Glorious Pearls

Pearl Culturing
Natural Pearls vs. Cultured Pearls

Natural pearls, are pearls formed by chance. The shape, size, and quality of natural pearls varies widly. Cultured pearls have been given a helping hand by man and are consistent in shape, size and quality. Cultured pearls can also be mass produced. Naturally occuring pearls develop when an irritant, usually a parasite, accidentally finds its way into a pearl oyster or other mollusk. The mollusk reacts by coating the irritant with layer upon layer of a substance known as ‘nacre’. Nacre is an organic secretion that gives the pearl its iridescent beauty. This unique relationship gives birth to the natural pearl.
Cultured pearls are created by inserting a foreign object into an saltwater oyster or freshwater mollusk. The same process of natural pearl creation then takes place. Cultured pearls can only be distinguished from natural pearls through the use of x-rays, which reveals the nucleus of the pearl. Today, nearly all pearls are cultured.
Shell
The History of Pearl CulturingTatsuhei Mise, Tokishi Nishikawa, and Kokichi Mikimoto. Early in Mikimoto’s career he focused on saltwater mabé pearl production. He eventually perfected his technique for producing round cultured saltwater pearls. This technique involved inserting tissue into the gonad of an akoya mollusk. He patented this technique in 1916.
Mikimoto’s technique revolutionized the pearl industry by allowing consistent production of a large number of pearls. High quality, round pearls could now be produced by the millions; making them available and affordable to everyone. Today, the cultured pearl industry has essentially replaced the natural pearl industry with production of cultured freshwater pearls and cultured saltwater pearls including South Sea, Tahitian, and of course Mikimoto’s original akoya pearls.
By the 1980’s the Chinese had entered the free-market and the demand for Chinese pearls exploded. Today China is the predominant commercial producer of freshwater pearls on pearl farms.Today cultured pearls are grown by the thousands on pearl farms. The first step in the process is toobtain the mollusks that will be nucleated. The original practice was to simply collect the mollusks from their natural habitat. Today many pearl farms have an extensive breeding program. After fertilization and theintial growth period baby mollusks are moved to a “nursery” bed and tended for 1 to 2 years until they are large enough to benucleate. Thousands of mollusks are nucleated and then cultivated for 2-5 years, the time required for a pearl to develop. Saltwater pearls arenucelated using a “bead” made of mother-of-pearl. This bead is covered with a piece of donor oyster tissue and implanted in the oyster’sreporductive organ called the gonad. The pearl will develop in the shape of the “bead” that was implanted. The result of this process is very uniform pearls.

Pearl Nets

Freshwater pearls are grafted with mantle tissue only. The implants are placed in the valves rather than in the gonad of the mussel. Each mussel can accept 12 to 16 grafts per valve and will produce 24 to 32 pearls per culturing cycle. After the pearls have been nucleated they are returned to the beds to grow for several additional years. Once the pearls are fully developed, they are harvested. The shell and meat of the saltwater akoya and freshwater mussel are discarded after harvesting. South Sea and Tahitian oysters are carefully hand harvested. For each fully developed pearl that is removed a new nucleus is implaneted in the already formed pearl sac. The oysters are then returned to the bed to grow another pearl. These particular oysters can be recultivated several times during their life cycle. After the pearls are harvested they are washed and sorted. Some pearls are then bleached, heat-treated or dyed.

Like other farming, pearl farming depends as much on luck as on skill. A pearl farm can be devastated by water pollution, storms, excessive heat or cold, disease and other natural and man-made factors. In recent years Chinese pearl farms have been impacted negatively by severe storms, pollution and over production. This will lead to a decrease in availabilty and an increase in price of freshwater pearls.
Sources:
Pearls: A Natural History by Landman, Mikkelsen, Bieler and Bronson
www.pearl-guide.com/pearl-farms.shtml
www.costellos.com.au/pearls/cultivation.html
www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pearl/time.html

On Creativity

This summer we moved from the Boston (MA) Area where we lived for 30 years to the country in Maine…quite an adjustment I must say, even though I love it here. I love to put on my hiking boots and go for a hike in the woods. We have State Parks everywhere here and it’s a joy to explore. I have some viking blood and love adventures in new territory even though I have no sense of direction and get easily lost! I picked up wild mushrooms all summer and had some yummy meals. I grew up going wild mushroom hunting in France with my family & have fond memories of these times.

Some days all I do is take photographs for my shop. This summer I revamped my whole store…photos, listings and all. A lot of time and energy was put into that.

Some days all I do is computer stuff…I am running a Shop, two Websites, a Monthly Newsletter and now this Blog. I love anything that involves creativity…I was born that way. If it’s computer day, a lot of concentration is involved and I sometimes have a hard time stopping…compulsive is my modus operandi…still working on it!

Because I am so intense, I do all of this 100% +, Like my husband says jokingly…everything in moderation! I am really enjoying this blog. It scared me at first but now that I have started, I am on a roll!

Some days the time is right to create new Jewelry. I set myself up with soft music playing in the background (Classical, Instrumental & Soaking Music). I Love to Listen to Julie True, she totally gets my spirit connected to God my Creator and when this happens it’s like digging into treasure…colors, shapes, designs come together!

Today in between the electrician being here with electricity going off and on all morning & updating my blog, I made a new necklace. I love that design…gold chain, gold wire and findings with silver accents.

Caring for Pearls

Pearls are more fragile than most gemstones so they must be handled with care to keep them in their best condition.

Care

• Re-knot your pearl necklaces periodically to ensure that the silk cord holding them is in good shape.
• Always put your pearls on after you’ve applied your makeup, perfume and hairspray.
• Take your pearl rings off before applying lotions or creams.

Cleaning

• Dirty pearls may be cleaned with a mild soap and water solution or a specialty pearl cleaning solution. Never clean your pearls with solutions that contain ammonia or harsh detergents.
• Don’t use an abrasive cleaner or wipe pearls with an abrasive cloth as both can scratch the nacre coating.
• Don’t use an ultrasonic cleaner to clean pearl jewelry.
• If you have purchased some pearls, I always suggest that because they scratch easily, you be careful to keep them in a safe place. If you purchased a hand knotted piece, make sure you keep it away from water as with water use the silk will stretch and extend the piece. A precaution as far as cleaning our sterling silver jewelry, all pearls and most semi-precious stones are porous and will get damaged by most jewelry cleaners. Baking Soda mixed with water can be applied with a soft cloth and works great. Make a paste, rub it on the jewelry and rinse. I sometimes use baking soda toothpaste which works just as well. If you live in the USA you can purchase Wright’s Silver Cream which can be purchased in most Supermarkets, it works great.

Storage


• Store your pearls separately from other jewelry. Pearls can be easily scratched when metal or gemstones rub against them.
• Place your pearls in a special slot in your jewelry box, or keep them in a soft bag made from a non-abrasive material.

A Story of its Own – One Of A Kind Necklace

This necklace with beautiful Green Grossular Garnets has a real story. I made only one, had bought 2 bead strands….they are expensive! I kept searching for strands alike with very little success. I went to the internet and spent a long time looking and it’s not my favorite thing! I prefer seeing and touching them. Eventually I found a place that would sell me just a handful of them…somewhere in India. I had to use a money order and wasn’t sure I would ever receive any goods (you know how it goes with the internet!)! It took over a month and a half to receive them. They arrived in a metal box that was wrapped in sewn cloth! Amazing…direct from the factory! It totally made my day. This man I connected with through the internet there, seemed like a trustworthy person. I am usually suspicious of deals like that specially in India. I have been there many years ago and I know how it operates. I imagined women cutting these faceted stones by hand…or maybe children working as slaves. I felt guilty that maybe this was happening. Anyway I am yet to make another necklace like this one. The stones turned out a little smaller and with no very dark brown in them, but they are exquisite and beautiful. It really looks like a precious stone necklace. This is the real story behind the scenes. I sold it around Christmas 2010 and it got stolen during shipping! Good thing it was insured. I found the second strand I had lost and made this new necklace with these same beads. It’s beautiful and my last one too. Check the link to be redirected to this piece on my Etsy shop