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A Foreword to Pearls

Pearls - A symbol of purity, innocence, humility and sweetness.

Since ages these beautiful gems have served mankind in form of beauty-adding jewelry pieces.  Their fame reached heights during the Roman times when women were garlanded with pearls.

Pearls are the only live gems found on the surface of earth. They are hard rounded objects produced by oysters, when a natural microscopic substance or a grain of sand enters the oyster and settles on the shell and the oyster, irritated by the intruder, secretes the pearl substance called nacre to cover the irritant.

Naturally occurring pearls are 100% nacre so pearls from oyster alone are considered to be True Pearls.

Pearls, usually occurring in white with a creamy or pinkish tinge but may be tinted with yellow, green, blue, brown, purple and black, depict 8 basic shapes - round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque and circled. The various shapes of pearls are popular with different forms of pearl jewelry.

While most necklaces are referred by their physical measurement, pearls strands command a set of names for themselves. The nomenclature is based on the length of the pearl strand on wearing:

  • Collar: It sits touching the throat without dropping down to the neck and usually comprises three or four strands of pearls.
  • Pearl Chokers: These lie just at the base of the neck.
  • Princess: It reaches the collarbone or sometimes a little below that.
  • Matinee of Pearls: A matinee of pearls falls just above the breasts.
  • Opera: The opera reaches the breastbone.
  • Pearl Rope: A Pearl Rope is any length that fall below opera.

With the discovery of diamonds in the early 1700's, the popularity of pearls diminished prominently because of more affordability of diamonds than of pearls.

In the early 1900's the discovery of the secret of culturing pearls by three Japanese men changed the scenario. Prior to the advent of cultured pearls, pearls formed part of the luxurious lifestyle of the royalty. Cultured pearls made the over expensive pearl purchase economical. Though it took several years for these cultured pearls to be accepted, they now account for 95% of the total pearl market.

Posted by Alex on 1/03/2008