Sunday, October 12, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
A speck of sand managed to enter an oysters shell ,and to protect itself from the irritant the oyster coated it with nacre. After many years, the heavily coated sand grain has become a rare and precious commodity, a natural salt water pearl.
Then man figured out how to add a round shell bead into the poor mollusk and wait a few years for the oyster to coat it, thus creating cultured salt water pearls, the better the pearl, the longer it was left undisturbed in the oyster.
Remember those little rice grain pearls that everyone was wearing in the 80's? Those are freshwater pearls, started from a grain of sand irritating a different type of mollusk, some sort of lake dwelling critter, and forcing it to create a Natural freshwater pearl.
Now we have figured out how to put a shell bead into fresh water mollusks too and in a few years we have another kind of pearl, Fresh water cultured pearls.
Natural saltwater pearls are rare and expensive, cultured freshwater are cheap and plentiful.
Now's when it gets interesting, you take a big natural freshwater pearl and grind it into a round bead and put it into a saltwater oyster. After a few years you pull it out and what do you have? A gemology problem.
Usually you can tell if pearls are cultured or not by x-raying them because you see a bead inside rather than years of layers of nacre. But when you x-ray a saltwater pearl with a freshwater core it looks like a natural saltwater pearl. Supposedly you can tell the difference if you break the pearl in half...but now it has no value. I can't see any Appraiser smashing a pearl necklace to pieces and then saying "yup they were natural saltwater pearls" and still having a job.
So provenance is important these days. Grandma's pearls, are worth more than a brand new strand...if they were well cared for. So if Granny never sprayed them with perfume, cleaned all her skin oils off them after wearing them and had them restrung regularly they could be worth more than you imagine!