Pearls There are three main types of pearls; natural (rarely seen these days), cultured, or cultured fresh water. A natural pearl is formed when a grain of sand or irritant penetrates the mantle tissue of the oyster. The oyster “repairs” the damage by covering it with conchyolin & pearly nacre. In the case of a cultured pearl, nature is helped along by the insertion of a piece of mantle tissue & a mother of pearl bead into the mantle tissue of the host oyster. The oyster reacts in the same way resulting in a generally larger & more spherical pearl. A cultured freshwater pearl comes from a different mollusc & is produced by simply inserting a piece of mantle tissue into the host oyster. Pearls come is many different shades, some colours are natural, others are dyed.
Pearls consist mainly of a form of calcium carbonate and as a result are porous. For this reason never apply hairspray or perfume when you are wearing them, put them on last or the pearly lustre will become dull or even disappear. Even the acid in your skin can damage them, so wiping them with a soft cloth when you take them off is a good idea. Pearls should be professionally cleaned – ideally when they are being re-strung and should always be wrapped & stored separately & not exposed to sunlight. Pearls are usually strung on silk and when this becomes visible between the pearls, it is time to have them re-strung. Uniform pearls are normally knotted so that you only lose one if the string breaks, but graduated rows look better strung plain.