Here at Pearl and Clasp we obviously adore pearls. And with good reason! They’re gorgeous, classy, flattering, and loaded with interesting history. Since we’ve been on a discovery roll lately, we did a bit more research to learn about pearls themselves. What are they, exactly? Where do they come from? Why are there different kinds? Turns out they’re really fascinating.
Most people think pearls are made when grains of sand make their way into the shells of oysters in the sea. While pearls are indeed formed in the shells of living creatures, these little magic-makers are called mollusks, not oysters, and they live in saltwater and freshwater, as well as on land. Any mollusk that has a shell has the ability to make a pearl, but naturally occurring pearls are actually very rare. Today, most pearls are cultured, or produced in controlled conditions.
Pearls are composed of layers of aragonite and conchiolin, the two materials that form mollusk shells. The size, shape and color of pearls depend on lots of factors, like species of mollusk, temperature and other water conditions, timing and many others. As a result, perfectly round pearls are extremely rare. A cool tip from the American Museum of Natural History to determine whether or not a pearl is authentic is to rub it gently across your teeth. If it feels gritty with a slightly irregular surface, it’s probably real, and if it’s smooth or slippery it’s artificial.
Genuine pearls come in numerous colors, ranging from white to cream to gold to purple to black. Many “black” pearls are actually green, blue, purple or a combination of several colors, called “peacock”, and are pretty rare. Pale pink pearls like these are delicate and understated, whereas darker pearls are more dramatic. The different colors found in pearls are a result of different environments and living conditions, as well as the type and size of the mollusks in which they were formed. This necklace showcases several pearl colors and the shape known as ‘baroque’.
So, pretty interesting, right? This definitely gives us something to think about next time we wear our strands out. What is your favorite color pearl? Do you prefer round pearls, or are you more of a baroque kind of gal?
Until next time,