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Pearl Introduction - Compare the quality of our fine freshwater cultured pearls.  We use only the finest freshwater cultured pearls in your BeadifulBABY® fine pearl jewelry.
Did you know?
Cultured and natural pearls are considered colored stones by gemologists. They are the only gemstones to derive from a living organism - making cultured and natural pearls organic gems.
Pearl Basics
Pearls are classified as either natural or cultured. Most of the pearls worn today are cultured, while most of the natural pearls found today are vintage pearls. Approximately one in every ten thousand oysters produce a natural pearl and the odds of that natural pearl produced being perfect are one in a million. Due to this scarcity the process of pearl cultivation was born.

Cultured pearls are those pearls formed when a human introduces an irritant into a mollusk. A mollusk is defined as any invertebrate of the phylum Mollusca. Mussels and oysters are types of mollusks - and belong to the phylum Mollusca.

Natural and cultured freshwater pearls are formed in mussels - while both natural and cultured akoya, South Sea, and Tahitian saltwater pearls are formed in oysters.

To produce a freshwater cultured pearl a small thinly-sliced portion of a donor mussel's mantle tissue is placed inside a pearl-producing mussel. To produce akoya, South Sea, and Tahitian pearls a small well-formed smooth bead made from the shell of a donor mussel is placed inside the pearl-producing oyster. Yes - that is right - the small well-formed beads inserted into saltwater pearl producing oysters are from a freshwater mussel's shell. The United States is the largest supplier of these mussel shells used to produce the bead nuclei to be inserted into saltwater oysters.

This insertion of a foreign irritant - whether it be a mantle tissue or a bead formed from a mussel's shell - starts the pearl formation process.

It is very important to note the type of irritant inserted into a pearl-producing mollusk determines the nacre thickness of a pearl. freshwater cultured pearls consist almost entirely of nacre whereas akoya, South Sea, and Tahitian cultured pearls have a very thin layer of nacre. This is because the mantel tissue used to form the freshwater cultured pearl almost completely dissolves whereas the bead nuclei used to form the saltwater cultured pearl is much larger and stays intact in shape and form and does not dissolve.

Natural pearls form when a parasite enters the shell of a mussel or oyster, thus starting the pearl formation process naturally. It was once thought a grain of sand introduced into a mussel or oyster started the natural pearl formation process, this however, is a myth. Mussels and oysters sift thousands of grains of sand daily in and out of their interior. It is not a grain of sand but a parasite that start the pearl formation process in a mussel and oyster.

Cultured pearls are sold by their size in millimeters, and natural pearls by their carat-weight. Perfectly round natural pearls are extremely rare and valuable. The irritant introduced determines the shape of the pearl to some degree. The nacre is deposited in concentric circles around the irritant thus producing the shape of the pearl.

Most of the pearl jewelry found in the finest jewelry stores today is made with cultured pearls. The proper way to address these pearls is to use the word cultured in the name, for example, freshwater cultured pearls or akoya cultured pearls. To omit the word cultured in the reference is misleading. The absence of the word cultured implies natural and since natural pearls are extremely rare one can assume the jeweler may not be experienced and/or knowledgeable.

We recommend buying your fine pearl jewelry from jewelers who are educated in pearl quality and who employ high pearl grading standards.

Pearl Types
There are two types of pearls:
  • Freshwater cultured pearls, and
  • Saltwater cultured pearls.
Freshwater cultured pearls are formed in freshwater mussels that live in fresh bodies of water, like lakes, ponds, and rivers.
The freshwater mussel can produce as many as fifty pearls at once, with each pearl ranging in size and shape. The oyster that forms Saltwater pearls can only form one pearl at a time.

Freshwater cultured pearls take about two to five years to form.

Saltwater pearls are formed in oysters that live in the ocean or protected lagoons. Types of Saltwater pearls are:
  1. akoya,
  2. South Sea, and
  3. Tahitian.

Buyer Beware

Many jewelers are misrepresenting the pearls they offer by omitting the word "cultured". This implies their pearls are the much more valuable naturally occurring variety. This occurs both online and in reputable jewelry stores. Usually this is just an oversight, but sometimes the omission is a deliberate attempt to mislead potential customers.

Cultured Pearls are Real Pearls
The vast majority of pearls for sale today (over 99%) are cultured (grown) by one of several methods. Cultured pearls are genuine pearls made of the same nacre found in natural pearls. Cultured pearls are formed by the same processes inside mussels and oysters that form natural pearls. Pearls form around irritants that get inside a mussel or oyster. The primary difference between natural and cultured pearls is how the irritant gets inside the mollusk.

Natural Pearls are Rare & Expensive
Naturally occurring pearls are extremely rare and are most often vintage gems found selling in auction houses or estate sales for very high prices. A single baby bracelet of top-quality natural 6mm pearls (similar to the top-quality cultured pearls we use in our jewelry lines) would sell for thousands of dollars. A single 16mm natural freshwater pearl of very high quality recently sold at auction for $50,000.

Our Ethical Standards
We strictly adhere to the AGTA Code of Ethics and Principles of Fair Business Practices and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) jewelry and precious metals guidelines. The FTC states you must use the term "cultured" when referring to cultured pearls. Merely referring to a pearl as a "pearl" instead of a "cultured pearl" implies the pearl is natural.

We pride ourselves in upholding the ethical standards set forth by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
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