Pearl Encyclopedia - SelecTraders

Pearl Information

Pearl Information - It is uncertain, how, where and when the first pearl was discovered. We know that recorded history mentions pearls over a period of more than 4000 years. Many cultures from around the world were fascinated by the pearl’s beauty.

Valued by ancient China and Egypt, admired by Indian emperors, Imperial Rome and the Arab World, pearls enchanted Native American tribes and European royalty as well.

Probably, the Pearls Fascination stems not only from its beauty but from its rarity as well. It was a unique gemstone, hard to find, often dangerous to retrieve from the depth of the ocean. Searching for pearls was like looking for a needle in a haystack and the discovery of one was considered as a special blessing.

Pearls are formed inside a living organism, the only gemstone developing this way. Oysters or molluscs are able to produce a pearl when a parasite or another foreign substance invades the shell.

Over 8.000 different species of bivalve shellfishes (two-shelled molluscs) are recorded, but only about 20 of them are capable of producing pearls.The invader is entering the soft mantle tissue, picking up epithelial cells, which form into a sac (also called pearl sac). Only these 20 species oysters or molluscs respond to the foreign substances irritation by secreting a crystalline substance, which builds up in layers around the irritant. This substance is called nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl. It is the same substance which lines the interior of the oyster’s shell.

Over a several years, the layers of nacre around the irritant will form a pearl. Only a small percentage of oysters will ever produce a pearl at all, if left in a totally natural state. Just a handful of natural pearls will grow to a desirable size, shape or colour. The shape of the original irritant is essential for the shape the pearl will take in the end. Therefore, natural pearls will rarely develop a round or spherical shape. If they do, they are highly prized.

After all, the pearl-producing oyster has to be discovered, somewhere out there in the sea. Common assumptions estimate that only one in 10.000 oysters will produce a pearl of gem quality. Whoever owned a pearl in the past was certain to wear a rare gem. Of course, the facts added to the fascination the pearl holds until today.

If we relied only on nature, ownership of pearls would be limited to royalty and the wealthiest people.The few natural beds of pearl-producing oysters would be close to extinction due to over-harvest.

Since the world’s population showed an increasing demand for the treasures of the sea, this need has led to the development of cultured pearls. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, several Japanese researchers discovered a method of producing pearls artificially. This technique involves the deliberate insertion of a foreign substance called nucleus into the tissue of the oyster or mollusc. After that, the creature is returned to the sea, monitored and cared for, allowing the resulting cultured pearl to develop naturally.

At first, this practice was quite widespread harvesting Mabe pearls. Kokichi Mikimoto is credited with perfecting the technique. His skills led to the artifially stimulated development of round pearls in oysters. In 1916, Mr. Mikimoto received a patent for his invention.

Nevertheless, his technique has been improved and is used extensively ever since. Mikimoto's discovery opened the gates to a greatly expanded pearl industry, in which pearls could be farmed like other agricultural crop. Endless searches for the rare treasures of the sea, relying on luck and coincidence, could be ceased. Now, cultured pearls could be produced in sufficient quantities, to make them available to virtually anyone.