Nothing gives more fashion impact for the money than a long, lustrous, strand of cultured pearls. Pearls add the finishing touch to a suit at the office, look glamorous with evening wear, and add a touch of class to casual clothes, without ever being too flashy.
Pearls occur naturally when an irritant such as a bit of sand works its way inside a mollusk, or oyster. The oyster produces smooth material called “nacre” to coat the foreign object so that it no longer irritates the tender body of the oyster. It takes many years for the layers of nacre to build up to create a “pearl” of any size.
The process of culturing pearls was developed when it was discovered that if a shell bead is manually inserted into a live oyster, it slowly becomes coated with the same nacre. It takes 3 to 7 years for a sufficient layer of nacre to build, after which the oyster is harvested and opened to retrieve the pearl. Less expensive pearls are harvested sooner and have a thinner layer of nacre. To determine whether a pearl is natural or cultured, an x-ray is taken to show if there is a bead inside the pearl.
Cultured pearls are real; they are not the same as imitation or simulated pearls, which are man-made from plastics or fish scales. A quick test is to rub a pearl gently across the front of your teeth. A genuine cultured pearl will have a gritty feel, like fine sandpaper. Plastic beads will feel smooth.
You’ll want to get the best pearls that you can fit into your budget, because pearls will last a lifetime if cared for properly! Here at Leo Hamel Fine Jewelers you’ll find a variety of new and vintage pearls in a range of sizes and colors to fit everyone’s taste.