Mad About Pearls - What is the Difference between Natural, Cultured and Fake?

There are 4 types of Pearls - Natural, Cultured, Shell and Fake. So what is the difference?

In my first blog I explained how a Natural Pearl is formed randomly all by itself in an oyster drifting around the sea bed.  

By the way - are all oysters capable of making pearls?  No - there are only some varieties that have the special "Mother of Pearl" nacre layer inside the shell.  Its a shiny smooth iridescent pearl like coating on the inside of the shell.  If you open up your regular yummy Sydney Rock Oyster (if you're lucky enough to live on the East Coast of Australia) you will notice that the shells are pretty ordinary - no nice shiny stuff inside.  If you don't have the nacre coated shells you won't get pearls in those oysters - so forget going down to the wharf and opening up all the oysters in search of a pearl - just enjoy the delicious oyster meat.  And the only way you are ever going to get a pearl accidentally   served up on a plate in a restaurant is if you are eating Pinctada oysters. Below is a pic of a Sydney Rock Oyster and a Pinctada Oyster - yep, the Sydney Rock Oyster looks a lot better to eat!

What is the Difference Between a Natural Pearl and a Cultured Pearl?

A Natural Pearl is formed when an irritant accidentally gets into the soft tissue of the mussel in an oyster.  As a defence mechanism, the animal produces secretions to coat the irritant.  Many layers of coating are deposited on the irritant making the irritant smooth. A natural pearl is thus born.

A Cultured Pearl is formed in the same process as a natural pearl. The only difference is that it begins by inserting a shell bead nucleus inside the oyster and irritating the oyster to produce the layers of  nacre. The outer layers of a cultured pearl is composed of concentric layers of an organic substance and of calcium carbonate. These farms are mass produced in "farms".  Human intervention starts the secretion of a cultured pearl, whereas natural pearl secretion starts without any human intervention. Why are  natural pearls so rare?  It may take over 100,000 oysters to get enough pearls to make a pearl necklace. Matching  natural pearls to make a  pearl strand is extremely difficult since they are never round or uniform in size and color. A well- matched natural pearl strand can be extremely  pricey.


    Leave a comment

    Please note, comments must be approved before they are published