South Sea Pearls
  Tahitian Pearls
  Akoya Pearls
  Freshwater Pearls

South Sea Pearls

Among the largest in the world, South Sea Pearls are among the largest commercially harvested cultured pearls in the world. The average size of a South Sea Pearl is 13 mm, with most harvests producing a range of sizes from 9 mm to 20 mm. The South Seas lie between the northern coast of Australia and the southern coast of China. These waters are the native habitat of a large oyster known as Pinctada Maxima. This oyster grows up to 12 inches in diameter, and can be nucleated with a much larger bead than other saltwater oysters such as the Akoya.

South Sea Pearls Come From Two Varieties Of Pearl-Producing Mollusks

There are two varieties of Pinctada Maxima, the silver-lipped and the gold-lipped. The two are distinguished by their distinct coloration of the outer edge of the interior.
This type of shell is also known as mother-of-pearl, and is responsible for the coloration of the cultured pearls produced, therefore the name. Unlike the Akoya Oyster, the South Sea Oyster will only accept one nucleation at a time. The oyster is nucleated when it is only about half developed, from 4.7 inches to 6.7 inches in size, or about 24 months old. Although the South Sea Oyster will only handle one nucleus at a time, this oyster (like the Tahitian pearl producing Pinctada Margaritifera) can be nucleated up to three times over the course of many years.

Why South Sea Pearls grow so large
There are four reasons South Sea Pearls can grow to such large sizes, dwarfing many of their other saltwater pearl counterparts:
  • The large size of the Pinctada Maxima
  • The size of the implanted bead
  • The length of time the pearl is left to grow in the oyster
  • And the oyster’s environment.

Due to the size of the oyster, it is able to accept a large bead. The gonad of the Pinctada Maxima is several times larger than that of the Akoya. Because of this larger gonad, the South Sea Oyster deposits nacre around the nucleus at a much quicker rate, especially in warm water, which speeds the oyster’s metabolism.

The South Seas are also extremely clean and filled with plankton - the Pinctada Maxima's favorite food source. The clean waters and abundant food supply also speeds the nacre production. The growth period for South Sea pearls is also substantially longer than that of the Akoya. Akoya Pearls are harvested after only 9 - 16 months, whereas South Sea Pearls are harvested after a minimum of two years, allowing for a larger size.

South Sea Pearls have several distinct characteristics that are unique to this gem. The nacre is unusually thick, ranging from 2 - 6 mm, compared to the 0.35 - 0.7 mm of an Akoya Pearl. South Sea Pearls have a unique, satiny luster that comes from the rapidly deposited nacre and warm waters of the South Seas. South Sea Pearls also have a subtle array of colours - typically white, silver, and golden - that are rare in other pearl types.

Tahitian Pearls
Among The most beautiful In the world, Tahitian Pearls are produced in the black-lipped oyster ‘Pinctada Margaritifera’, in and around Tahiti and the French Polynesian islands. This oyster itself is quite large - sometimes over 12 inches across and weighing as much as 10 pounds - which often results in much larger-than-average pearls. The pearls are unique because of their natural dark colors. Most "black" Tahitian Pearls are not actually black, but are instead silver, charcoal, or a multitude of colors with the dominant color being green. Truly black pearls are among the most beautiful pearls in the world, and are extremely rare.

Almost Hunted To Extinction

Not only are the pearls beautiful, but the black-lipped oyster's mother-of-pearl inner shell is also extremely attractive. By the early part of the 20th century, before conservation and repopulation efforts began, the Tahitian Pearl Oyster had almost been hunted to extinction for its shell alone.

Tahitian Pearls - Not From Tahiti

Although Tahitian Pearls are thought by many to be solely a product of Tahiti, this is in fact not true.

Tahiti is the commercial center and trading hub for the bulk of the industry, however Tahiti does not have any pearl farms actually located on the island.

The farms are instead scattered throughout French Polynesia, as far east as the Gambier Islands, and beyond French Polynesia to the west into the Micronesian Islands. Australia, the Seychelles and Vietnam have all produced black pearls as well, but those cannot be referred to as Tahitian pearls.

Tahitian Pearl Farming Begins

Tahitian Pearl farming has much later commercial origins than its other cultured pearl cousins. In the early 1960's a man by the name of Jean-Marie Domard began experimenting with the ‘Pinctada Margaritifera’ using Japanese culturing techniques. In 1962, Mr. Domard successfully nucleated 5,000 oysters, and after 3 years harvested more than 1,000 high-quality Tahitian Pearls.

What Are Akoya Pearls?
Akoya Pearls are cultured in the Pinctada Fucata Martensii, also known as the Akoya Oyster. This mollusk is found and farmed primarily in Japan and China. Renowned for their luster, Akoya are considered the classic pearl. They are generally white or cream colored, with overtone colors of rose, silver, or cream.

Akoya Pearls, The Perfect Pearl For Jewelry

The Akoya Oyster is the smallest pearl-producing oyster used in pearl culture today, so Akoya Pearls also tend to be small, ranging in size from about 2 to 11 millimeters. They also tend to be the most consistently round and near-round pearls, making them ideal in terms of matching for multi-pearl jewelry such as strands and bracelets.

China Overtakes Japan
In recent years the Chinese have overtaken the Japanese in Akoya Pearl production. The Chinese began culturing Akoya Pearls in the 1960's, but had limited success until the late 1980's. While once considered inferior to their Japanese counterparts, China is now producing Akoya Pearls of qualities that rival that of the Japanese in every quality factor.

Japanese Industry Reaction
Due to the increased pressure of the Chinese competition, many Japanese pearl farmers have focused much of their attention on culturing large Akoya Pearls, as quality Akoya Pearls larger than 8 mm are a rare find in China.

In lieu of farming smaller pearls, many Japanese factories now import their smaller Akoya requirements from neighboring China. The pearls are treated and strung in Japan so that they may still carry the mark 'Product of Japan'. It has been reported that more than 80% of the pearls 7 mm and smaller have come from Chinese farms regardless of whether or not they are sold by Japanese suppliers as Japanese pearls.

Where do Freshwater Pearls come from?

Although the traditional source of pearls has been saltwater mollusks, freshwater mussels, which live in ponds, lakes and rivers, can also produce pearls.

China has harvested freshwater pearls in the form of maybe since the 13th century, and has now become the world's undisputed leader in freshwater pearl production. The first record mentioning pearls in China was from 2,206 BC. The United States were also a major source of natural freshwater pearls, from the discovery of the New World through the 19th century, until over-harvesting and increasing pollution significantly reduced the number of available pearl-forming mussels in the US.

The Appeal of Freshwater Pearls

Generally speaking, Freshwater Pearls are not as round as Saltwater Pearls, and they do not have the same sharp luster and shine as Akoya Pearls.

However, they appear in a wide variety of shapes and natural colors, and they tend to be less expensive than Saltwater Pearls, making them very popular with younger people and designers. Also, because freshwater pearls are solid nacre, they are also quite durable, resisting chipping, wear, and degeneration.

China leads the World in Freshwater Pearl Production

With a total production of 1,500 tons in 2006, China holds a monopoly over the freshwater pearl industry today. Although the birth of the Chinese freshwater pearl industry is traced back to the area around Shanghai, freshwater pearls are now produced in all the surrounding provinces including Zhejiang, Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hunan, and Jianxi. Local pearl trade is conducted mainly in the cities of Zhuji (Shanxiahu), Suzhou, Wuxi, Wenling, and Weitang. The largest marketplace for these freshwater pearls is the world's pearl trading hub, Hong Kong.

In this section there are some very interesting videos about pearls, excellent for pearl passion transfer, essential for pearl education. / In deze sectie belangrijke vdo's die heel veel laten zien over het verleden (Jewelmer vdo), het huidige groei process, de oogst, het sorteren, matchen, verhandelen,etc. Goed om parel passie te verkrijgen.

1. Dominique Petras about her Tahitian pearl passion / Dominique Petras, over haar passie voor Tahiti parels.

2. A DVD about the Golden Pearls, how they grow,etc from Jewelmer in the Philippines, world best supplier of these South Sea pearls. / DVD over de gouden parels van Jewelmer in de Filipijnen, waar de allermooiste goudkleurige parels uit de Pinctada Maxima oester komen.

3. DVD about how pearls are auctioned, here one of Robert Wan from Tahiti in Hong Kong. / DVD over een veiling van parels van Robert Wan (Tahiti parels

4. Latest developments in freshwater pearls from China. / De laatste ontwikkelingen van zoetwater parels in China.

5. DVD about the growing process of fresh water pearls from China. / DVD over het laten groeien van parels in China.

6. 4 DVD's from Fran Mastoloni, a prominent generation old retailer of pearls in New York about growth, sorting and matching, pearl value and the various shapes. / 4 DVD’s van Mastoloni, een toonaangevende parel juwelier uit New York, over het groeien, sorteren, matchen, de waarde bepaling , de vormen en de 5 bepalende faktoren en vooral de laatste DVD is zeer interessant vanwege de uitleg over alle gangbare parels uit verschillende oesters.
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