ELISABETH NEWTON PEARLS
Natural, cultured, faux – what is the actual difference in the types of pearls?!
N A T U R A L : these guys have no artificial core and are formed just as implied – naturally. A result of a random irritant, like a pesky sliver of shell or sand, mollusks begin coating the annoying bit with nacre, forming an irregularly shaped pearl.
Big ‘ole natural pearls are often seen in museum quality antique jewels, such as in the tiara above, and in contemporary jewelry as baroque and keshi pearls.
C U L T U R E D: comprising the largest percentage of pearls on the market today, cultured pearls was a practice invented by Mikimoto in the 1920’s. An irritant such as a bead or shell is surgically slipped into the mollusk to kick start the pearl making process instead of letting nature put it there on a whim.
The key to finding high quality cultured pearls is to look at the nacre – check for cracks, staining or spotting on the pearl, or just look at the drill hole: the layers of nacre are often easier to see here. Fewer imperfections + thicker layers = higher quality pearls.
F A U X: also known as simulated or glass pearls, these are either plastic, glass or mother of pearl. Fake pearls are typically lighter in weight and have a flawlessly perfect finish. Personally I think fake pearls are delightful in their own right, so sport those boys with pride!