Pearls are often called "children of light" or "sea stones". They're thought to have divine origins, magical powers and healing effects. They are also often perceived as symbols of sadness and are said to bring tears. However, Pearl Jewellery will convince you to the contrary - no sadness or tears, just luxury, beauty and purity.
 

The pearl is formed in the shell of shellfish, especially bivalves, and is made of the same material as their shells, like calcium carbonate. The formation of pearls occurs between the shell and the skin of the shell, which covers its organs. The mollusc begins to create a pearl due to an impulse: the intrusion of a foreign object into its shell, which is most often a grain of sand. The mollusc begins to wrap the foreign object with thin layers of pearl and thus the pearl formation begins.

Pearls consist mainly of calcium carbonate, and proteins are also present. Thanks to this specific pearl composition, the pearl has a smooth and glossy finish. Pearls are most commonly white or cream coloured. Pink, grey or black pearls are much rarer.

Pearls are divided into saltwater and freshwater depending on the location of the mollusc. In freshwater shellfish, smaller white pearls are produced; larger and more colourful pearls are created by saltwater shellfish.

Did you know that a black pearl will only be created in 1 in 15,000 shells?

By the end of the 19th century, pearls were the most precious jewels in the world. Finding pearls in shells was random and rather rare, and pearl hunting was a very dangerous profession in which many divers perished.

At the beginning of the 20th century, pearls began to be produced "artificially". Japanese Kokichi Mikimoto founded the first farm for pearl farming in 1920 and attempted to grow artificial pearls (so called pearl nucleus). After initial failures, he managed to bring his method to perfection and produce beautiful, large and round pearls. Kokichi Mikimoto is rightly called the "King of pearls".

Nowadays, most of the pearl farms have been sold.

4 BASIC PEARL SPECIES

Akoya pearls

Saltwater pearls

The most famous type of pearls; most often have a white colour 

Japan and China

Pearls of the South Pacific (pearls of the South Seas)

Saltwater pearls

Most commonly white, silver and gold

Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines

Tahitian pearls

Saltwater pearls

Colours range from white to black

Islands around French Polynesia (the most famous is Tahiti)

Freshwater pearls

Freshwater ponds and lakes

A wide range of colours, shapes and sizes

China, USA

Did you know that...?

The pearl is the jewel of the Cancer zodiac sign.

The pearl is the birthstone for the month of June.

The Pearl Anniversary occurs on the 30th anniversary.

NATURAL AND CULTIVATED PEARLS
Natural pearls are very rare, especially nowadays. Historically, they were found mainly in the Persian Gulf region, but now, most of the pearl harvest locations have been replaced by oil locations.

Cultivated pearls are artificially grown on pearl farms. We can find farms in both salt and fresh waters. A small bullet is placed in the mollusc of the shell and the shell begins to produce pearls. The formation of cultivated pearls takes 1.5 to 2 years.

 

SALTWATER PEARLS
Saltwater pearls are formed in seas and oceans. They are most often made by Pinotada margaritifera, which live in the tropical and subtropical regions of the Pacific and grow up to 30 centimeters in size.

Did you know that Pinotada can only produce up to two pearls in its life? That's why sea pearls are more valuable and their price is higher than freshwater pearls.

Types of pearls

Tahitian Pearls
Akoya Pearls
South Pacific Pearls
 
FRESHWATER PEARLS
Freshwater pearls are created in rivers, ponds and lakes and they are most often made by Margaritifera margaritifera, which is also present in Czech Republic, but as a threatened species. 

Did you know that Margaritifera can produce up to 20 pearls in its life? That's why jewels with freshwater pearls are cheaper than jewels with saltwater pearls.

 

MYTHS AND LEGENDS ABOUT PEARLS
Pearls have long been called "children of light" or "sea stones". People were always fascinated by them, and they are thought to have a magic and healing power.

Pearls are said to contain tears. According to the ancient Persian legend, pearls are the tears of the gods, which fell to the earth where they were trapped in the shells of molluscs and made into beautiful jewels. Chinese legends talk about the dragon, god of the rain, who flew over the sea and dropped water droplets from his open mouth. These droplets turned into pearls in the moonlight. The Indians believe that pearls are moon dew.

It is said that when the goddess of beauty and love Aphrodite came out of the sea, a droplet of water ran down her body and turned into a pearl in the moonlight.

Pearls have always been said to have healing effects. Chinese doctors have used them to cure epilepsy, madness and alcohol addiction.

 
PEARL HUNTING
At the beginning of the 20th century, hunters hunted for shells for their nacre, which was then used to make buttons. The pearls that appeared in some shells were a pleasant bonus - but their occurrences were very irregular and random. 

The richest site of saltwater pearls:

Gulf of Mannar (the sea between Ceylon and southern India)
Persian Gulf
Red Sea
South of Australia to the Pacific Islands


The richest site of freshwater pearls:

Mississippi Valley (America)

ARTIFICIAL CULTIVATION OF PEARLS
The artificial cultivation of pearls has taken place since the beginning of the 20th century. The Japanese Kokichi Mikimoto founded the first farm for pearl farming in 1920 and attempted to grow artificial pearls there. After initial failures, he managed to bring his method to perfection and produced beautiful, large and round pearls. Kokichi Mikimoto is rightly called the "King of pearls".

How does artificial cultivation work?

The production of pearls takes place artificially on farms in both salt and fresh waters. A 6mm large ball, which comes from a shell of a freshwater shellfish, is inserted into the open-ended shell with special pliers. Subsequently, the perineum seam shoots and is tied to the rope and returned to the water. This rope remains hanging for about 1.5 years (a pearl grows by one millimeter per year), and regular checks and cleaning are carried out. A pearl will be formed in about half of the shells - others won't take or will perish and become food for fishes.

The same shell can be used to "make" pearls several times - they're usually used three times. Afterwards, its contents are used in the kitchen or to produce buttons from the shell as souvenirs for tourists.

Methods of cultivation

Seed method

A small fragment of the freshwater bayonet is placed under the perlorvary pearl, which will be covered for one year with the pearls. Then, the wrapped parcel is removed and inserted into another perclone. This way larger pearls can be produced over the years.

Bead method

A bead is placed beneath a pearl on the end, which is only a little smaller than the resulting pearl. The bead is carved from the freshwater bayonet box and is wrapped with a perlite in a layer measuring just about 1 millimeter. This makes the "production" of pearls much faster.

 

Sources used:

The Pearl Book - The Definitive Buying Guide. (2008). 4th ed. Woodstock: GemStone Press, pp.Pages 38 - 62. Pearl-guide.com. (2016). Pearl Sizes. [online] Available at: http://www.pearl-guide.com/forum/content.php?90-Pearl-Sizes [Accessed 10 Nov. 2016].Gia.edu. (2016). Pearl Description. [online] Available at: http://www.gia.edu/pearl-description [Accessed 10 Nov. 2016].American Gem Society. (2016). About Pearls. [online] Available at: https://www.americangemsociety.org/en/pearls [Accessed 10 Nov. 2016].