21 Lesser-Known Facts About Pearls That You Would Like To Know | Kidadl


21 Lesser-Known Facts About Pearls That You Would Like To Know

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A pearl is valued for its beauty and rarity.

From time immemorial owning pearls has been considered a symbol of wealth and status. Though cheaper varieties are available now, genuine and exquisite pearls are still incredibly valuable.

Unlike other gemstones found in nature, it is a living creature that produces a pearl. These organic gems are found safely tucked among the mantle folds of mollusks, most notably oysters.

Are you excited and curious enough to learn more about pearls? Then make sure you keep scrolling down this article to find out more about the history, types, creation, and lots more!

History Of Pearls: Hunting & Farming

Initially, only naturally produced pearls were available. From prehistoric times till almost the end of the 19th century, pearl divers collected the shelled sea animals to get the glossy beauties from inside. A large number of oysters had to be collected and killed to obtain a single pearl. After the invention of cultured pearls, farmers started producing pearls on pearl farms. Oysters were collected and transferred to pearl farms where irritants or the pearl nuclei were inserted into the shell to encourage the formation of a gem. The difficulty of obtaining natural pearls made them more valuable and highly-priced.

It is possible to find out how old a pearl is through carbon dating.

In 2012 French researchers found a 7,500-year-old pearl at a gravesite in the Arabian Peninsula.

It is believed that the famous pear-shaped pearl, known as La Peregrina, has been in the hands of famous people, including Napoleon Bonaparte.

The New York Cartier store, formerly The Fifth Avenue Mansion, was bought in 1917 by Pierre Cartier for two strands of pearls he had collected over the years.

How are pearls created?

A naturally occurring pearl is an organic gem. But searching for a pearl in the wild was an arduous task, requiring many divers and countless hours of searching. The difficulty of obtaining natural pearls led to the creation of pearl farming. It was discovered that an irritant could be artificially inserted into the mantle layers of a mollusk. The secretion made by the mollusk to cover the irritant is called the nacre, and it creates the pearl. With the invention of the culturing process, pearls became more available and less expensive.

Pearls were first cultured in Japan by Kokichi Mikimoto, who obtained a patent for his pearl farming process in 1896.

A single oyster can be used to produce more than one pearl during its lifetime.

The pearls produced through human intervention were as genuine as natural pearls and hence had commercial value. Other countries adopted pearl farming techniques, and the process became successful. This ability to culture pearls led to a thriving pearl industry.

Since pearls produced by the culturing process did not look or feel inferior to natural pearls, they continued to be in demand worldwide by jewelers.

Cultured pearls are considered real pearls, but any other imitation of pearls is considered inferior.

Freshwater & Seawater Pearls

Depending on where pearls are cultured, they are classified as freshwater or seawater pearls. Pearls can be cultured through human intervention in fresh and seawater. Freshwater pearls are made by fresh water mussels in rivers, ponds and lakes. Saltwater pearls are from oysters in the ocean.

The nacre of freshwater pearls is thicker but less glossy than saltwater pearls.

Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea pearls are the three main saltwater pearls.

South Sea pearls are highly valued for the variety of their color, shape and size.

Tahitian pearls have a darker tint.

The best-known saltwater pearls are the Japanese Akoya pearls.

Freshwater pearls are the more affordable, highly durable and easily available ones.

Types Of Pearls

Pearls are classified as natural and cultured pearls, freshwater and seawater pearls, and also based on their shape and texture. Cultured pearls appear in eight basic shapes: Round, near round, semi-round, oval, button, drop, baroque and semi-baroque. Baroque pearls are not spherical. Pearls appear in a variety of colors ranging from white to black. It is the gems luster, or reflective quality, that gives a pearl its beauty. Flawless pearls are in great demand. Black pearls are rare and hence highly-priced.

Pearls are measured in millimeters.

Pearls develop spherical shapes because of a rotational process that takes place while it is being formed inside the mollusk.

Pearls produced by the giant clam do not appear glossy as clams produce a non-nacreous secretion.

Keshi pearls are generally small and do not have a nucleus.

Uses & Religious References

Pearls have found mention in different cultures and religions. From ancient times there have been numerous beliefs and superstitions related to pearls. The invaluable nature of pearls is evident in the fact that it is mentioned in religious texts like the Quran and the Bible. Pearls have been displayed as decorative articles for centuries, and have been found on jewelry worn during the Roman Empire. In the past, royal costumes were adorned with pearls. This gem is considered the birthstone for the month of June.

Pearls have references in mythology and cosmology.

Pearls are mainly used in jewelry but also for cosmetic and medicinal purposes.

Pearl jewelry has not failed to attract fashionistas over the centuries.


What is so special about pearls?

Pearls are exquisitely beautiful because of their iridescent and glossy appearance, as well as their round smooth shape.

How long does a pearl last?

Pearls can remain in their pristine condition for a very long time, depending on how they are taken care of. After a long period, they may start losing their sheen.

Is every pearl unique?

Each pearl is unique.

How is a pearl made?

When a foreign particle gets embedded among the mantle folds of a mollusk or even if small damage occurs to the mantle, nacreous secretions are made for protection. A pearl is formed by the depositions of concentric layers of the crystalline form of calcium carbonate.

Can pearls freeze?

Pearls cannot freeze.

Are colored pearls real?

Colored pearls are real. But pearls can also be artificially dyed.

Are oysters killed for pearls?

Large number of oysters are killed for pearls. The oyster's shell is cut open to extract the pearl.

What color of the pearl is the most expensive?

The South Sea pearls that appear in white and gold shades are the most expensive.

How long does it take to make a pearl?

It takes 6-24 months to make a pearl

What is the rarest pearl in the world?

The Melo Melo pearl produced by the Melo Melo snails is considered the rarest in the world, and it is non-nacreous. The color ranges from dark orange to light yellow.

What is the biggest pearl ever found?

The Pearl of Puerto, which weighed 75 lb (34 kg) is considered the largest pearl ever found.

How many types of pearls are there?

There are natural and cultured pearls. They are also classified as fresh water and saltwater pearls.

What is a pink pearl called?

A pink pearl is called a conch pearl.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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