Gemmologist’s Corner – Pearls

Gemmologist’s Corner – Pearls

17/06/2021     Jewellery & Gems

Pearls are one of nature’s most valuable gifts, set apart from other gems, they need no cutting or polishing and are formed by a biological process. They may be the oldest known gem to man, the discovery of the decorative beauty has been lost in the mists of pre – history, but it is thought that early man most likely discovered the pearl whilst hunting for food on the seashore.

We know from ancient paintings that the Egyptians wore mother of pearl in jewellery more than 5000 years ago.  Pearls were since discovered in China, India, Persia, Europe and the New World.

Throughout history, right from its early existence to the present day, the natural pearl has been (and still is) treasured as an ornament and as a symbol of wealth. Pearls have also been used as currency by natives in the South Seas, in 1916, the French jeweller Jacques Cartier is said to have bought a valuable property, his New York store in Fifth Avenue, by trading two pearl necklaces!

The formation of a natural pearl is a fascinating and mysterious accident of nature, the process starts when a foreign object enters the shell of an oyster and lodges itself in the oyster’s soft inner body. To protect itself, the oyster secretes a substance (called nacre) around the object. Over time, it becomes completely encased layer by layer in the substance, forming what we know as the beautiful and precious natural pearl – made by chance.

Today natural pearls are rare and expensive and extremely prized, to identify a natural pearl it must be certified by a laboratory.

The cultivation of pearls involves a similar process to the natural one and has been attempted as far back as the mid 1700’s. They did not become successful and widespread until the early 20th Century when Mikimoto first marketed the fully spherical cultured pearl. Today cultured pearls are relatively inexpensive and common, however the better the quality the more expensive the price tag.

The colour shape and size and quality of nacre of cultured pearls vary and  are some of the factors that determine value, usually the larger, whiter, more uniform, with close to perfect surface the pearl has, the more value they have, although black pearls also command high value.

They also happen to be the birthstone of June and we have a large selection of pearls as always in our June auction offering lots of ways modern and traditional to rock pearls, some of which I have I picked our below but there are many more in our online catalogue:

Lot 438: A nice quality uniform pearl necklace, the pearls are linked by 18ct gold links, giving a modern look: €1200 - 1600

Lot 229: a pretty pink pearl necklace with a silver clasp, €120 – 140

Lot 371: a fine cultured pearl necklace in the more traditional style with an emerald and diamond clasp €1000 – 1400 and lot 175: a funky multi coloured baroque pearl necklace €500 - 700

Lot 400: A fine quality pair of pearl and diamond cluster earrings: €3000 - 4000

Lot 405 are a retro pearl and sapphire cluster pair at €500 – 700 

Lot 7


A selection of black and white pearl stud earrings: 7, 11, 73, 78,

80, 152 and 226

Lot 190: A vintage four stranded pearl bracelet with diamond detail €400 – 600

Lot 338: A very pretty multi gem set bracelet, including six pearls: €450 – 600

Lot 51: a vintage pearl cluster ring €350 - 550, Lot 99: a pretty pearl single stone ring mounted in gold €120 - 180

Lot 403: A pearl and diamond finger line cluster ring: €950 - 1250

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