Some of the most common questions I answer when it comes to antique, vintage, or costume jewelry are about pearls. In order to correctly identify a pearl or a strand of pearls you must have some experience with the famous treasure of the sea. Natural pearls are made of calcium carbonate and conchiolin. A pearl is the resulting object that marks the process where a bi-valve shell creature has dealt with an intruder. A pearl sac is produced by the sea creature or mollusk around the intruding dirt or natural element as calcium carbonate and conchiolin are secreted. The secretion process takes place over and over again and results in the production of a pearl. Natural pearls are rare and valuable and were, historically, worn by celebrities, queens, and others. Pearls are symbols of purity, rarity, and power.
There are various types of pearls. Baroque pearls highlight the inconsistencies of a naturally occurring pearl and may be irregularly shaped. Cultured pearls, seed pearls, fresh water pearls, Tahitian black pearls, and oversized South Sea pearls are only some variety of pearls.
What to Look For
Pearls are evaluated based on various factors included but not limited to size, roundness, color and consistency of shape.
Pearls have their own lustre and they seem to shine from within. Fake pearls do not have a consistent overall sheen as real pearls do.
Large pearls are more valuable than smaller ones. Like size, shape is an important trait when assessing pearls, making natural, round pearls scarce. A pearl's surface should be smooth to the touch. The weight of a pearl will help to reveal authenticity. Real pearls are heavy when compared to fake or man made pearls.
Color is probably the most subjective aspect when it comes to pearls. Pearls are typically white or off-white in color but pearls can come in many colors like ultra valuable pink, silver, and black pearls.
Most people select a strand of pearls that look good against their particular skin tone. When choosing a strand of pearls, look for consistent color and lustre among all of the pearls on the strand. Don't choose pearls that show variants of lustre and color. On a strand, each pearl should be close to the color, shape, and lustre of other pearls on the same strand.
Caring for Pearls
Remember that pearls are a soft, natural material and should be handled with care. Pearls can easily scratch. Do not store them in a jewelry box next to other hard, precious metal pieces of silver or gold. The pearls can get scratched. Avoid acidic liquids, jewelry cleaner, and bath water. Do not wear your pearls in the shower or subject them to running water as you will damage them. It is wised to have pearls on a strand restrung once every 3 years, if you wear them often.
There are many fake pearls, too. Some "pearls" are made of plastics, polymers, ceramics, and even skeletal parts of fish or other sea creatures. If you are not sure if you have a real pearl, ask me.
Get an online appraisal of your pearls from Dr. Lori