In this first edition of our two part newsletter series, let us begin our redux of the roaring 20’s with an appreciation of pearls.  One of the main fashion features of the roaring 20’s was the so familiar theme of the long strands of pearls.  What a luxury to have a lustrous strand of these natural beauties, a real luxury then and now. For centuries, the royal houses of Persia, Europe and Asia have adorned their crowns and other regalia with natural pearls. With an understanding of how pearls are formed and harvested, it is no wonder they were a status symbol and something befitting royalty and the very wealthy. Before the discovery of oil in the Persian Gulf, the region's primary economic driver was the pearl industry, where young men were trained in free diving to retrieve oysters from beds in the bottom of the Gulf. The hope was that many of the oysters retrieved would contain a pearl of superior luster, symmetrically round shape and size as to garner a great price in the market. The desire for long strands where hundreds of these well-matched pearls would be used, drove this industry.  
Now imagine that in a natural oyster bed in the wild, there are 200 oysters and they all are impregnated at the same time, with the same size, and the same shape of foreign objects.. yeah right... that would not happen in nature. A diver might shuck hundreds or even thousands of mollusks before finding a single natural pearl, even when found, few would be "gem quality". Consequently, it took many free dives, and many hours of shucking oysters to produce the pearls needed to meet the demand of kings, queens, nobility and the wealthy. 

Pearl culturing is an adaptation of the natural pearl formation process. Basically, pearl farmers implant a bead nucleus into a host mollusk, then they monitor and control the growth environment until time to harvest.

A pioneer in the pearl culturing industry is Kokichi Mikimoto, who opened a cultured blister pearl shop in Tokyo in 1899.  By 1908, Mikimoto had begun culturing whole pearls. He was marketing cultured whole pearls and jewelry internationally by 1920. Today, pearls from the Mikimoto company are considered the gold standard in cultured pearls. They are featured in the most beautiful cultured pearl jewelry in the market, in my opinion of course. We welcome your visits to our gallery to view, try on, compare and decide for yourself.
There are four types of cultured pearls: Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and Freshwater.  

Akoya cultured pearls are produced in Japan, China and Vietnam in the Pinctada fucata oyster. The classic Akoya pearl is white with rose' overtones and excellent luster. Because Akoya pearls are fairly consistent in size and shape, they're ideal for well-matched  strands.
South Sea cultured pearls are produced principally in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Pinctada maxima oyster.  The two varieties of Pinctada maxima are the gold-lipped and silver-lipped which accounts for their characteristic colors. South Sea cultured pearls range from 8mm to 18mm, with most falling between 10mm and 15mm.  They typically have a soft  satiny luster rather than the mirror-like surface often seen on the finest Akoya.  Large, round high-quality South Sea cultured pearls are rare and very costly so they're not typically used for strands but rather are used frequently in pendant necklaces, rings or brooches.
Tahitian cultured pearls are produced in French Polynesia and Tahiti and are grown in the Pinctada margaritifera oyster. They range from 8mm to 17mm with most falling between 9mm and 11mm. The common name for Pinctada margaritifera is black-lipped oyster.  It is the only oyster that regularly produces the unusual colors that characterize Tahitian cultured pearls.  Trade terms like peacock, aubergine and pistachio are used to describe them.  Well-matched strands of large, lustrous Tahitian cultured pearls with their unusual colors command high prices.  As a result, many Tahitian cultured pearls are sold in jewelry that features singles, pairs, and sets.
Freshwater cultured pearls are produced mainly in China in mussels, the main variety being the Hyriopsis cumingi.  They typically range from 2mm to 13 mm. Volume, a broad range of qualities, and relatively low prices make Chinese freshwater cultured pearls affordable for virtually every consumer.

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