Pearls: Natural vs Cultured vs Imitation

Where do pearls come from? Basically, pearls are formed when a grain of sand or other foreign object gets into an oysters shell and body of the oyster. The oyster then produces a crystalline secretion to protect it from irritation. The minerals which are deposited around the foreign object are Calcite and Aragonite. This Pearly layer is called Nacre. These crystals create the pearly look.   It can take many years to grow a pearl.

The length of time the pearl stays in the oyster, and the environment it grows in will determine the luster, color and quality of the pearls surface also known as Nacre. Natural pearls form the Nacre when a tiny foreign object imbeds itself inside the oyster.

Cultured pearls form when the oyster is opened by man and one bead is surgically implanted in the oyster. The basic difference between natural and cultured pearls is the size of the seed and that natural pearls occur in nature without man’s interference. Cultured pearls are started by man with a larger seed, most of the diameter of the pearl is the implanted seed

Imitation pearls are anything that looks like a pearl by are made from another substance, (plastic, glass, fish scales).

Natural pearls are much more expensive then cultured pearls. Generally, the larger the pearl the more expensive it can be. Pearls occur naturally in many different colors some cultured pearls will be dyed. Cultured pearls are called Baroque when they are poorly formed (aka not round)

What determines the price of a pearl?

A – size measured in millimeters the larger the pearl the more the pearl may be worth.

B – the amount of luster

C – the freedom of blemishes

D – the color of the pearl

Will wine dissolve a pearl? If the wine is still drinkable it has a very low acid content and therefore it will not dissolve a pearl. If the wine has already turned bad, it may have enough vinegar to dissolve a pearl as pearls will dissolve in acetic acid. A pearl dropped into vinegar will dissolve a pearl.


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National Estate is located on Route 18 in east Brunswick next to FedEx office

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Remember that at National Estate Jewelry Buyers, we make you an offer and an expert will never ask you how much you want…it’s unethical to ask.