How many types of pearls are there?
There are just as many types of pearls as there are clams and oysters which actually create them. But of course we can’t call each of the pearls different types, that would really make it hard to have a discussion about pearls and other things related to the context. Different types of pearls are divided into classes, categories and groups considering many aspects. The main difference between pearls is whether they are cultured or natural. There are also false types of pearls, imitations. All the circumstances around the creating of the pearl will have affects on its final appearance. The time during which the pearls was in the oyster, the temperature of the water, the size of the original strange object inserted, the type of the water (fresh water or salt water) and many other things will result in different types of pearls. The proprieties that may differ between different types of pearls are for example size, form, color, thickness of nacre, luster and weight. At first, when you don’t know very much about the types of pearls existing you probably think that all pearls, to some extent, have a white shade color, are round in the shape and somewhere around half a centimeter in size. Well, you’re about to get to know that that’s not entirely correct…
Different Types Of Pearls
Except from the usual types of pearls like natural pearls, fresh water pearls and cultured pearls there are also more unusual pearl types. Among the types of pearls which are the most famous are the black pearls, the Keshi pearls and the Mabe pearls. One of the imitated types of pearls is the Majorica pearl. So there are really a lot of different types of pearls out there but In this article we’ll concentrate on the real pearls for jewelry.
Natural pearls is exactly what the name implies, that is to say, a pearl which is created in the nature without any aid from human. Natural pearls are the most rare of the types of pearls traded with today. That’s both because of the fact that they are already rare in nature, and because of pollution and other environmental issues are making it harder for the pearl producing creatures to survive. Of all the clams in the seas of the world there are not even one whole percent that give different types of pearls. The process of creating a pearl is very time demanding and if the clam isn’t left alone in peace, there will be no pearl. When selling natural pearls one measures the carat weight.
Of the natural types of pearls, freshwater pearls are the less expensive ones. The biggest producer country of fresh water pearls is China. A common feature of these pearls is their non round form. They are more often oblong and looks like puffed rice. The color of freshwater pearls depends on the mussel and can vary from white to almost black. The size varies between 2 and 16 millimeters.
When culturing pearls, a tiny bead or other object is put into the clam or oyster. The perfect pearl is called a mother of pearl. Almost all of the cultured pearls are made in Japan, the country which lead the business of cultured pearls. These types of pearls are not sold by carat weight but by size in millimeters.
Pearls from salt water are usually of a higher quality than other types of pearls.
Saltwater pearls come from mollusks in the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and other saline waters. There are different types of pearls from saltwater but the most common ones are South Sea pearls, akoya pearls (which you can read about below) and Tahitian pearls.
Akoya pearls are the most common cultured types of pearls. It was also the first pearl to be cultured and this lead to pearls being available even for ordinary people like you and me. When you see a piece of pearl jewelry it is probably made of akoya pearls. The pearls have a perfect spherical form and have usually a white or cream color but this may vary. The akoya pearls are very lustrous and beautiful.
South sea pearls
South Sea pearls are bigger than the types of pearls I’ve mentioned, the diameter can reach 10-20 millimeters. They are cultivated from a South Sea oyster found around Australia and Asia and have a silver or gold color. The South Sea pearls are the most expensive kinds of pearls today because they are so rare and have a good quality thanks to the thick layers of nacre.
The color of different types of pearls may vary a lot. We are used to think of pearls as white but there are also black pearls! The black pearls are very exclusive and are ready after two to five years. Out of one hundred oysters thirty may build a pearl of which two are perfect. Black pearls are valued according to five criteria. These are form, color, size, luster and thickness of nacre. Because the black pearls can be so different, so are the prices; black pearls can both be one of the most expensive kinds of pearls as well as a more inexpensive type. On of the types of pearls with black color is the Tahitian pearls. This is a South Sea pearl which comes from the Black-Lipped oyster and can get 9-16 millimeter in diameter. The pearls are not always entirely black, this is actually rare, but can have a color varying from gray and silver to purple and dark blue.
Except from the forms on common types of pearls (round or oblong), there are also more unusual forms like in the keshi pearls. These are small and not regularly round in the shape. They have no core but is composed by nacre only. The keshi pearls comes from an oyster in culture which never gets to the stage when a complete pearl is made. Instead, the inserted object is rejected. Keshi pearls can also be a pearl broken in small pieces during the process.
Mabe pearls are types of pearls with half or hemispherical pearls with flat backs which are cultured on the inside of the oyster shell instead of in the tissue. The implanted object also has a hemispherical form. When the mabe pearl (or mabe blister as it’s called before completion), is ready, it’s drilled out from the oyster. The back is covered in mother-of-pearl. The mabe pearls are not as expensive as round pearls but can be just as beautiful. You find them more often on pearl rings or pearl earrings than stringed on a necklace.
Imitated pearls are made from inexpensive glass beads which are coated with a thin layer of fine crushed fish shells in a solution. The layer is rather fragile. To separate imitated types of pearls from natural ones you can simply gently rub them against your teeth. The imitated pearls are smooth while the natural ones create more friction. The biggest industry for imitated pearls is located on The Island of Mallorca. Read more about this in the next paragraph. Imitated pearls can also be made by dipping a core of mother of pearl in the solution.
Majorica pearl jewelry are made of pearls from The Island of Mallorca. They are imitated but are available in a wider range of sizes and shapes that the mussels can’t produce. The core is a glass bead covered in a solution of pearl essence.
Chocolate pearls has actually not much to do with chocolate. They are absolutely not edible! But their color resemble much the one of milk chocolate or dark chocolate, cocoa and coffee. The pearls are very beautiful when set in gold jewelry. They get their eye-catching color from a proprietary bleaching process which was developed in New York. But since the real chocolate pearls are expensive and rare, many methods for making fake chocolate pearls has been developed, for example a silver nitrate dyeing process.
Images Source: Amazon.com