Understanding the basics of Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea Pearls

Pearls are all the same, they just come in different shapes and colors right? Wrong. However this is a misconception that most people have. For starters, there are two main classes of pearls: freshwater and saltwater pearls. While freshwater pearls can be beautiful, at Seven Seas Pearls we work with only saltwater pearls.

Saltwater pearls are exactly what they sound like – pearls that come from the ocean. Freshwater pearls on the other hand can be cultivated in streams, lakes and rivers. Saltwater pearls are broken into three main categories: Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls and South Sea Pearls. -Believe it or not if you know this, then your pearl knowledge is already leaps and bounds above the general public.

What separates these classifications of pearls is the region where they are farmed. Akoya Pearls come from the farming waters in Japan, Tahitian Pearls come from the French Polynesian Islands and South Sea Pearls come from the waters of Australia. Each sub-type of pearl has general outlines regarding color and size. Once you become familiar with these outlines, you will be able to identify where any type of saltwater pearl is from!

Akoya Pearls: These gems are the smallest in size in comparison to Tahitian and South Sea Pearls. Akoya Pearls range in size from 2mm all the way to 10mm with 7mm being the most common. Akoya Pearls are typically considered to be the “Classic” pearl. Akoya Pearls come in more muted tones than their Tahitian or South Sea counterparts. Akoya Pearls can range in color from white, to ivory, rose, silver, gray to blue. Each of these stunning “base” colors will have gorgeous overtones that will really make them stand out. – For example, gray Akoya Pearls with a purple overtone.

Here is a beautiful sample of just some of the colors that Akoya Pearls are famous for:

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Tahitian Pearls: These metallic beauties are known for their incredible rainbow of colors. They are larger than Akoya Pearls and typically range from 9mm all the way to 18mm. What makes these pearls unique is their incredible gray and black color. These base colors are simply incredible when paired with stunning overtones such as purple, peacock, green, blue etc.

Below are just a few of the stunning metallic colors Tahitian Pearls are famous for:

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South Sea Pearls are the largest of all saltwater pearls. These gorgeous gems range in size from 8mm all the way to 27mm. Like Akoya’s, South Sea Pearls are known for their more muted and pastel colors. South Sea Pearls are famously known for their deep golden and champagne colors but also come in a full spectrum of ivory, white, blue pistachio and light pistachio.

Here are a few of the stunning colors that South Sea Pearls are famous for:

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As you can see, there is a vast difference between each of these types of pearls. Once you become familiar with the colors and sizes, it becomes quite easy to determine where a pearl has originated from. Check back soon for a more in-depth look at each of these subtypes of pearls.

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How to Care for Your Pearls

Now that you have selected the perfect piece of pearl jewelry, we find that many people want to know the best way of caring for these delicate gems. Pearls if properly preserved can bring many decades of joy and beauty. However, if they are not cared for, they can become dull and lifeless. Here we have a few simple steps that will allow you to enjoy your pearls for years!

Avoid all chemicals

Since pearls are essentially layers of nacre that have been formed, harsh chemicals can destroy the luster and ultimately the pearl. To avoid this, put your pearl jewelry on last. Lotions, hair spray, perfume etc. can harm the nacre of your pearls – so use these products before you put on your pearl jewelry. In particular, make sure your perfume has dried before putting your pearls on. If your hands are oily or greasy from hair gel, hair spray etc. make sure you wash your hands before touching your pearls. If your pearls do come in contact with chemicals, give them a wipe with a soft cloth.

Many women use ultrasonic cleaning machines to clean their jewelry, it is crucial to never use this on your pearls. The chemicals will destroy the luster of the pearl and you will be left with pearls that have no luster, or shine.

Wipe down your pearls

If you are sweating or as women prefer to call it “glistening” it is important to give your pearls a quick wipe with a soft damp cloth before returning them to your jewelry box. It is important to never use tap water as it contains chlorine. Many people get carried away with this concept of wiping down their pearls and will saturate the entire strand. This will not “clean” your pearls any better and will weaken the silk thread they are strung on. If you do need to saturate your entire strand for a specific reason, take care to dry each pearl and lay the strand out flat for it to dry. Many times people will “hang” their pearls to dry which only serves to destroy the silk thread that is holding it together. If you feel that your pearls are dirty and need to be cleaned, you can either take them to a professional or use a very mild and small amount of dish soap to remove the dirt and grime.

Storage

If you have lots of jewelry and your jewelry box is overcrowded – make sufficient room for your pearls to be stored separately. Because of their delicate surface, pearls can be scratched easily if they are stored next diamonds or other sharp object. Over time, other rings, necklaces and earrings will “chip” away at the nacre of your pearls. It is important to store your pearls in a cloth pouch or lined drawer – never hang your pearls as it weakens the thread.

Long Term Care

Pearls need to be and should be worn frequently! So bring them out to be seen. Even if you do not wear your pearls on a regular basis, it is important to have them restrung on a regular basis. It is easy to determine if pearls need to be restrung. If you are able to move the pearls on the string in between the knots – it’s time to bring them in.

Contrary to what many women believe, pearls should not be worn in any type of water. Pools have chlorine which will destroy the luster and shine of a pearl. Additionally, the water will weaken the silk thread and can break. It might seem reasonable that saltwater would be good for pearls – since that is where they came from. But the salt in the water will dry and can create a thin white cloud on the pearl – which will also dull and ruin the luster and shine of the pearl. As pearls develop, they are protected by the shell and water and are not alternatively dried with the saltwater on them. This is the main difference between how saltwater can harm pearls – yet that was the climate in which they developed.

These simple tips will help you keep your pearls in perfect condition and will assure years of beauty! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Choosing the Right Necklace Length

After choosing what type of pearl, the size, color and shape most would think that the selection process is over – right? Nope. As with regular necklaces, pearl necklaces come in an array of various lengths. Typically (especially if you are buying for someone else) this can be slightly overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be! Here we have put together a simple guide to help you understand how and for what occasion most necklaces are suited for. All you need to do is determine how and for what occasion you plan on wearing your pearls most – and we will suggest the most common length!

Collar Style Pearl Necklace

The collar style pearl necklace is around 14 inches in length and fits tightly around the neck. This style of pearl necklace looks absolutely stunning with scoop neck, v-neck, boat neck and off the shoulder type clothing.

Choker Style Pearl Necklace

The choker style pearl necklace fits a bit looser than the collar style and is about 16 inches in length.  This style of necklace typically sits rather tightly at the base of the throat. This is thought to be a very versatile size as it works with both high and low necklines.

Princess Style Pearl Necklace

The princess style pearl necklace is typically around 18 inches in length. This is the most common length of necklace because it is incredibly versatile and looks great with any type of neckline. The princess style length sits on the collarbone and is great for both formal and casual wear.

Matinee Style Pearl Necklace

The Matinee Style Pearl Necklace typically is between 20 and 24 inches long. This style necklace can be dressed up – or dressed down depending on the occasion. Depending on the size of the woman, this length of necklace typically falls between the collarbone and the bust line. With a necklace of this length, it’s easy to see how with a business suit it could appear dressier – or with a t-shirt it could be more causal.

Opera Style Pearl Necklace

For women who love the dramatic look of a long string of pearls, the opera style pearl necklace is perfect! The opera style length typically is between 28 and 36 inches long. This type of pearl necklace typically works best with clothing that has a high neckline and formal evening wear. If you attend formal events on a regular basis – this just might be the perfect length for you.

Rope Style Pearl Necklace

While you might think that the Opera style pearl necklace is as dramatic as it gets – rope style pearl necklaces take it a bit further.  The pearl rope style necklace is typically at least 37 inches in length – but it can also be much longer. This type of necklace can be made with multiple clasps to allow for a single dangle look – or wrapped in a way that allows for a multiple strand choker. Pearl Rope necklaces are commonly seen dangling to accentuate a backless gown.

If you are still unsure of what length is appropriate for you, we invite you to either give us a call or stop by our Los Angeles Showroom. We would be more than happy to show you different lengths of pearl necklaces and help you find the length right for you.