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Pearl Education

What are Natural and Cultured Pearls?

Formation of natural pearls

Formation of natural pearls


Pearls are often deemed as nature’s gem and gift to mankind; in addition, their elaborate formation makes them distinct from other types of jewelry and has enthralled the hearts of millions. How exactly is a natural pearl formed? Essentially, a natural pearl is created by an oyster or mollusk by chance without human intervention. Often times when an oyster is feeding, a parasite would lodge itself in the oyster’s soft inner body and cause great discomfort. Due to its inability to expel the parasite, the oyster triggers a defense mechanism by secreting nacre (chemically known as calcium carbonate) on the intruder in order to protect itself. Layers upon layers of nacre will continually be deposited around the intruder and finally forms a beautiful lustrous pearl.

What are cultured pearls?

A brief history

pearlfarmingCultured pearls essentially refer to any pearls that are created as a result of man-controlled conditions. How did mankind manage to recreate such an amazing phenomenon? Looking back into history, the accepted process of pearl culture was in fact developed in Australia by British Biologist William Saville-Kent and introduced to Japan by Tatsuhei Mise and Tokichi Nishikawa. It gained prominence when Mikimoto acquired the technology in 1916, resulting in wide spread pearl harvesting. Today, more than 99% of all pearls sold internationally are cultured pearls. Natural pearls are a rare find, which explains their exorbitant prices; in fact, a three-strand natural pearl necklace (10.7mm-4.1mm) was sold for more than $1.6 million at Christie’s London Important Jewels auction in 2013!

How differently are cultured pearls formed?

pearlfarm2Contrary to myths that cultured pearls are considered “fake” and made artificially in factories. Cultured pearls are created by the same process as natural pearls, except the irritants are manually inserted into the mantle tissue of the oyster. Overtime, nacre is secreted and builds up in layer, surrounding the irritant to form a pearl. Hence, cultured and natural pearls share the same properties and form in a similar fashion. The development of cultured pearls is often touted as the embodiment of dedication and ingenuity of mankind, a fruit of almost a century of research. At Pearlstine and Franck, we offer a wide range of freshwater pearls with the assurance of high quality pearl selection and our metal designs serve to accentuate the purity and grandeur of these miraculous gems of nature.