The South Sea wild oyster, Pinctada maxima, is the worlds largest pearl oyster. It is a solitary life form and refuses to share its genius with mass farming methods. Like all great artists it makes no compromises and delivers the purest of all pearls from warm, uncontaminated waters.
Pearls, by virtue, are unique among gemstones, being the only ones found within a living creature and the only ones that require no cutting or polishing before use.
Nearly all South Sea Pearls are cultured and come from Australia, Myanmar, Indonesia and other Pacific countries. The process begins when technicians open the live pearl oysters, then surgically implant a small polished shell bead and piece of mantle (oyster muscle) tissue in each. The shell bead is the nucleus around which the oyster secrets layer after layer of nacre. These pearl-bearing oysters are returned to the sea, where they are suspended from rafts in sheltered bays rich in natural nutrients. The oysters will feed and grow. Pearl technicians monitor the water temperatures and feeding conditions daily and move the oysters to warmer waters in the winter. These pampered oysters are lifted from the sea for cleaning and health care. Seaweed, barnacles and other growths are removed and the shells are treated with compounds to prevent disease from injuring the oysters. Even taking all of this into account, Typhoons, red tides and predators all take their toll before the pearls are ready to be harvested (in about two to three years). On average, about half of the nucleated oysters do not survive to bear pearls.
Of these surviving oysters, only a fraction yield pearls and less then five percent produce pearls with ideal shape, luster and color to be considered fine gem quality.
The Five Virtues of Fine South Sea Pearls
There are five qualities of South Sea Pearls that define their value. They are referred to as virtues. A knowledge of these will help in the selection process, but with South Seas you can trust your own sense of judgment. Remember you are choosing something created by nature and every pearl is unique.
Lustre: he paramount defining virtue of beauty and therefore value. How light reflects from the pearl’s surface, but also how it seems to glow from within. Lustre ranges from the bright and sprightly to the warm and alluring.
Size: The larger the pearl the scarcer, and Australian South Sea Pearls are the largest in the world. Measured across the smallest diameter, sizes run from 8.0mm to 18.0mm.
Shape: Perfectly round pearls are the most rare, and are valued accordingly. But there’s more to pearls than just round ones; Baroque pearls have tantalizing shapes and lines, Circle pearls have a contemporary impact and Semi-baroque pearls bring a range of exciting possibilities to light.
Surface: The more flawless the pearl the higher the value. But because pearls are created in the ocean by oysters, Nature almost always leaves its mark. These surface blemishes are part of the individualizing elements of every pearl.
Color: South Sea Pearls come in an array of natural colors. The choice is a matter of personal preference. There is strong demand for the classic silver-white and popularity impacts on a price even though color is irrelevant to a pearl’s intrinsic value.
You do not have to be an expert to see and feel the attraction of that special pearl. South Sea pearls seem to have an inexplicable inner presence that glows, seemingly choosing you as much as you have chosen it. Trust your instincts.
Written by Wendy Adeler Hall
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