Pearl jewelry is perhaps the most classic and iconic jewelry pieces one can wear, and it has never gone out of style. Traces of pearl jewelry were found on Persian princesses in the 6th Century BC, making them the world’s oldest gemstones. Throughout history, women of the highest rank and class wore
pearls, but they have evolved into a versatile and classic piece that anyone can wear.
Pearls are the only gemstone produced by an animal – the oyster. Pearls are created when an irritant, such as a piece of shell, is inserted inside an oyster. A pearl forms when the irritant is coated with nacre, a secretion from the oyster. Pearls can grow in both saltwater and freshwater settings and are cultivated in various regions across the globe.
The World’s Pearl Market
Eastern Asia produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s pearls, and different countries are known for their own unique pearl characteristics. China has the greatest market share in freshwater pearl production, but Japan has dominated the world’s pearl markets and held an 80% monopoly of the industry. Their Akoya pearls range in color, from light pink to white, and are sought for their deep luster. South Sea pearls are known for their large size and are usually silvery-gray, while French Polynesian pearls are notoriously black.
Cultured vs. Freshwater Pearls
The chances of finding a perfectly rounded natural pearl are slim, so most pearls sold today are “cultured.” A cultured pearl is one that has been coaxed along the creation process by man. Even though natural pearls might cost more, they are not necessarily of higher quality cultured pearls. Natural pearls are rarer than cultured pearls, so they may be more expensive regardless of their quality.
Pearls make a statement in today’s fashion and culture - and will for centuries to come. Whether you are 9 or 90, a pair of pearl earrings or a strand of pearls will no doubt find a regular spot in your jewelry box!