How Rare Is It To Find A Pearl In An Oyster?
Pearls are formed by mollusks secreting a mixture of substances called nacre. This rugged material lines the inside of the oyster’s shell and then wraps around the irritant to form a perfectly spherical pearl.
However, there are no guarantees that the mollusks will produce pearls, making the odds of finding a pearl in an oyster around one in a thousand. Natural pearls are scarce. Only 1 in about 10,000 wild oysters will yield a pearl; of those, only a tiny percentage achieve the size, shape, and color desirable to the jewelry industry.
Cultured Pearls are Formed by Oysters Implanted with Larger Beads
Cultured pearls are formed in oysters by implanting larger beads into their shells. The oysters used to create pearls are called Hyriopsis cumingi, and they can produce up to 40 pearls per harvest. They produce pearls in the mantle tissue, the tissue that coats the inner valves of the oyster. Once the oysters are implanted with the larger beads, nacre begins to deposit in the mantle. The oysters then return to the water to continue the growth of their pearl.
Cultured pearls are different from natural pearls because they are created artificially. Creating a natural pearl is unrepeatable, requiring a certain amount of luck. Cultured pearls are manufactured in pearl farms. The materials are placed inside the animal and cause the animal to produce nacre, a layer that protects the pearl material. Cultured pearls can be differentiated from natural pearls by X-ray, as they tend to follow the shape of the shell-bead nucleus. Once formed, these pearls are harvested after about six months.
Cultured pearls can vary significantly in size, shape, and color. A common type is an Akoya pearl, less than 10mm and grown in Japan. Another type is the biwa pearl, which originated in Japan and is now grown in China. These pearls are made of mantle tissue and are much smaller than their Japanese counterparts.
Even though these oysters are susceptible, most pearl farms still depend on the surviving oysters, as only 2 percent of pearls are produced. Moreover, many factors can affect the quality of the pearls produced. For example, environmental deterioration can affect the oyster’s ability to produce a pearl.
Oriental Pearls are the World’s Most Precious Gem
Ancient civilizations have revered pearls for thousands of years. They were mentioned in the Rigveda, the oldest known text in the world, and the sage king Yu was said to have been gifted with pearls from the river Huai. However, the oldest known ornament crafted with pearls dates back to the fourth century BC. The Susa Necklace ornament contains 216 pearls strung across three rows and separated by nine gold discs.
The value of a pearl depends on its natural color. There are three components to natural pearl color: body color, overtone, and orientation. The body color is the dominant color of the pearl. The overtone is a translucent color that covers most of the pearl’s surface. The Orient is a secondary color visible on a smaller section of the pearl’s surface. Pearls may also be iridescent or rainbow-colored.
A pearl can be made from many different types of shells. It can be made into a variety of shapes. The lesser-known pearls are jellybean pearls from conch shells and Melo snail pearls. Other varieties of pearls are made from different clam species.
Annoushka has a collection of jewelry featuring some of the most precious pearls in the world. Her collection features rare and beautiful pearls from the South Sea and the Philippines. She credits this experience with inspiring her to pursue a career in jewelry design. Another type of pearl is black, which has a dark iridescent shimmer.
Pearls are among the oldest and most precious gems. Their elegant, serene beauty and watery origins have inspired symbolism for centuries.
Freshwater Pearls are not Gem Quality
While pearls are valuable, they’re rare and are produced by the oysters themselves. Only about one in ten thousand oysters will produce a gem-quality pearl naturally. If they were, pearl ownership would be restricted to the wealthiest individuals on the planet. That means that the oysters themselves would be in danger of extinction. This is a terrible outcome for a treasured species that has been valued for thousands of years by the masses.
Cultivating pearls begins when the oyster is induced to secrete nacre. Nacre is a calcium carbonate compound that forms around the pearl—mussels deposit layers of nacre around their pearls. Once the oyster is mature, a single pearl can take between two to three years to form. The process is expensive – some pearl farmers can spend more than $100 per oyster!
Another way to tell if a pearl is of gem quality is to see its luster. Pearls with a high luster tend to be more expensive than those with a low luster. Fortunately, freshwater pearls are less expensive than saltwater pearls. Pearls from freshwater oysters have improved in quality over the past two decades. The pearl farming industry changed the type of mussels in the middle of the 20th century, which increased the number of pearls produced.
In addition to color, freshwater pearls can also come in different shapes. While only five percent of the pearls are perfectly round, the rest are button-shaped, semi-baroque, or baroque. In the past, only round pearls were considered gem-quality jewelry. However, this trend has changed, and there is a growing interest in irregularly shaped pearls.
Cultured Pearls are Natural, Genuine Pearls
Both natural and cultured pearls are genuine gemstones formed by an oyster or mollusk. Creating cultured pearls involves inserting a tiny irritant into the oyster, where it develops a pearl. The oyster then covers the irritant with smooth layers of nacre, a pearl’s natural protective covering. The result is a perfectly round pearl. Cultured pearls also tend to be more durable than natural pearls. Their nacre is more demanding and more resistant to scratching. Of course, both types of pearls are valuable, but natural pearls are more difficult to find and command much higher prices at auctions.
Cultured pearls are not to be confused with fake pearls, commonly sold in jewelry stores and made of plastic, shell, or ceramics. Cultured pearls come from two main types: freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater pearls are commonly found in jewelry stores and are more affordable than expensive Akoya pearls.
Cultured pearls differ in color, luster, shape, and size from one. However, the majority of pearls are honest and easily recognizable. Natural pearls are rarely larger than 1.5 inches in diameter, have a rough surface, and are heavier than fake pearls.
Despite the differences in price and quality, both natural and cultured pearls are genuine pearls. Cultured pearls are created and nurtured on pearl farms and offer decent survival rates. On the other hand, natural pearls have a lower survival rate because of the risks associated with diving and harvesting. Furthermore, since cultured pearl farms are privately owned, the safety and welfare of oysters and cultivators are ensured.
Natural pearls are formed when an oyster encounters an irritant in the seawater, dust, or sea sand. This irritant triggers the oyster’s defensive mechanism, which forms layers of secretions called nacre. Over time, these secretions will form the natural pearl. Cultured pearls are created with the same technique but aren’t created by the same accidental irritant.