Pearl

buyers guide

What is Pearl?

Natural pearls are ‘organic’ gems, found in oceans and rivers, and formed inside shellfish such as oysters, mussels or conch by an irritant such as grit which has been coated by the creature with smooth nacre (layers of aragonite) which builds up over thousands of years to form the natural pearl. The light from these layers produces the characteristic iridescent lustre. Natural pearls are found in Burma, South Pacific Islands and Northern Australia.

Since the early 1900s, most new pearls are cultured. This is achieved by artificially stimulating the shellfish. They come from

  • Japan (Akoya pearls which are white, cream or blue in colour
  • Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines (South Sea Pearls which are white, yellow or gold in colour)
  • The Cook Islands (Black Tahitian which are grey to black in colour)

It is thought that the name ‘pearl’ may come from the Latin for a type of shell: perna.

The largest pearl ever found weighs over 90 grams and is called the Hope pearl.