This is what someone with the talent for it and the design eye can make with some of those left over pearls which sit at the bottom of the pearl box looking reprovingly at you for years. We’re calling it a medley strand. Or you could call it a tutti-fruiti rope
Charlotte used vintage baroque akoyas (from a swedish antique store),small white ripples (from us..yay!), baroque golden slightly green south seas, pink and green big ripples, pale pink freshwaters and copper off-round, peach and white freshwater keshi, peacock circled tahitians, grey and blue tahitian drops (some of these from us), blue and silver baroque akoyas (from us Yay again!) and baroque white south sea pearls.
We’re all agreed that if we tried this it would look like left over pearls strung together!
A regular customer recently asked me for a pair of gold round freshwater studs, size around 8m. That sounded pretty straightforward, as I replied. Then I went to look in our stock. Not a single gold, either round or button. She even, and very helpfully, sent me an image of the colour
Helpful – much easier to see the colour than to try to describe in words
Where had they gone? Now I know that I tended to buy the more lavender end of the colour range in naturally coloured freshwater pearls. Indeed these were the hard to find ones in a sea of peach, apricot and -frankly – orange up to maybe about three or four years ago. But I would have seen and selected a few really good gold pairs….wouldn’t I? Well apparently not. None in rounds and none in buttons from 7mm to 10mm.
After a rather apologetic email to the client I contacted a couple of reliable wholesalers in Hong Kong to see what they had. Surely they would have plenty. Gold was a really common colour for natural pearls!
Umm, the really big wholesaler had nothing even like in rounds or buttons. The second, family firm, had seven in total out of a huge litre box full of AAA rounds. My contact sent me a photo of them in her hand and said she could make three pairs.
Here they are:You can see that only the top pair is remotely gold. It’s too pale though and one pearl is larger than the other (by 0.4mm)
The middle pair is a reasonable colour match but peach and one pearl is larger than the other. The bottom pair doesn’t match at all in colour or size.
None of these fits the brief and I would not have selected any of them to show the client. I will probably keep the top pair, they are a nice vanilla colour, but the other two pairs will be making their return with me. And ask the client to wait, if she can bear it, for me to look in Hong Kong.
So, this is a cheery little anecdote about trying to find a specific colour of pearl for a client. Yes. But it also shows very clearly indeed why I insist on selecting every single pearl (and finding) we offer, either as loose pearls or finished pearl jewellery myself, with my own two eyes, in person.
Very quick post to bring you early photos of some new akoya strands. These are natural colours (no dyes or bleaching) 2.5mm to 4.5mm super-shiny akoyas arranged in waves (hence their name) along the 100cm length. Colour variations are golds, creamy white and mixed (golds, creams, blues). Contact me for privilege purchase access
Feast your pearl loving eyes on these…
or these, the mixed colours..You can see the waves of large/small running along the strand
The pearl farmers at Civa on the lovely island of Fiji are about to make a pearl harvest but took a few seconds to allow me to share these photos of the baby giant clams which they are also raising with you all.
Baby giant clams now being raised in Fiji
The partnership between Civa (Fiji) Pearls Limited and the Douglas Family of Matagi Island have given their first allotment of giant clams from their hatchery to the Vanua Trust of Laucala.
A project that started in 2016 is now producing around 25,000 giant clams juveniles every three months destined for the export market.
The hatchery is producing four species of clams (Tridacna Maxima, Tridacna Noae, Tridacna Squamosa and Tridacna Derasa).
the baby clams are between 5cm and 8cm
A portion of the production is destined to reef rehabilitation projects and for the development of the resource through the traditional fishing rights owners.
The hatchery is situated in Qamea Island and the coastal communities of Qamea and Naqelelevu will benefit from this long-term project by receiving yearly allotments of clams for their development.
The giant clam hatchery. Double redundant fresh water system to ensure the clams are as happy as..well…clams
Civa (Fiji) Pearls Ltd owner Claude Michel Prevost said they are happy to follow up on their promises to deliver to the local coastal communities their share of this commodity.
“We are happy to see this happening. We think that it is important for companies who benefit from the development of this resource to include the traditional custodians in the development of this resource.
“The development of aquaculture is in its infancy with few players. The Ministry of Fisheries is sending signals that it wants to develop aquaculture and this is great news.
Aren’t they pretty?
Civa (Fiji) Pearls Limited was founded in 2006 by two Canadian expats Claude Michel Prevost and Danielle Belanger.
Lured by the extraordinary colours already in production in Fiji, Claude and Danielle began their own pearl production in 2007 with a subsequent first harvest in 2010.
Most of this production is currently exported to Europe, with a small amount retained and available from partnering resorts here in Fiji.
The pearl farm is situated on the windward side of Taveuni.
Pearls are usually graded between A and AAA, with A being not very good to AAA which should be of the specific shape (usually used for round pearls) smooth surfaced (with only very small and near invisible flaws) and of high shine or lustre
AA+ Nearly as good as AAA but perhaps slightly off round when rolled and a few more flaws although these will still only be visible on close inspection. Look closely below- the halos are slightly oval because the pearls are off-round although the halos are still pretty regular
AA Average to good lustre, off round, blemishing to 20% of surface
A: This is the lowest jewellery-grade pearl, with a lower lustre and/or more than 25% of the surface showing defects. Probably a ’round’ pearl will be egg shaped, even from a distance
The problem with this system is, of course, that you may be faced with a smooth surfaced and metallic pearl which is off round to the point where it drops from AAA to AA+ or even AA. It will still be a beautiful pearl and one which will probably look round when worn but many buyers will be deterred by an AA grading.The lustre reflection below differs noticeably between pearls in terms of reflection and shape and the one to the left of centre has a grooved surface flaw’
A+ Low quality. Visibly off round and very variable lustre. Many flaws in the surface
(any website or other seller which talks about AAAA+++ grade pearls is talking rubbish and this should be challenged).
Tahitian pearls have a distinct and separate system, established by GIE Perles de Tahiti, and the Ministere de la Perliculture of Tahiti which grades from A (finest) to D ( poor) but to avoid confusion Pearlescence uses only the A-AAA gradings throughout the website.
We also have adopted the name ‘Essence’ for pearls which are exceptional. They have been selected for highly metallic lustre, clean surface and shape, in that order. Usually only found by selecting in person. Probably under 1% of pearls will show the mirror metallic lustre we look for
Research and new farming for abalone pearls has started in New Zealand in the last few years..
The abalone produces a distinctive and tunningly iridescent blue pearl but is very hard to nucleate as its blood does not clot, so any damage will kill it.There are natural (wild) abalone pearls out there, with wildly baroque shapes and a distinctive horn shape tapering from a broad and sometimes distorted and ugly base to a sharp tip
Akoya pearls come from the akoya oyster (Pinctada Fucata Martensii), which is the smallest pearl producing oyster (6cm to 8cm). This is why akoya pearls over 10mm are very rare while the normal size is about 6mm to 7mm It is a salt water mollusc.
Baroque pearls are strictly all non-round pearls but the term is usually applied to pearls which are not round but which nevertheless have a good rounded surface all over. Freshwater pearls are most commonly baroque as freshwater pearls are mantle-tissue nucleated instead of bead nucleated. So round pearls are the exception, although more are being produced as techniques improve. The most valuable baroque pearls are South Sea and Tahitian pearls which are produced by Blacklipped and White-lipped oysters (Pinctada margaritifera, and the Pinctada maxima).
Baroque white freshwater pearl necklace
Commercial baroque pearls tend to be bigger pearls – there is a balancing act for the pearl farmer between leaving the pearl in the mollusc with the chance of a big round pearl and the likelihood that the pearl will go out of round and become baroque and therefore less valuable – but for the buyer, you will be getting a lot of nacre for your money.
There are two basic types of farmed pearls: bead nucleated and tissue nucleated. (The other main type classification is between cultured or farmed and natural or wild pearls)
Nucleation is the process which starts off the growth of a cultured or farmed pearl. It involves inserting something into a nacre-producing mollusc to trigger production of a pearl. This nucleus can be either just a tiny sliver of mantle tissue on its own or a sliver of mantle tissue plus a bead or other shaped foundation. In either case a nacre secreting pearl sac grows and a pearl is made within that sac.
Bead nucleated pearls include all Tahitian and south sea pearls, akoya pearls and many modern big freshwater pearls (brands Edison and Ming – see separate entry under Edison)) as well as fancy shapes such as coins or hearts.
Tissue nucleated pearls are mostly all freshwater pearls which are therefore all nacre, solid pearl. no bead inside. (Chinese and Biwa freshwater pearls)
Keishi pearls are an exception. They are the pearls formed inside a usually pre-existing pearl sac from which a pearl has been removed (think of how a balloon looks when the air seeps out over time and you get the idea of a keishi pearl.
Classic term to identify the amount of gold in metal. Different metals are added to gold to harden it and make it more durable. Expressed as a fraction of 24 parts so that 24ct is fine gold or pure gold, down to the lowest standard which is 9ct in the UK, usually 14ct elsewhere.
No one knows exactly why some pearls develop circles. These can be bands of colour or grooves, as the pearl has gently spun on its axis in the pearl sac. While circle pearls tend not to be the most expensive they are not as yet imitated and have stunning variety .
These Sea of Cortez drops show circles, both as grooves and in bands of colour
Natural freshwater pearls tend to be shades of white through to pale pinks and peaches and golds The intensity of the colour depends on the species and strain of host mollusc plus the farm water and food.
Many pearls are coloured treated as part of the processing between farm and retailer. There is however, now a trend towards completely natural colour untreated pearls.
Grey – Silver nitrate and gamma radiation
Black – dyed. A good dye process will bring out a range of colours and even peacock effects Over dying will produce a heavy black monochrome. Beware of ‘tahitian black’ colour pearls which are freshwater pearls dyed to imitate Tahitian pears. Tahitian black pearls are common on auction sites
Gold Bead nucleated pearl producers are trying to emulate the deep gold of south sea pearls to produce huge valuable pearls at great prices. They are close but the colour isn’t quite right yet. Be suspicious if the pearls are too cheap for what they appear to be.
Bright deep colours – various dyes can be used to colour pearls the same as fabrics
Most akoya white pearls will have been bleached, although natural white akoya can be found. White bleached akoya pearls are often ‘pinked’ – delicate tinted to a faint pink overtone which softens the colour and is supposedly more flattering and desirable.
Gold- often dyed to a deep gold which resembles gold south seas. Natural gold akoya are a much softer and paler colour
Gold pearls are often dyed to enrich the colour to the most valuable deep gold. One strand generally looks fine on its own but in a hank the dye becomes more obvious. Always ask about dye and a reputable seller will not mind and will know.
Usually a round flat pearl shaped like a coin, also used to describe fancy hearts, squares, lozenge and other shaped pearls
Rarest of the natural pearls, conch pearls look a bit like jelly beans. They are not nacreous but have a distinctive flame pattern on the surface. The colours range from orange, through yellow to pink
Cook Island Pearls
Specific group of south sea islands which produce their own distinctive pearls from Pinctada Margaritifera. The pearls show the same colours as Tahitian pearls but are softer looking in shades, while also being more grey/black than green
Edison pearls are simply one brand of bead nucleated freshwater pearls from China. Bead nuked pearls started to appear five years ago and can be divided into two main categories, depending on the quality of their nacre: either smooth or rippled. From this you can split the smooth into Edison (a brand from the pioneer of this type of pearl), Ming, (the second brand, not allied to any particular wholesaler) and generic bead nucleated pearls.
(Just to remind, until a few years ago freshwater pearls were usually all nacre, with pearl growth triggered by the insertion of just a sliver of mantle tissue into a host shell. It was only sea water pearls (South Sea, Tahitian, Akoya and a few freshwaters such as coin pearls) which had a bead template nucleus as well as that sliver of mantle tissue)
Edison is the brand name given to a range of large bead nucleated freshwater pearls from one leading Chinese supplier. One strand of these pearls achieved £1/2m at auction. The pearls come from a Hyriopsis hybrid between Hyriopsis cumingi and Hyriopsis schlegeli.
The Ming pearl name tends to be applied to the better quality of generic bead nucleated pearls. It is more of a description of quality than a brand. (Edison is a brand, belonging to one pearl farmer/wholesaler. They tend to be the most expensive and can be the finest quality available in the world)
In general these new bead nuked pearls can be any quality from superb to – like any pearls – terrible quality, with pitted, ringed, thin and lumpy nacre and washed out colour with chalky lustre. That’s probably what you’ll get if you bought from an unknown seller on any auction site. Quality (and, of course, price) runs up to metallic lustred 15mm perfectly round. flawlessly smooth surfaced pearls
Necklace of 12mm to 13mm AAA Edison pearls
The very latest bead nucleated pearls natural deep mauves, lilacs and purple shades
Nearly every pearl available anywhere in the world is farmed – cultured. Pearl farms tend to be stunningly beautiful places.
Shot of the Kamoka Tahitian pearl farm on Ahe, French Polynesia
Pearl farm on Talesei Island, Indonesia…golds and white south sea pearls
A false pearl bead manufactured by coating the inside of a hollow glass sphere or the outside of a solid glass or plastic sphere with a pearlescent coating which is sometimes pearl powder. Faux is a fancy word for fake. Also called shell pearls. They are of course perfectly round in shape, with great lustre and even colour. White shell pearls are very white, which is a give-away. All fake pearls feel smooth when rubbed on the teeth and the drill holes tend to be larger.
There is a young but growing pearl industry in Fiji, and the pearls produced have a huge and stunning range of colours, mostly shifted away from typical Tahitian colours into the chocolates and earthy shades