Selecting and Wearing Your
Elegant. Sexy. Sophisticated. Demure. Daytime. Evening. At
home, in the office or a night on the town, there's a strand of pearls
to fit the moment. Rose-hued pearls look best with lighter complexions.
For darker skin tones, consider gold and cream-colored pearls.
on the occasion, your stature and what you wear, here's what you need
to know in choosing a pearl necklace.
Collar (12-13 inches): Three or more strands hugging the middle of your neck.
Creates a more formal, elegant impression. The ideal complement to
v-neck and off-the-shoulder styling.
Choker (14-16 inches): A single strand circling the base of your neck, just
above the collarbone. Classic simplicity that goes with everything.
Perfect for all styles and occasions.
Princess (18 inches): Versatile accent highlights a variety of fashions. Enhances
the formality of crew and high necklines. A stunning counterpoint
to plunging necklines.
Matinee (20-24 inches): Catches the top of your cleavage. As its name implies,
a style you can wear to an afternoon at the theater.
Opera (28-34 inches): Signals style and confidence. Ever so chic with turtlenecks.
Or, for an entirely different look, create your own double choker.
Rope (45 inches or more): Think of it more as a glamorous pearl lariat,
capturing both your sexy and elegant moods. For day or night, under
an open jacket or dangling from a high neckline.Judging
Pearl Quality: 5 Points of Value Size: This is usually the most critical factor in determining
value. Large natural pearls are worth more than similarly sized cultured
pearls. Because natural pearl fishing has declined, large natural
varieties are rarer. Natural pearls also contain more nacre than cultured
pearls of the same size. Thus, they will be priced more highly.
Shape: The most desired pearls are perfectly round. Two sought after variations
are slightly off- round and off-round. The first, is detected only
by instrument. A trained eye confirms the second. Other popular shapes
include the drop, pear, egg and button. More irregular shapes are
Surface: Depending on the kind of oyster, the surfaces of pearls may range
from smooth to rough. Smoother pearls are worth more than grainy ones.
Irregular surfaces may display raised or depressed dots, color spots
and bumps. Ultimately, these features reflect the pearl's natural
Luster: Look at a pearl under a microscope. The surface is an amazing world
of ultra-fine ridges. Though the ridges cannot be seen with the naked
eye, their ability to reflect light causes the iridescence we call
luster. The better the nacre, the brighter the luster. To appreciate
the differences in luster, examine pearls of varying quality and price.
Cultured pearls are graded very bright, bright, medium, slightly dull
and dull. Akoya and Mabé pearls are especially noted for their luster.Color: When you think about pearl color, think also about skin tones, the
shade of your hair, the hues you like to wear. Pearl colors accent
and complement. They vary widely. Names like rosé, white rosé, cream,
white, blue white, yellowish white and hard yellow are all part of
the pearl color palette. When deciding on color, compare several pearls
or necklaces near one another. This makes the differences easier to
Akoya pearls are named for the Japanese oyster cultivated to
produce classically round cultured pearls.
Baroque varieties, which come in both natural and cultured versions, are prized
for their irregular shapes.
Biwa refers to freshwater pearls grown in Lake Biwa in Japan. Rarely perfectly
round, they may be oval-like or baroque.
Blister pearls are natural half pearls. Their flat sides make them ideal for
mounting in a bezel. Many have a mother-of-pearl insert and
are referred to as mabés.
Double pearls are two or more pearls united by birth. Though joined, each
pearl retains its distinctive shape.
Drop versions are shaped like drawn-out water drops, globular at the bottom
and tapering to a point at the opposite end.
Dust pearls are tiny seed pearls, pierced and strung as necklaces.
Half pearls, owing to imperfections, begin life whole, but are sawed in
two and mounted like Blister pearls.
Mabé is often a South Sea pearl, cultivated for its large size and mounted
with a bezel. Pronounced "mah-bay".
Oriental pearls, natural salt-water pearls so named before the advent of cultured
pearls, come mainly from Oriental waters.
or master, pearls are superior in shape, size, color and luster. They
are exceptionally large and round.
pearls occur when an oyster seeks to protect itself from a tiny
intruder that gets inside its shell. Intruders in the form of sand
or pieces of shell are layered over with nacre. Nacre, a secretion
of mother-of-pearl, builds up over time to form a spherical pearl.
The luster created by the accumulation of nacre is highly prized and
an essential quality of fine, natural pearls. Natural
pearl-bearing oysters live along coasts at a depth of 50 feet. The
Persian Gulf has yielded some of the most lustrous pearls since antiquity.
They are renowned for their red and creamy white sheen. Smaller, seed
pearls--mainly pinky red and soft yellow--are found in beds in the
Gulf of Manaar, between India and Sri Lanka.A
tour of other natural pearl beds leads to the waters off Japan, the
South Pacific Islands off northern Australia and the Gulf of California.
The coasts of Panama and Venezuela, in the Caribbean Sea, are also
rich birthplaces of natural pearls. Fishing for natural pearls has
declined, as cultured pearls have grown to account for some 90 percent
of the pearl trade.
pearls are cultivated by inserting a mother of pearl bead inside
the oyster. In response, the oyster deposits the pearlescent nacre
around the bead. When the process begins with man's help, the intruding
bead is typically much larger than a grain of sand. Creating a cultured
pearl takes much less time than for a natural pearl, but three years
is best. NOTE: Most "promotional" pearls are
harvested in less than 1 year- these pearls will not last through
normal wear! Japanese
and Australian coastal waters are the main sources of cultured, Akoya
(saltwater) pearls. Careful cultivation produces pearls of fine color
and iridescent luster. Non-round, irregularly shaped pearls have grown
in favor with pearl lovers and jewelry designers alike.The
largest of all cultured pearls thrives in the warm coastal seas of
the Indian and Pacific oceans. Called South Sea pearls, they come
in many colors, from various whites and white pinks, through golds
to blue gray.Black
pearls, a stunning accent to evening wear, begin life in the languid
waters off the island of Tahiti. Light gray to charcoal, Tahitian
pearls are valued for their size and dark sensual hues. Large Tahitian
pearls rank among the rarest. Their singular shapes challenge the
jeweler's art to match pearls for earrings and necklaces.
lakes and rivers around the world are sources of fresh water pearls.
Two varieties, the Biwa of Japan and China pearls cultivated in China,
are the most popular. Because more than one pearl at a time can be
grown in freshwater mussels, the pearls tend to be less expensive
than saltwater pearls. Freshwater
versions offer a greater color range than their natural or cultured
saltwater cousins. Biwa
pearls were originally of higher quality than China pearls. Because
environmental factors have cut the output of Biwa pearls and because
the cultivation of China pearls has improved, large round China pearls
are especially prized. More recently, the Chinese freshwater
pearls have begun to rival, not only the Japanese pearls, but also
the South Sea varieties.
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