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Pearl Goddess - Cultivation

How Are Pearls Cultivated?

It has been over 100 years since Mikimoto and others discovered how to cultivate pearls. In the past, classic round pearls have been Japanese akoya cultured pearls. They are nucleated with a round bead of mother of pearl and a small piece of mantle tissue that comes from the body of an oyster. The mantle tissue is the part of the body of the oyster that lines the shell. Together they are inserted into the center soft tissue of another oyster then placed in salt water to grow. Other pearls that are cultivated in this manner are Tahitian black, Australian white and silver and Philippine golden and white pearls.

With Freshwater cultured pearls that are diamonds, squares or rectangles, begin with a flat piece of shell cut in that shape. This style of pearl is called a coin. They are cultivated in a similar manner as the akoya pearl only the insertion is not into an oyster but into the soft tissue of another freshwater mussel accompanied by a piece of mantle tissue. Oval, rounds and freeform shapes begin as pieces of mantle tissue inserted into the body of another mussel only without a shaped piece of shell. Most freshwater cultured pearls are produced this way. Freshwater colors are pink, peach, mauve and lavender as well as white and cream.

Since the turn of the century, truly round cultivated pearls have emerged in these colors. Round shell bead nucleation produces rounds from 10-18mm. The demand for smaller sizes has production in 8-9mm. This brand is referred to as "Edison Pearls" named after Thomas Edison.

Both Freshwater cultured and saltwater cultured pearls are grown for about two years before they are harvested. The natural colors of cultured pearls are determined by the species of oyster (saltwater) and mussel (freshwater). Often cultured pearls are dyed to create colors that aren't always available naturally.

What makes a pearl a pearl and differentiates it from gemstones is its luster and iridescence. Only pearls, natural and cultivated, exhibit these qualities and are important to look for when making your selection. Pearls with high luster are will give you memorable pleasure with its brilliance and iridescence.

Contact Betty Sue King, Pearl Goddess at King's Ransom
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