Pearls: A Quick Guide

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The pearl. Once used to fund campaigns of the Roman army. Traded for a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York. All because of a mistake? Normally, mollusks don’t like foreign objects in their mouth. Occasionally, something finds its way inside and takes up residence on the mantle, or the pieces that cover the oyster’s delicate organs. As a defense mechanism, the mantle begins to cover the foreign particle with nacre. Nacre works two ways: to isolate the foreign object from harming the oyster, and to eventually form into a gorgeous pearl. 


How Does it Work?


It’s a delicate process. Normally one mollusk will take almost three years to develop a pearl suitable for use in jewelry. We can thank Kokicihi Mikimoto for perfecting this process. Before Mikimoto, pearls were harvested on the Gulf Coast and around the warm waters of Venezuela. Mikimoto sought out to change the pearl industry forever: to intentionally put an irritant in the mollusk. This way, he could tag and organize the mollusks to better his chances of receiving a premium product. His business exploded. Always popular in his native Japan, Mikimoto brought his pearls to the world in the early 20th Century.


Are All Pearls Equal?


Pearl quality, like that of diamonds, follows a lettering system. AAA pearls are virtually flawless, followed by AA and then A grade. A grade pearls have a lower luster and suffer some form of surface flaw on 25% of their surface area. AA pearls have a nicer luster and a thicker, more perfect nacre than the A grade does. Just like diamonds, however, pearls are organic and graded by human eyes. Don't let a letter grade completely determine your purchase. Pearls need to be felt and seen for their unique, natural beauty appreciated in person.


How Do I Care For Them?


JB Hudson recommends that you put your pearl jewelry on last in the morning and take it off first when you get home. Avoid any harsh chemicals or soaps. Like anything that you wear constantly, they will occasionally get dirty. Their luster may appear dull or their color may appear off. At home, take a soft cloth and brush away any serious dirt. For further maintenance, on your new pearls or Grandmas old strand, see our professional Service Department at JB Hudson. Like JB Hudson, pearls are pure class. If you'd like to start your own heirloom pearl collection, contact us!.