Pearls of wisdom
A guide to acquiring the perfect pearl
Whether you believe like Greek philosopher Pliny, that pearls were formed by dewdrops that fall into a pearl oyster on a moonlit night, or that they are the rare fallen teardrops of angels, one thing is certain: pearls are mesmerising and unique gems capable of bestowing their wearer with great beauty and elegance.
Nina’s Allure South Sea Pearls are some of the world’s finest pearls. Each one is artistically cultured through a unique collaboration between man and nature that can take up to 3 years to reach completion.
So what is it that creates a pearl’s luminous beauty and what are the characteristics of a quality pearl that you should look out for when purchasing a gift for someone special?
William Reed, marine biologist and co-founder of Allure South Sea Pearls says “there is no such thing as a large, lustrous, flawless, cheap pearl”1. The first step to purchasing a pearl is knowing your budget. In saying that, quality is equally important to see that your acquisition stands the test of time through generations of family inheritance.
Pearl grading is actually quite a subjective process completed by the highly trained eye of a pearl expert. There is in fact no universal system within the international or Australian pearl industry for grading, however all experts acknowledge that the quality of a pearl is determined through the 5 S’s - Shine, Shape, Shade, Surface and Size.
Shine is perhaps the most important quality factor to assess when purchasing pearls. Shine is considered the “soul’ of a pearl and has the ability to minimise other imperfections. There is a saying that you should be able to see yourself within a pearl but not know who you are. In other words- you can see yourself reflected within the pearl’s surface, but your image is fuzzy. Checking yourself out within the surface of a pearl will definitely make pearl shopping interesting and is a quick and easy way to determine a pearl’s shine factor. At Nina’s, South Sea Pearls are Grade A quality pearls that are high in shine and come with a valuation certificate that authenticates their quality.
Shape it up!
Much like the human body, pearls come in all different shapes and sizes - all of them beautiful in their own unique way. With pearls, big is beautiful and “body shape” ranges from the free form Baroque to the perfect round sphere. Most jewellery pieces will feature oval or near round pearls. A perfect round pearl will fetch around double the price of an oval pearl. Shape, very much like surface, is about embracing the imperfections and finding beauty in irregularity. The chosen size and weight of a pearl comes down to personal preference enabling them to reflect the personality and soul of the wearer.
Embrace your imperfections
Just like a flawless diamond, a flawless pearl is a very rare occurrence and accordingly will request a much higher price than a pearl with surface imperfections. Imperfections can include small indents and, often quite beautiful, coloured bands. The coloured bands are formed in the growth process of a pearl, where nacre (the shell substance that makes up the pearl) forms in layers like an onion. A good quality pearl will have quite a thick nacre. Nina’s South Sea Pearls take 2-3 years to cultivate their thick, high quality nacre. As nacre is translucent in quality it can reveal the process of growth through faintly coloured concentric circles. Again, it’s these little differences that bring character and signature to the pearl - we like to call them “beauty marks”.
Pearls come in many shades of colours, with deeper coloured and pure white pearls being most sought after and fetching higher prices due to their rarity. Nina’s South Sea Pearls are naturally coloured as opposed to some which may be artificially coloured or bleached. White South Sea Pearls are farmed in the north of Western Australia from Darwin to Broome (commonly referred to as Broome Pearls). Black Pearls are from the South Pacific Tahitian Region and are cultivated in the black lipped oysters. The radiant Gold and Yellow South Sea Pearls are cultivated from yellow lip oysters in the Philippine south Pacific region. Naturally coloured South Sea Pearls will stand the test of time, retaining their colour and quality over generations.
The tooth test
Besides the 5 S’s, the other factor to watch out for are imitation or simulated pearls. These include lab grown pearls and coated artificial beads. To test if a pearl is real, simply rub it on your upper front teeth (careful not to accidentally swallow it!). If it feels rough, it’s a real pearl, a painted bead is smooth. It is always recommended to purchase your pearls from a reputable jeweller like Nina’s that offers a Certificate of Valuation detailing the pearl’s features.
At the end of the day, choosing the perfect pearl comes down to a variety of factors that combine personal style and preference with budget. Whether you are a baroque personality or strive to flaunt a flawless body, pearls teach us a beautiful wisdom: to embrace our imperfections and nuances, recognising the beauty within them. There’s a reason why we can see our reflection within a pearl; because pearl jewellery reflects the personality of the wearer.