Saturday, 4 July 2015

What are cultured pearls?

We all love pearls. They are the oldest gem used by man and considered the most feminine and magical of all gemstones. Coco Chanel, who never left the house without at least one string of pearls, famously turned pearls into an iconic fashion accessory; a must-have adornment for every stylish woman.

Our gorgeous boutique, "The Earring Collection" ( 120 High Street, Cowes, Isle of Wight ) has an extensive collection of freshwater pearl jewellery to suite all tastes and budgets. Our range of pearl earrings stretches from the simple but elegant little pearl stud all the way to some very dramatic and sculptural pieces.

In our shop, we frequently get asked a number of questions about pearls such as
How does one choose pearls?
Are cultured pearls real?
What are freshwater pearls?
Where do the pearls come from?

In order to help answer some of these, we decided to write a series of informative blogs about pearls, starting with the most common question:

What are cultured pearls and where do they come from?

Cultured pearls are NOT ARTIFICIAL, the two should not be confused.

 In naturally-found pearls, an irritant (a grain of sand or small creature) has made its way into the oyster and the oyster produces nacre ( the beautiful material that pearl and mother-of-pearl is made from ) to coat the irritant thus producing a pearl.
Cultured pearls are simply grown under controlled conditions on pearl farms. Farmers plant a small bead or a piece of shell  inside the oyster and the shellfish again produces a layer of nacre around this irritant. This may take months or several years depending on the type of pearl. 

When one speaks of cultured pearls - all that's really happening is that the farmer is increasing the chance of finding a pearl by grouping oysters together and "seeding" the oyster with an irritant.
For a naturally found pearl a diver must swim around looking for oysters spread out over the sea bed which may or may not contain a pearl. Naturally found pearls are therefore rare and very very expensive.
The pearl in either case is made from the same material - the nacre.

Almost every pearl these days has been cultured.

Nearly all freshwater pearls are farmed in Asia, either China or Thailand.  Oceanic pearls, whether akoyas, Southea or Tahitian are usually farmed in the Pacific Ocean.

Here is a little taster of our cultured freshwater pearl earrings:

"Pearl Caviar" - cascade of freshwater pearls on 22ct gold vermeil

The classic pearl stud - a freshwater pearl on sterling silver post

"Pearl Drop" - peacock freshwater pearl on sterling silver chain

"Silver Lace" - freshwater pearl & sterling silver filigree

Go to 

to see our collection of cultured freshwater pearl earrings