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Pearls, Pearls, Pearls. A beautiful gem natural or cultured

Updated: Apr 3, 2021

When it comes to Pearls, no two are alike with all its varieties it truly is a remarkable gemstone.

Since ancient times pearls have played an important part in the cultural thread of civilisation and were often viewed as a symbol of wealth, power, beauty, love and purity. They were worn by Arabian royalty, Indian Maharajas, Chinese Emperors, Kings & Queens across Europe as elaborate jewels and embroidered clothing all demonstrating the wealth & status of the owner.

In modern markets rare pearls with desirable qualities are still highly sought after, this beautiful organic gem is also very affordable to anyone looking to add a touch of timeless elegance in traditional or contemporary designs.

Pearl rings are intended for "high day and holiday" wear only.
Black Pearl with Rubies and Diamonds. Peter Minturn.

Their uniqueness varies in origin, characteristics and treatments with distinguishing features (virtues) being like a fingerprint. Naturally occurring gem quality pearls are rare, with the South Seas Pearl farms in North Australia being the last producing commercial quantities of wild South Sea Pearl oysters.

Most pearl species typically take 2 -3 years to cultivate with one pearl per operation/shell. They can range in size from a millimetre & up to 16mm. Some species may produce rare pearls exceeding 20mms. Pearls are categorised as natural or cultured, with both categories being produced in salt water or fresh water. Natural pearls are produced by organic irritants that the nacre builds up on. Cultured pearls are instigated by man and may be beaded or non-beaded (centre seed introduced into the live mollusc on which the animal coats nacre is layered).

Circlé pearls are lovely to wear at longer lengths.  Circlé cultured pearls have one or more grooved rings that can give the pearl an appealing individuality, although non-circlé cultured pearls are generally more valuable.
Fiji circlé pearls

Pearls are measured in quality across 5 virtues; Size, Shape, Surface appearance, Lustre, & Colour. See the CIBJO guide for easy to read definitions & wonderful pictures that demonstrate these qualities.

If you are so lucky to have acquired or inherited a piece of pearl jewellery, remember that care when you are not wearing it is as important as when you are. To keep your pearls in optimum condition after wearing them, wipe them gently by dipping a soft clean cloth into warm water and then cleaning the item in your hands. To prevent tangles and scratches, keep each piece in its own protective jewellery pouch.

Enjoy the attached resource.

CIBJO Pearl Guide

Download PDF • 1.96MB

Providing an overview of the various pearl categories in different parts of the world, the guide lists, describes and illustrates the primary pearl-producing molluscs, and the type of pearls that each yields. A comprehensive breakdown of the leading seawater and freshwater cultured pearl types in the market is provided, detailing the species, origin, characteristics and production of each. The richly illustrated guide details the system for classifying natural pearls from the Akoya complex and the system for classifying cultured pearls, it also supplies information about pearl treatments and other pearl types, such as keshi cultured pearls.


All thanks goes to CIBJO et al for this informative resource.


The original draft of this guide was produced by the Paspaley Team encouraged by Nick Paspaley and Peter Bracher. The natural pearl classification sections were conceptualised by the staff of the Gem and Pearl Testing Laboratory of Bahrain, in cooperation with the CIBJO Pearl Commission, and completed by GPTLB’s successor the Bahrain Institute for Pearls and Gemstones (DANAT).

The following individuals played pivotal roles in the subsequent additions and edits to this guide Kenneth Scarratt as Editor and President of the CIBJO Pearl Commission with support from Abeer Tawfeeq, Andrea Broggian, Doug Mclaurin, Elfriede Schwarzer, Fabio Damico, Gerard Grospiron, Gina Latendresse, He Ok Chang, Jacques Branellec Jacques Christophe Branellec, James Paspaley, Jeanne Lecourt Jean-Pierre Chalain, Jeremy Norris, Jeremy Shepherd, Justin Hunter, Karina Ratzlaff, Laurent Cartier, Loic Wiart, Margherita Superchi, Nick Paspaley, Nick Sturman, Olivier Segura, Peter Bracher, Pierre Akkelian, Pierre Fallourd, Roland Naftule, Rudi Biehler, Rui Galopim de Carvalho, Shigeru Akamatsu and Tom Moses.

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