South Sea Pearls Complete Guide
Pearls are one of the most impressive gems in the world, because unlike diamonds, rubies or emeralds, they do not come from the ground but have been created by a living being, the oyster.
That is why they are known as an organic gem.
There are several types of pearls: Akoya Pearls, Freshwater Pearls and South Sea Pearls. In this guide we will focus on South Sea Pearls. South Sea pearls are the most valuable type of pearl. This is due to its scarcity, since they only compose 2% of the world pearl production, and it is very complicated to obtain pearls that reunite the characteristics of nice color, round shape, good luster, surface without marks and size >12mm.
What are South Sea Pearls?
South Sea Pearls are a type of pearl produced by the Pinctada Maxima oyster in Australia, Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia. They are characterized because they are the scarcest type of pearl, the largest in size (from 9mm to 20 mm in exceptional cases) and for their nacre thickness (from 2 to 6mm).
While freshwater pearls take 6 months to be cultivated, South Sea Pearls take more than 3 years.
The main colors are Gold and White, with a multitude of overtones. Perfectly round shapes are the rarest, less than 4% of the production in a common pearl farm.
South Sea Pearls shapes can be round, oval, button, drop, circle and baroque, and their luster is luxurious.
South Sea Pearls Characteristics
The main characteristic that differentiates South Sea pearls is the nacre, which is thicker than other types of pearls (2-4mm). The nacre is the natural coating with which the pearl covers the nucleus. Another characteristic is the size, that while in Akoya pearls goes from 3-9mm, in South Sea pearls it goes from 8-20mm, in some exceptional cases with 22mm pearls. It also highlights the luster, which has a satin luster compared to akoya or freshwater pearls.
There are different types of South Sea Pearls:
How to determine the value of South Sea Pearls?
The value of South Sea pearls is determined by 5 factors: size, shape, color, luster and surface.
Size: The size influences the value. The average size of South Sea pearls is between 9-20 mm, and the average is 12 mm. The bigger the size of the pearl, the higher its value.
Shape: Pearls, being an organic gem produced by the Pinctada Maxima Oyster, present all kinds of shapes. Baroque, pear-shaped, round, semicircular, circular... Traditionally the most valued size has been the perfect round, for pearl necklaces. But new tendencies in the artisan creation of jewelry and thanks to jewelry designers, precious jewelry is created with any type of pearl.
Luster: The most valued luster is the metallic and luxurious luster, where the face of the one who is looking at the pearl is reflected. This characteristic only occurs in some pearls.
Color: This characteristic will depend on the type of pearl. In the white pearls of the South Seas it should be white metallic and luxurious, while in the golden pearls of the South Seas it should be dark and golden.
Surface: The surface of the pearl or also known as "skin". Pearls, being a natural gem, it is normal that they present small spots known in the pearl world as "fish bites". The cleaner the pearl surface is, the higher its value will be.
White South Sea Pearls
White South Sea Pearls are also produced by Pinctada Maxima Oyster, specifically by Silver-lipped South Sea Pearl.
Although they are mainly cultivated in Australia, there are also some farms in the Philippines.They are highly appreciated in the American and European markets.
White South Sea Pearls also have different shapes, such as baroque, tear drop or semi-round, being the most appreciated the round ones.
There are several colors or overtones of white pearls, such as silver or cream, but undoubtedly the most valued is the one known as Paper White.
White South Sea Pearls
Golden South Sea Pearls
Golden South Sea Pearls are produced by gold-lip Pinctada Maxima Oyster,The color of the golden pearls should be golden, not yellow.
Size of golden pearls ranges from 8 to 20 mm.Golden South Sea pearls are produced in the Philippines, Indonesia and Myanmar.
They have several overtones, being the most valued in the market the deep golden one.
There is a big variety of Golden South Sea Pearls shapes, like round, drop, baroque or tear shape.
Perfectly round pearls, with a deep golden color and high luster are scarce, being less than 1% of the annual production of a pearl farm.
The nacre of Golden South Sea Pearls is very thick.The task of a jeweler willing to create necklaces with golden pearls must be to find golden pearls that match in size, color, shape, and luster.
For this reason, golden pearl necklaces have traditionally been a luxury available to very few.
South Sea Pearl Colors
South Sea Pearl Colors
In this image we see the different colors that exist in both golden and white pearls. With each color of pearl a unique piece of jewelry can be created, although all of them do not have the same value in the market.
In white south sea pearls, the most valued color is called "Paper White", with a luxurious luster. In golden south sea pearls, the most valued color is the dark gold or also known as "Imperial Gold", where the color must be deep gold, not yellow
Tahitian pearls are pearls from the Pinctada Margaritifera oyster, also known as a black-lipped oyster. Tahitian pearls are mainly produced in French Polynesia. Tahitian pearls are characterized by their black color, although they can present a multitude of overtones such as green, brown, blue, and so on. They are the main export of French Polynesia and must fulfill strict quality requirements before being exported.
The history of Tahitian pearls goes back hundreds of years, when Julius Caesar gave his lover Servilia a Tahitian pearl. However, the commercial success of these pearls did not come until Salvador Assael imported them and started selling Tahitian pearl jewelry in New York.
Since then the success of Tahitian pearls has not stopped growing. The current vice-president of the government, Kamala Harris, uses to wear Tahitian pearls on multiple occasions.
South Sea Pearl Culturing Process
South Sea Pearl Culturing Process
A nucleus is introduced by pearl farmers for Pearl Formation. It is popularly thought that pearls are formed when a grain of sand is introduced in the oyster and it is coated as a natural defense, and this is so, but the probability of finding an oyster in the ocean, which has formed a quality and round pearl is of 1 in 1 million. That is why pearl growers introduce a nucleus which is normally mantle tissue, so that the pearl surrounds it and segregates nacre. Once this process is done, it will take 2-3 years for the oyster to form a pearl.
All this process is observed by expert cultivators, who watch a multitude of factors that can affect the formation of the pearl, such as the temperature of the water, currents, that the water is not clean or inclemencies of the time. South Sea Pearls are the type of pearl that takes by far the longest time to form.
Where are South Sea Pearls cultivated?
South Sea Pearls are so called because of their geographical location, which extends in the southern hemisphere of the planet. White South Sea pearls are mainly cultivated in Australia and Indonesia.
Golden South Sea pearls are cultivated in the Philippines and Indonesia, while Tahitian pearls are cultivated exclusively in French Polynesia.
Pearls are cultivated in this region because it is the ideal environment for the pinctada maxima oyster, which needs very clean and clear water to form beautiful pearls naturally. There have been many attempts by countries such as China or Japan to import Pinctada Maxima oysters to try to produce pearls from the South Seas, without much success.
How to take care of your South Sea Pearls?
How to take care of your South Sea pearls?
Pearls are a precious organic gem, and they are a treasure that can be passed from generation to generation if they are well cared for. That is why we explain how to take care of your pearls:
1. Pearls are kept in a humid environment, that is why it is good that they are in contact with your skin and that you wear them often.
2. Pearls are the first thing you take off when you get home, and the last thing you put on when you are getting ready. It is good to avoid that the pearls come in contact with perfumes, creams or any beauty product, for that reason it is always recommended to put them on when you finish dressing up.
3. It is advisable to keep pearls separately, since being in contact with other objects or jewelry can damage or scratch their surface.
4. If you see that the surface of your pearls is getting damaged, or they are losing their luster, take them to your trusted jeweler. They should not charge much for treating them to recover the luster.
5. DO NOT bathe with them. To take a shower is not recommended but it does not happen either, what can seriously affect the pearls is the chlorine of the swimming pools, which can make them lose luster.
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Our family started in the pearl business more than 30 years ago.