Thursday, November 29, 2007



The world’s oceans contain many oysters, most of which can grow a pear of some form. Most relatively abundant oysters have no commercial value in a pearling sense because they do not produce mother-of-pearl nor do they produce pearls of significant value.

They key to understanding the different types of pearls available comes from understanding the differences between the various types of “mother shell” or “host oyster” which produces the pearl. Not all pearls are born equal, hence the wide variation in appearance and value of cultured pearls.

Mother-of-pearl oysters are one of nature’s true mysteries. The oceanic mother-of pearl oysters are members of the Pinctada family and are responsible for almost all the world’s great pearls. Just three species of the Pinctada oyster family produce the vast majority of oceanic pearls. These are the South Sea pearl oyster (Pinctada maxima), the Tahitian black pearl oyster (Pinctada margaritifera) and the Japanese Akoya pearl oyster (Pinctada fucata). Varieties of freshwater mussel, including Hyriopsis and Cristaria produce Freshwater pearls.

It is important to note that while virtually all pearls sold in jewelry stores today are cultured, the quantity, size, shape and color each oyster species produces is up to Mother Nature. South Sea cultured pearls are the rarest, and therefore the most valuable. Tahitian cultured pearls are slightly more abundant, but rare as well. Akoya cultured pearls of good quality are more readily available compare to its cousins. Freshwater cultured pearls are the most abundant and therefore the least expensive of the pearls available from retailers today.

Source: Paspaley

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