Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Pearls: A few questions answered

The pearl is the oldest known gem, and for centuries was considered the most valuable.  The majority of pearls now are cultured, in which an irritant is inserted into the mussel or oyster, triggering a substance called nacre to be secreted around it, which eventually forms the pearl. 

The most common types of pearl that our jewellers use are:

Lynn Kelly - Mabe Pearl & 18ct Gold Earrings
Mabe Pearls: A blister pearl, where a half-bead nucleus is glued against the inside of the shell, prompting nacre to be secreted over the bead.  When formed, the blister is cut from the shell and the bead removed. The remaining cavity is then filled and covered with a mother-of-pearl backing.

Blair Smith - MOP & Stg Silver Brooch
Mother of Pearl: The smooth, hard pearly lining on the interior of a mollusk shell.

Tahitian Pearl & 18ct gold Earrings by Frances Stachl
 Tahitian Pearls: A dark coloured pearl from the black-lipped oyster. Only naturally coloured black pearls, as opposed to dyed ones, can be called Tahitian Black Pearls.

The best way to clean pearls, is to just wipe with a damp soft cloth.  If there is a lot of dirt to be removed, then they can be gently washed in water with mild soap.  It is important to note that pearl jewellery should be removed before applying cosmetics, hairsprays or perfumes, to prevent any surface reactions.