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.

Shapes of Akoya Pearls

If you read our last blog, then you have an awareness and working knowledge of what Akoya Pearls are and where they come from. In this blog we are going to explore a bit more in-depth the gorgeous shapes that Akoya Pearls come in.

Many people assume that only high quality pearls are perfectly round. This thought process could not be further from the truth. Another common misconception is that pearls that are irregular in shape are “natural pearls”. Pearls are a naturally formed gem, because the process is not entirely controlled by human hands, gorgeous shapes evolve. Pearls that are not perfectly round are not considered natural pearls. In fact, if anyone tries to sell you a “natural pearl” it would serve you well to run. In today’s pearl market, 99.9% of all pearls are cultured pearls. Meaning that they are farmed and harvested. There are many laws forbidding the hunting of wild oysters for their pearls. As a result, they are nearly impossible to find, and if you did “find one” a red flag should be waving. All pearls, like their gorgeous rainbow of colors come in a variety of shapes. The most well-known are pearls are perfectly round, then near round, baroque, tear-drop and button. When selecting a shape of pearl, there is no right or wrong shape to choose. It is based entirely upon preference and personal style.

Here is a great example of how shapes for Akoya Pearls can vary slightly. While to the layman’s eye, both of these pearls could easily be considered to be round. But in order for a pearl to be classified as round, it must be perfectly round. If you look closely, the pearl on the right is not perfectly round. This shape is called “near round”.

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Because Akoya Pearls are smaller in overall size than South Sea or Tahitian Pearls, the shapes they come in are not nearly as exaggerated. Teardrop and button shaped pearls are common in the larger sizes of pearls (South Sea and Tahitians). Because of its smaller shape, Akoya Pearls are not typically given the classification of button or teardrop shape. For example, South Sea Pearls can grow as large as 27mm (granted this would be quite rare). But because of its size, a baroque South Sea Pearl would be more irregular in shape than a baroque Akoya Pearl.

Here is a great example of what would be considered a baroque Akoya Pearl and a baroque South Sea Pearl. You can see how the difference in size impacts the irregular shape of these beautiful pearls.

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If you are considering an Akoya Pearl Necklace, we invite you to explore our website which has hundreds of gorgeous Akoya Pearl Strands. Each necklace has been individually photographed and graded. The piece that you are viewing is the actual piece that you will receive. If you live in the Los Angeles area, we would love to have you visit our showroom. We are open to the public and you never need an appointment. Our passion is pearls, and we look forward to sharing this passion with you.

Akoya Pearls

Even if you love pearls but know very little about them, you have probably noticed that there are many different types, sizes and colors of pearls. In this blog, we are going to discuss one of the three main types of pearls: Akoya Pearls. Saltwater pearls come in three main varieties: Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls and South Sea Pearls. Pearls are classified by the region they are harvested from. For example, Akoya Pearls come primarily from the warm coastal waters of Japan. For each type of pearl, a different type of oyster is responsible for its development. The Pinctada Fucata oyster is the oyster that produces Akoya Pearls. This oyster only survives in the waters near Japan. As a result, Akoya Pearls could never be harvested in the French Polynesia (where Tahitian Pearls are from) or near Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines (where South Sea Pearls are from). Therefore, when you see a specific type of pearl or hear its name, you know exactly what region in the world it is from.

Akoya Pearls are the most common type of pearl. Chances are if you have seen a beautiful strand of pearls, they are most likely Akoya Pearls. For decades, these little gems have been the main staple of women’s pearl jewelry.

One of the beautiful things about the world of pearls is the beautiful variety of colors that they come in. Akoya Pearls come in shades ranging from pure white, to ivory, to silver; soft pink and rarer shades include blue, pistachio and champagne. Akoya Pearls can also be found in dark green and black tones. These darker colors are not natural colors for Akoya Pearls and have been chemically enhanced. One of the unique aspects of pearl colors is the gorgeous overtones that they have. For example, an Akoya Pearl can be white but have a silver overtone. Or, a silver Akoya Pearl can have a green overtone – you can imagine how incredible the combination of these colors and overtones can be!

Here is a gorgeous example of the different colors and overtones that Akoya Pearls come in:

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Of the three types of pearls (Akoya Pearls, South Sea Pearls and Tahitian Pearls), Akoya Pearls are the smallest in size. Akoya Pearls range in size from 2mm all the way to 10mm. The most common size of Akoya Pearl is 7mm.

Here is a great example of a 2mm, a 5mm, a 7mm and a 10mm Akoya Pearl:

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In our next blog we are going to explore more in-depth the gorgeous shapes of Akoya Pearls. Check back soon!

What is nacre?

If you have either bought a strand of pearls or done any amount of research on pearls, then most likely, the term nacre has probably come up. And, if you are like most, you just know that the nacre is important – but are not really sure why. In this blog we are going to illuminate why nacre is so important, how it develops, and why it is factored into the overall grade.

Nacre is the outer coating of a pearl. When an oyster is nucleated, the nucleus is irritating to the shell. In order to protect itself from this irritant, the oyster secretes nacre around the nucleus to protect itself from the foreign object. Nacre is also referred to as ‘Mother of Pearl’ and is the same gorgeous and shimmery material that lines the interior of a mollusk.  Nacre is deposited in the thinnest of coatings as the pearl is developing. The layers are actually quite similar to the layers of an onion. Pearls with a short harvest time, tend to have a more thin nacre. Pearls that are allowed longer to cultivate have more layers and therefore a more thick nacre.

Pearls that have a thin nacre may appear beautiful at the time, but as they age, the nacre will wear off thus ultimately removing the luster of the pearl. When this happens, the pearl has a dull and chalky appearance. As a result, pearls that have a higher quality nacre are more valuable and will last significantly longer and maintain their luster in contrast to pearls with a thin nacre.

As we discussed earlier, freshwater pearls are made up entirely of nacre, whereas saltwater pearls have a nucleus with the nacre forming around the nucleus. As a result, the thickness of the nacre is an attribute that applies only to saltwater pearls.

At Seven Seas Pearls, all pearls are rated individually and then each rating is averaged out for a total grade. The rating that Seven Seas Pearls’ uses for the absolute best nacre is “top” from there the nacre is rated Very Thick, Top, Medium and Thin.

Here is an example of the difference between a pearl with top rated nacre and thin nacre – can you see how the nacre dramatically impacts the luster and glow?

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Here is another example of nacre with a less extreme difference between the grades. The pearl on the left has a rating of very thick nacre and the pearl on the right has a rating of medium nacre.

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As you can see from the above images, the thickness of the pearl nacre has a dramatic impact on the overall quality, luster and beauty of a pearl. Check back soon for our next blog on Akoya Pearls!

Why is surface clarity so important for pearls?

When considering a piece of jewelry (pearl, gemstone or diamond) the term “clarity” comes up rather frequently. In past blogs we have explored how pearls are graded and how Seven Seas Pearls grades pearls in contrast to the pearl industry. Surface clarity is a term that is used frequently to describe the overall quality of a pearl – here in this blog we are going to explore in depth why the surface clarity of a pearl is such an important factor to consider when making a pearl jewelry purchase.

The obvious first question is “what is surface clarity” – surface clarity, much like its name implies is how smooth or without flaws the surface of a pearl is. Since pearls are formed by the insertion of a nucleus, the nacre develops around it and results in layers being built around the nucleus. Since the process of nacre layers developing is a naturally occurring process (without human intervention) there is no way to guarantee the quality of the surface clarity. The surface of a pearl can be incredibly smooth – without indentations or flaws or it can be incredibly flawed and have many dents. As we mentioned in a previous blog, like when buying a diamond, it is important to have a balance of all the aspects of how a pearl is graded. If you have a pearl with excellent luster – but poor surface clarity, the pearl will have a dingy appearance. The same would be true with a pearl that had excellent clarity, but poor luster. This is one of the reasons why Seven Seas Pearls grade pearls on each individual aspect and then those ratings are averaged out for an overall grade.

As you are probably very familiar with by now, pearls are graded universally on the AAA grading system. Seven Seas Pearls has added an extra category that describes pearls that have perfect clarity. For perfect surface clarity, this term is AAA Flawless.

Here is an excellent example of how important surface clarity is. Here are two pearls that have the same rating of luster – but as you can see, one has very poor surface clarity (rated A+) and the other has very good surface clarity (AAA Flawless).

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As always, extreme differences are easy to see and take notice of. Here is an example of two pearls that are a little closer on the rating scale – even still, it is easy to see the difference in surface clarity and ultimately why they are graded differently. The pearl on the left has a surface clarity rating of AAA and the one on the right has a rating of AA – can you see the difference?

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As you can see, pearls with a higher quality surface clarity allow the pearl’s luster to really glow and reflect the light. As a result, pearls with a high surface quality are more valuable and desirable than pearls with a lower grade.

The next aspect of pearls that we are going to explore is nacre and why it is so important. Check back soon for our next blog.