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Pearl

Perfect shining spheres. Lustrous baroque forms. Seductive strands, warm to the touch. Pearls are simply and purely organic.

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Beautiful Luster

Pearl’s special luster sets it apart from other gems.

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Perfect Sphere

Perfectly spherical pearls of excellent quality are extreme rarities.

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Smooth as Silk

Few pearls are completely blemish free.

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Overview

About Pearl

Perhaps the best-loved gems of all time, pearls—natural and cultured—occur in a wide variety of colors. The most familiar are white and cream, but the palette of colors extends to every hue. Natural pearls form around a microscopic irritant in the bodies of certain mollusks. Cultured pearls are the result of the deliberate insertion of a bead or piece of tissue that the mollusk coats with nacre.

Pearl Description Pearl History and Lore Pearl Journey

Birthstones & Anniversaries

Pearl is the birthstone for June and the gem of the third and thirtieth anniversaries.

2206 BC

A Chinese historian writes about pearls for the first time.


653 Fifth Avenue

In 1917, Pierre Cartier traded a double strand of natural pearls for a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City.


1893

Kokichi Mikimoto successfully cultures a pearl in Japan.


Facts

  • Mineral: Calcium Carbonate
  • Chemistry: CaCO3
  • Color: White, black, gray, yellow, orange, pink, lavender, green, blue
  • Refractive Index: 1.52-1.69
  • Specific Gravity: 2.60-2.85
  • Mohs Hardness: 2.5-3.0

Where It's Found

map

Treatments

There are a number of processes used to alter the color, apparent clarity, or improve the durability of gems.

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Synthetics

Some gemstones have synthetic counterparts that have essentially the same chemical, physical, and optical properties, but are grown by man in a laboratory.

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Imitations

Any gem can be imitated—sometimes by manmade materials or by natural materials chosen by man to impersonate a particular gem.

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gem love

Why We Love This Gemstone

1
Luster

Luster results from reflection of light rays off the pearl’s surface, and from concentric inner layers of nacre, like light bouncing off a convex mirror.

2
Imitations

Imitation pearls are smooth when rubbed against your teeth, while natural or cultured pearls have a slightly rough texture.

3
Natural pearls

Natural pearls can be separated from cultured pearls by taking X-rays to reveal their inner structures.

Quality Factors

An assessment of the following characteristics determines the value of each type of pearl.

Luster

quality factors

Pearls with high luster have sharp bright reflections on the surface.

Surface quality

quality factors

The number of blemishes on a pearl's surface is evaluated to judge quality.

Shape

quality factors

Spherical pearls are the most valued but symmetrical drops are also sought.

Color

quality factors

Although white is most classic, appreciation has grown for more unusual natural colors.

Nacre thickness

quality factors

Nacre thickness is evaluated to make sure that cultured pearls are durable as well as beautiful.

Size

quality factors

Cultured pearls range from 2-16mm in diameter, depending on the mollusk used.

Matching

quality factors

For pearl strands and multi-pearl pieces, how well the pearls match (or mix) affects the value.

Pearl Quality Factors: The Comprehensive Guide

Research

Explore sources, gemological research, and the role of gems in history.

From Single Source to Global Free Market: The Transformation of the Cultured Pearl Industry

Russell Shor Read Article

Natural Pearls from Australian Pinctada Maxima

Kenneth Scarratt, Peter Bracher, Michael Bracher, Ali Attawi, Ali Safar, Sudarat Saeseaw, Artitaya Homkrajae, and Nicholas Sturman , Dec 3, 2012 Read Article

Cultured Pearl Farming and Production in the Federated States of Micronesia

Laurent E. Cartier, Michael S. Krzemnicki, and Masahiro Ito , Jun 4, 2012 Read Article

Continuity and Change in Chinese Freshwater Pearl Culture

Doug Fiske and Jeremy Shepherd , Jul 31, 2007 Read Article