I just got a question and I wanted to post it here for many of you who might be confused about the different types of pearls. The question was, “Are your pearls FRESH WATER, SALT WATER OR CULTURED PEARLS?” That is such a great question which highlights a lot of the different info that floats around about pearls!
I am hoping you can tell me something about the pearls in the attached photograph.
My mother recently passed away at age 90. She had this pearl necklace before I was born when she was 20. I am not trying to determine the monetary value of this necklace, just maybe something about this type of pearl. The necklace is about 62″ long. Sterling silver chain, no clasp. The pearls look very rough. Yet they seem to have never lost their lustre. The necklace had been kept put away in a jewelry box for probably the last 20 years. I remember her telling me that it was of great value to her. For me, the value is sentimental. I would like to take this piece to a jeweler to have the silver cleaned and polished and to probably have the pearls cleaned too, if that is something that you would recommend. I have someone I can trust to do that for me. However, before doing that I am wondering if you might know anything about the pearls shown.
I wear this piece occasionally. It is one of several older pieces of jewelry that my mother owned that bring back very fond memories for me. I am a June baby and pearls are my birthstone. I have a very nice cultured pearl choker that my mother’s mother gave me for my high school graduation. I keep it tucked away and wear it on very special occasions. While I save my cultured pearl necklace for special occasions, I find that the necklace shown is something that I choose to wear more often, at least at the moment. It is definitely a sentimental thing. I also have some freshwater pearl jewelry, necklaces and bracelets with small almost bed like pearls and a pair of dangle earrings. They are something that has been purchased or given to me as a gift in the last 20 or 30 years.
Learning something about these pearls or even this style of necklace would be fun for me. Unfortunately, the photo I have submitted is about as good as I can get with my cell phone. If you need something that is more close up, I can see about having someone take a picture with a good camera with zoom lens.
I am interested to learn what you might know about this piece. I may be wrong, but I think it is very unique and I have never seen one like it before and have searched the internet looking for something similar. Is it unusual? Have you seen other pieces like this?
This is my favorite piece of pearl jewelry.
Thanks so much for reaching out to us! I am so happy you found us online! What are these pearls?
Unfortunately, I do not have much info for you! I have seen pearls like this in the past, same size and shape and they had maintained their luster but they were imitation pearls. I feel like I want to jump to that conclusion in this case but it is just impossible to say without touching them or seeing them in a better image. So, do some investigating…. put your teeth on them, do they feel gritty when you rub your teeth on them? Sometimes I know if might be tough when the pearls are bumpy so the other idea is to go by weight. Do they feel heavy or light? Although not all imitation pearls are lightweight, it is a good indicator that when they are super light, they are most likely fake.
Now, if they are real, I would love to do some digging. Do you have any info about where she got the pearls or from whom?
Thanks for reaching out! Let’s keep chatting!
Good morning. Thanks for getting back to me. I did rub them on my teeth (forgot from years ago that this was one thing to try) and they do have a rough feel to them. That being said, my mother who passed away in June at the age of 90 told me years ago that these were a gift from her father and that they were real. I know this may or may not be true.
My grandfather died in 1968 at the age of 88. He was the youngest of 7 children born to Scottish immigrants. My grandfather was the only child to be born in the U.S. He was born I believe in New Jersey, but for most of his younger life lived in Colorado. My grandfather was a chemist by education and later became a salesman for I think it was BF Goodrich. As a salesman he traveled quite a bit. So it is anybody’s guess where these might have come from.
I wish there were some way for my to track this down, but quite frankly my mother was the oldest of 4 children. All but the youngest have passed away. So for me, the origin of these may remain one of the great mysteries of life. As I said in my previous email, I am not so much worried about the monetary value as just trying to figure out when and where they may have come from. One thing that is interesting to note is that the chain has no clasp. I wondered if that was something that might be more indicative of the age?
You just might not be familiar with abalone pearls, although I am sure you would recognize an abalone shell. They are rich with color, gorgeous in both jewelry and mother-of-pearl decorative accessories. Abalone pearl nacre is stunning with a swirl of iridescent color.
Abalone are sea snails. They are also hemapheliacs so they are incredibly difficult to culture for pearl production. Up until a few years ago, the largest natural Abalone pearl was around 400 carats. Now remember, natural pearls are not measured by a size diameter, like cultured pearls, but as a weight. One carat equals 200 milligrams.
Around 2006 a diver off the coast of Mexico found an abalone with a HUGE natural pearl inside. The weight is over 800 carats (twice the weight of the second largest abalone pearl!)
The diver sold the pearl to James Peach who still owns it today. This stunner is estimated to be worth $1.5 million. James named it Le Perle Venetia after his wife.
As you can see, the biggest abalone pearl is not round. This is a characteristic of abalone pearls, they are rarely round. Abalone, unlike many pearl producing mollusks, are not bivalves. They only have one shell. This means the formation of the pearl is different. They typically form in horn like shapes.
The abalone shell alone is highly sought after. When I lived in New Zealand in 2000, I saw so many jewelry pieces featuring abalone shell or, as they call it in New Zealand, pāua.
So the shells themselves are gorgeous. And abalone pearls? Well since pearls are made from the mother of pearl the mollusk uses to create its shell, the pearls are stunning! And not common, too. There is no active abalone pearl farm so the pearls you find are typically natural and they can be worth a sizable sum. So if you find a natural abalone pearl, you have certain found a treasure!
If you have ever heard me talk about pearls and how they are formed, you have probably heard me talk about bricks. Bricks, or the building blocks of pearls, is how I best describe the interlocking layers of pearls. The aragonite that makes pearls (and makes them shiny) are interlocking crystal layers cemented together like bricks. When the light is reflected through these bricks, we see the beautiful luster. Well, thanks for the wonders of a visit to a children’s museum, I present to you, the building blocks of pearls, ARAGONITE!
Aragonite is one of two common forms of calcium carbonate. The other one is calcite, which has a different crystal structure and typically results in pearls that aren’t as shiny! Aragonite forms naturally in coral, in ocean caves and in almost all mollusk shells. Of course the structure of aragonite can vary but this is a crystal cluster. Imagine that this structure is on a much smaller scale and is the building blocks of your pearls. When you look at your pearls, you are simply seeing the surface of tiny interlocking crystals of calcium carbonate!