White Pearl Pendant

The white pearl is produced inside of the silver or golden lipped oyster. Its scientific name is Pinctada Maxima Oyster. This particular species of oyster is found along the shores of Indonesia, Australia, and the Philippines. It is also known as the South Sea pearl, the most valuable in the pearl market.

White pearls were first discovered during the 1880’s. They were harvested by divers off the Australian coast. It was not long before pearling schooners arrived with a crew of divers from Sri Lanka. The oysters were first harvested for their large size. The species was so populous that they could literally be picked up off the sand at low tide. Nearby is the small Australian town of Broome, which became so popular for its pearls that the pearls found there were called “Broome Pearls.” In only three short years, Australia supplied 75% of the mother of pearl, worldwide. The large harvest had a dramatic effect on the species, causing its numbers to drop drastically. The risk of extinction led to government involvement and prohibition of harvesting until 1949. Oysters were then harvested under strict regulation by the Australian government.

William Saville Kent was the first to create man made pears. He began culturing pearls in the late 1890’s. In 1922, the Australian government outlawed the practice of culturing pearls. This was done out of fear that the market for natural pearls would be destroyed. It wasn’t until 1956 that the first commercial pearl farm was established in Australia. This area that was once afraid of cultured pearls is now the supplier of 60% of south sea pearls.

The vast majority of pearls on the market are cultured. Cultured pearls are created by placing a very small bead into a growing oyster. As the oyster grows it deposits layers onto the bead called nacre. Imitation white pearls are on the market. Use caution when purchasing your pearl pendant and research the retailer you choose. Imitation white pearls are usually made from mother of pearl. They can also be made from coral, conch, or even glass that is coated with a fish scale solution.

The factors used to grade pearls are; size, shape, surface quality, color, thickness of nacre, and luster.

The size range for a white pearl is from 5 to 13 mm. Larger pearls have been found naturally and cultivated; however, anything larger than 13 mm is rare. The shapes or pearls include round, off round, semi baroque, oval, and teardrop. Perfectly round pearls are the most valuable and semi baroque are the least expensive of the shapes. The surface quality of a pearl is how clean its surface appears to be. The test is completed with the naked eye. The ratings are alphabetical from “A” to “D”. A rating of “A” means that the pearl appears to have a clean surface. It may have small ripples or indentations but they cover less than 10% of the total surface. The “B” rating is for pearls that have blemishes that are less than a third of the total surface area. For “C” rating, the surface are that is blemished is under two thirds, and a “D” grade is more than two thirds.

Color is a factor for grading the pearl also. It may surprise you to hear that not all white pearls are solid white. They may also be a golden shade and will have either white, silvery white, bluish white or pink overtones. Nacre is the material that gives the pearl its luster and color. The shine is produced by light reflecting off the layers of calcium carbonate crystals on the pearl. Larger pearls have more nacre and therefore are of a higher value. Nacre thickness is used to determine value. Jewelers will x ray pearls to measure the thickness. To protect the quality of the pearl export market, governments have standards for nacre thickness. It is commonly acceptable for the nacre to measure a minimum of .8mm in thickness. For grading, the nacre is listed as either “thick” or “thin.” Luster is measured on a scale from lowest which is “B” to the highest which is “AAA.” In between starting on the low end are; “A” and “AA.”

A benefit to wearing your pearl pendant everyday is that the skins natural oils will help the pearl retain its luster. However, exercise caution when handling chemicals. Exposure to chemicals such as cleaners, perfume, hairspray, and makeup can dull the pearls shine. As a general rule of thumb, put your pearl pendant on last thing before you leave. A benefit to wearing a pearl on a pendant instead of a string is that the setting will provide some protection from chemicals worn on the skin. When handling your pearl pendant, pick it up by the setting and not the pearl itself.

Though your pearl will be carefully placed into the setting, it still could come lose. Keep your pendant away from heat. Exposure to heat can cause a pearl to crack or change colors. Therefore, no steam should be used when cleaning. Also avoid ammonia and bleach. Instead, wipe with a damp cloth slightly wet with salt water. Store bought cleaners may be used, however, be sure to determine that they are safe for pearls. Always store your pendant in a pouch and separate from other pieces of jewelry. If placed with other metals or gems, the pendant can become scratched.

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