Diamonds may be a girl’s best friend, but did you know that pearls might have already had a longer affair with females? In fact, pearls were once so lusted after, a story goes that Cleopatra dissolved a pearl in her wine and drank it just to prove her love for Marc Anthony. Although the legitimacy of that feat is a little dubious (it would take a particularly caustic amount of acid in a glass of wine to disintegrate a pearl that quickly!) the precious value of the pearl still holds true today.
There could be many reasons to explain why pearls are so treasured, not least because they are the only jewel produced by animals – specifically molluscs such as oysters and mussels. The pearls are formed in response to an irritant in the molluscs’ body, as they coat the object with layers of substance called nacre. Even then, naturally formed pearls are found in 1 in 10,000 oysters. Thankfully, innovations and advances in production have made obtaining pearls much easier than before. In light of how different times are, here are 5 things we think you should know about pearls:
1) Pearls can be cultivated
Pearls can be worn in a variety of styles. Pictured: Carrie K. Pearls & Lock Necklace with 8mm Cream Pearls.
An overwhelming 90% of pearls you’ll find today are actually cultivated in oyster farms, where farmers deliberately place the irritant into the oysters’ body. Real, naturally occurring pearls can be found in Tahitian black-lipped and South Sea oysters.
2) Pearls are naturally asymmetrical
For all their shimmer and allure, pearls aren’t perfectly spherical. Most of the pearls that you encounter might look like perfect circles, but upon closer scrutiny are actually off-round – some might even have uneven surfaces on them. In fact, the most valuable pearls come in shapes that you won’t even have names to describe!
The largest pearl recorded in 2016 – weighing over 30 kilograms and spanning 30cm in width, looks nothing like a circle nor oval. If anything, it might even resemble a piece of chewed gum! Yet this odd-shaped pearl is valued at a hefty $100 million!
The world's largest pearl. Image credit: Aileen Cynthia Amurao
3) Pearls can be graded
Just like a credit system, pearls are also assigned a grade based on their physical attributes. Depending on the amount of blemish, lustre and not least of all the clearness of your face when reflected on the pearl, pearls are graded between A and AAA for Akoya and Freshwater pearls, and A and D for Tahitian pearls.
With such a stringent classification criteria and the oddity of pearls’ shape mentioned earlier, you would infer that no two pearls are identical.
4) The black pearl – and other pearl colour variants
Thanks to Pirates of the Carribean you might have already heard of the black pearl, which is a hallmark of Tahitian oysters. Given its uniqueness it’s no surprise that black pearls fetch a more premium price than their white equivalent. Black isn’t just the only colour that pearls come in. From pink, blue, green and even iridescent, it seems like the colour spectrum of pearls could only be limited by nature’s imagination.
Be careful in picking out these pearls though; some might be dyed instead of naturally coloured.
Check out Carrie K.'s Pearls & Lock necklace available in black pearls
5) Extra care is needed for pearls
Of all the gemstones you’d find today, pearls are actually very soft. Coming in between 2.5 and 4.5 of the Mohs Hardness Scale (diamonds top out at 10), that makes them scratchable by even a nickel coin! It’s no surprise then that pearls demand extra care and attention that are worthy of their preciousness – perfume, fragrance oils and even sweat are to be avoided. Use a soft and dry cloth to clean your pearls, remove dirt and maintain their lustre. Ever the diva, pearls should be stored separately from other jewellery in a soft pouch.
Regardless of their quirkiness and fragility, the thirst for these lustrous, almost moon-like gems has weathered through the test of time and changing tastes through generations. Today, women both young and old still wear them in a variety of styles, and Carrie K. has specially come up with a series of pearl necklaces and accessories to put a twist to pearl-wearing conventions. As Jackie Kennedy aptly put it, “pearls are always appropriate”.
Shop our Pearls Galore now, or come and visit Carrie K.'s Atelier and our Pearl Bar to pick a precious pearl product for yourself or your loved ones.