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Quick Guide To Pearls

Pearls are the only jewels created by a living animal. Natural pearls grow without human input from a mollusc in the water. Cultured pearls grow from a bead inserted in to the oyster shell.

Natural pearls are extremely rare and commensuratley expensive.

Freshwater cultured pearls account for approximately 95% of total global pearl production but are less valuable than cultured saltwater pearls. The majority of freshwater cultured pearls are grown in China.

Saltwater cultured pearls are rarer and take longer to cultivate than their freshwater counterparts. A saltwater mollusc only produces one pearl at a time whereas a freshwater mollusc can produce twenty five or more pearls.

There are three major types of saltwater cultured pearls: Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea.

Natural & Cultured Pearls Versus Imitation Pearls

Although there are a range of tests requiring various techniques and equipment, the easiest way to to check that a pearl is real is the ‘tooth test’.

Rub the pearls lightly along the biting edge of your upper front teeth. If they feel gritty or sandy, it’s likely they are cultured or natural pearls. If they feel smooth they are likely to be fake. It is important to rub it lightly as imitation pearls can be scratched.

If you are in any doubt you should ask a trained gemologist or experienced jeweller test the pearls and give you a formal opinion.