Friday, December 31, 2010

Pearls - A General Overview

Last Friday I wrote about keshi pearls. The article reminded me of how complex the pearl market can be and it inspired me to break it down into bite sized pieces. This post covers the basics of natural pearls. Future posts will get into different types of pearls and various culturing processes.

What are pearls, anyway? The snarky answer is: solid evidence of an irritated oyster. The scientific answer is: layers of aragonite platelets bound together by conchiolin.



Where to start?
How about the thing that's irritating our oyster. A piece of sand gets into the oyster shell. The oyster can't spit it out or scratch so it coats the particle with something smooth - nacre.

Nacre is a combination of conchiolin and aragonite. Aragonite is the crystal form of calcium carbonate. Conchiolin is a substance similar to hair or fingernails that binds the crystals together.



Pearls grow a bit like trees - in layers. Some years produce beautiful, thick layers, some years aren't so pretty. The color, layer thickness and texture vary between oyster types and environments.



Over time, the pearl gets larger. The final diameter depends on the size of the oyster it's irritating. Shapes also vary.



And now for some cultured, probably freshwater, pearl jewelry from our fabulous artists:




9 comments:

Cat said...

I'm a June kid and pearl is my "stone". Keep the info coming! I love to learn from you :-)

Bonnie said...

Great information thanks. I am a June baby too.

MmeMagpie said...

I have a whole series planned. Tahitian, akoya, and more.

BeadSire said...

My motto is "Diamonds are a girls best friend but pearls are her soul", I'm a pearl girl and love the last couple of blog posts you have done.

mcstoneworks said...

Love the pearl series., Andrea. Like Cat and Caron, I love pearls. They are beautiful on their own or mixed with other stones.

galadryl said...

Very interesting, thank you. Great idea for a series.

Cassie said...

Very interesting post! I wish I could make something so beautiful when I'm irritated! :)

Rita alias alatvian said...

Thank you so very much for the info and for featuring my work!

gwenbeads said...

Wow, a Cellini spiral with real pearls! What a treasure!