto further research into some of the subjects covered and open their eyes to the fascinating world of pearls.”

GIA offers a pearl course where these details and many others may be learned. The course is ideal for anyone who wants to study more about this branch of gemology or wants to go deeper into the subject so that they can better serve their pearl buying clients.

Amanda J. Luke, a senior communications manager, is the editor of the GIA Insider and an editor and writer at GIA for 18 years.