by Angela Tague
Pearls are the product of a living creature. Mollusks living in saltwater and fresh water have been forming pearls for over 500 million years. Coveted for their simplicity and color, these organic gems are often set into pearl necklaces, rings, earrings and other jewelry pieces. Unlike gems that evolve from minerals in the earth's crust, pearls begin their creation as a reaction to foreign matter inside a shell-covered mollusk. Pearl jewelry is an homage to the beauty of nature and time.
Formation: In the wild, pearls form under rare circumstances. When an irritant enters the shell of a mollusk, the living creature attempts to trap and isolate the particle. The mollusk layers the foreign matter with the mineral aragonite, also known as nacre, forming a pearl. Nacre is also used in the formation of mollusk shells. Beautiful pearls are then hunted or harvested for all types of pearl jewelry, including pearl necklaces, pearl earrings and pearl rings.
Creation factors: Authentic pearls naturally have an uneven surface. Pearls are created by layers of nacre, making many specimens textured and irregularly shaped. The nacre layering, water chemistry and temperature all play a role in the final appearance of the pearl. Unique pearls are often set into jewelry pieces all on their own so that their natural beauty can be enjoyed.
Colors: Pearls are naturally created in a variety of colors. During the formation process, organic pigment from the protein conchiolin tints the pearl. Colors range from classic white, ivory and pale pink to gold, purple, grey, chocolate and black. When you are shopping for pearl earrings, pearl rings and pearl necklaces, choose colors that will go well with other accessories in your wardrobe.
Cultured pearls: The creation of natural pearls is a rare process. The cultured pearl industry was formed to bridge the gap between natural pearl formation and consumer demand. Pearl farms use both saltwater seas and freshwater lakes to create pearls. Saltwater and freshwater oysters are injected with a nucleus tissue, which acts as an irritant and encourages the oyster to form a pearl.
Imitation pearls: The creation of imitation pearls began long ago with the Ancient Romans. Glass beads were commonly covered with varnish, mica or fish scales to create imitation pearls. Identifying an imitation pearl is simple. A real pearl has an uneven, gritty surface due to the layering technique used by the mollusk to create the pearl. A fake pearl will be smooth, with an even surface. The image of a pirate running pearls over his teeth is an accurate depiction of checking for genuine pearls.