A Blog brought to you in collaboration with GABA
How many of you own a pearl necklace and earrings and no matter how many years pass, every time you wear them is like the first time? Many women across the globe will tell you that they will give up many things to make space for new purchases, but whoever owns a pearl set will never part from it. Why? Because apart from being beautiful, they remain a staple, even as the fashion world changes around them.
The longevity of the pearl continues on. The same gemstones that have dazzled humans for thousands of years adorn the necks and wrists of everyone today from celebs to heads of state to young bloggers. When it comes to pearls, some trends never go away.
Let’s just take a quick look at recent fashion history, cultured Chinese pearls hit the scene in the 1970s, flooding the market with pearls of all sizes and shapes. In the 1980s, Chinese pearls were even dyed a variety of colours, reflecting the fashions of the day. In the 1990s, the quality of the newly-blossomed Chinese cultured pearl market appeared, and a new generation of pearl lovers bought quality pieces to pass down through their families.
In the 2000s, the explosion of the internet led to a huge mix of international styles, as the average shopper could easily purchase fashions from around the globe. This included a steady interest in pearl accessories, including necklaces, earrings and bracelets.
GABA recommends to always seek the assistance of persons who have experience in recognising the different types and qualities of pearls and to purchase them from a reputable seller who can provide you with information about them.
What are Natural Pearls?
You may have heard that pearls are actually an organic gemstone. I only learnt this very recently. This means that unlike stones such as diamonds or sapphires, pearls come from an organic source – mollusc animals. In nature, pearls typically come from oysters, but sometimes they can also be found in clams and mussels. In fact, pearls are the only known gemstone to come from a living animal.
Natural pearls are extremely rare and expensive. Nowadays they would only be available on auctions in 6 figure numbers.
What are Cultured Pearls?
Pearls are now all harvested in large farms where “farmers” tend to their oysters by having them cleaned daily and singing lubbabies, yes, it’s true!
Saltwater and freshwater pearls are the two main types of cultured pearls.
Freshwater pearls are the more popular, because of their affordable price, which is influenced by their different, uneven shapes, almost resembling small potatoes, and the size of the mussel that can produce more pearls at a time, often between 25-30 in a harvest. GABA collaborates with MIA Gioielli who carefully chooses the best of the lot. Freshwater pearl necklaces, like the one worn in the photoshoot, start from 190 euro and bracelets from 80 euro.
Saltwater pearls are created in the ocean by oysters. For example, Akoya pearls are produced mainly in Japan and are known for their exceptional luster, partly due to the cold waters in which they are grown. They have become much more rare as ocean pollution has made it more difficult to farm oysters in coastal bays. An oyster also only produces on average 3 high quality pearls. All of the above and their near ideal round shape and varying silver to peachy colours, make them more expensive than freshwater pearls. Akoya pearl necklaces start from 890 euro and bracelets from 410 euro.
So, here’s the burning question. Are cultured pearls real? The answer is an obvious yes. They are the same as natural pearls in every way except price. They go through the same process of formation and the final product is a real pearl. The only difference is that humans have found a way to commercialise and increase the production of pearls by farming them.
What are Imitation Pearls?
Imitation pearls are other substances masquerading as pearls. Unlike natural and cultured pearls, fake pearls are essentially worthless in comparison and they are much cheaper.
The most commonly used are glass, ceramic, shell and plastic beads. These are then coated in some substance that makes them appear like pearls, such as powdered mother-of-pearl, synthetic or natural pearl essence or plastic. These ‘pearls’ are manufactured skilfully and look identical to real pearls.
How to check if a pearl is not an imitation?
There is a very simple test – take a pearl and rub it gently against the edge of a tooth. Cultured and natural pearls will feel slightly rough, like fine sandpaper, because of the texture of natural nacre. Imitations will feel as smooth as glass because the surface is molded or painted on a smooth bead.
It always makes sense to shop smartly and check your pearls carefully prior to buying. These vendors often provide a certificate of authenticity to ensure that the pearls meet the standards and expectations you have of them.
Whether you decide to buy natural, cultured or fake pearls, is entirely up to you. There is no right or wrong type of pearl to buy and what matters are your priorities. If budget is a concern, stick to imitation pearls. If you want only the best, and something that is heirloom-quality, choose natural pearls. Whichever you choose, the important thing is to know the origins of what you are buying and avoid being ripped off!
I hope you enjoyed this information about the different types of pearls and you loved the photos in which I’m wearing beautiful pearls available at GABA Malta.
Until the next feature, stay tuned to my Instagram stories, as I will soon be visiting the outlet again to catch up with some more new items have just landed, ranging from gold and silver to modern jewellery or diamonds!