Chinese Pearl Rings

Over 66% of pearls produced in the world come from Chinese companies. These companies produce 24 tons of pearls each year. China is relatively new to pearl production, what is now known as the Chinese pearl is the Akoya pearl. Akoya pearls come from the oyster Pinctada Fucata. The name “Akoya” is Japanese for “saltwater”. Though called Chinese pearls, the Akoya is cultured in Japan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, and Korea as well.

The first mention of pearls was in 2206 BC. A Chinese historian wrote about the beauty of a natural pearl. The method used for culturing pearls was originally developed by British biologist William Saville Kent. Kent brought the method from Australia to Japan, sharing it with Tokichi Nishikawa and Tatsuhei Mise. The patent for the process was owned by Mikimoto, who later gave it to Nishikawa when in 1916 he married Mikimoto’s daughter. Mise’s brother was the first of the group to actually produce a commercial crop of pearls. Iwasaki, the Baron of Mitsubishi, used the technology to the pearl oysters of the South Sea in 1917. He used the method in the Philippines and produced the first commercial crop of South Sea pears in 1928. The oyster used for Akoya pearls today is a hybrid of the pinctada fucata martensii and the Chinese pinctada chemnitzii. The largest producer of freshwater pearls worldwide is in Shanghai.

The majority of pearls available for purchase are cultured. The process for farming pearls has revolutionized the trade of pearls. Since cultured pearls are less expensive, there is now a pearl for every budget. There are many things that make Akoya pearls special. They are known for quality and undergo a strict selection process which ensures only the highest quality pearls go to market. Akoya pearls take ten to eighteen months from the time that they are nucleated until they are able to be harvested. The nucleation process involves placing a bead into the oyster at a precise time. The oyster then covers the bead with calcium carbonate crystals causing the luster and beautiful color of the pearl. It is a highly scientific process that has been so perfected; the only way to differentiate a cultured pearl from a natural is through x-ray. An x-ray would show a solid bead in the middle of the pearl, there would also be an absence of growth rings. The cooler waters cause the development to be slower than other cultured pearls. This slow process increases the reflective qualities of the pearl. Less than half of the oysters survive the nucleation process. After they’ve matured only 5% of pearls are rated as high quality. The nacre is half of a millimeter thick, though it has a great amount of shine. The low survival rate, strict selection, and high quality standards combined make Akoya pearls very valuable.

When used for a ring, special care is taken to ensure that the pearl is set properly. A hole is drilled into the pearl, into which a bar is placed. The pearl is then secured onto the setting with a solution called two part epoxy. Two part epoxies are a combination of adhesives that when combined are extremely strong. They are able to withstand extreme temperature changes and are waterproof. These adhesives are commonly used on sports items, electronics, and bonding military tools.

Two popular ring options for a pearl are engagement and cocktail. Cocktail rings are oversized and are usually comprised of one large gem and smaller stones. They were made popular in the 1940s and 1950s, where they were worn to formal parties. The pearl is also known as the “stone of sincerity.” This makes them an excellent choice as an alternative to traditional engagement rings. Pearl weight is measured by a standard called “momme.” This measurement originates with Japanese pearlers and has been used for centuries. To convert to pounds, 1/1000 kan is a momme, and 1 kan = 8.28 pounds. The size of Chinese pearls varies from 5 mm to 9mm. When purchasing a pearl for a ring, a lower quality stone of irregular shape can be chosen. With the right setting and surrounding stones, every pearl can be enhanced.

Color is more than personal preference when buying pearls. It can also affect the value. On a scale from least expensive to most, the colors of Akoya pearls is; cream, light cream, white with silver or pink overtone, dark cream, and pink. The most valuable color is the Hanadama. It is a bluish pink color with blue and pink overtones. It may also have a light pink body with either blue or pink overtones. Akoya pearls have overtone shades also, green overtones will decrease the value, silver does not change price, and the pink overtones are worth more.

When wearing a pearl on a ring, special care must be taken to ensure it is not knocked loose. Pearls can be cleaned with a soft cloth and warm soapy water. There are also cleaners available that are considered safe for pearls. Your pearl ring should be stored in a pouch separate from other jewelry. Heat and chemicals can cause your pearl to lose some of its luster.

The setting of your ring will most likely be silver or gold. Depending on the setting material, care for your ring will vary. Silver and gold rings can be cleaned with store bought solutions. An alternative is using warm soapy water to remove any dirt.

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