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Hardness: 2.5-4

Enhancement Code: Bleaching, dying.

Phenomenon: Orient- A form of iridescence found on or just below the surface of the pearl or mother of pearl. Layers of minute crystals on the pearl surface separate white light into spectral colours.

Care: Take care when wearing Pearls. Avoid exposure to heat, contact with chemicals, and protect from scratches and harsh blows. To clean, gently scrub with a soft toothbrush and a solution of mild dish soap and warm water.

Major Sources: China, Japan

Pearls are formed over time by an irritant like a parasite or grain of sand that finds it’s way into the shell of a mussel, oyster or clam. As a defence mechanism, the mollusc coats this irritant in layers and layers of a fluid called ‘nacre’ which hardens over time and becomes lustrous. Natural pearls are very rare, the vast majority of pearls sold are ‘cultured’, which means there has been human intervention to plant the ‘gain of sand’ and the shells are then farmed to get the pearls. The types of pearls which are available can be separated by colour and shape, see below.

Akoya: Typically range from 2-11mm. Usually spherical but could form in alternative shapes like oval, pear or baroque shapes. Colours can range from whites and creams with green or pink overtones. Quite often dyed.

Tahitian: Typically range from 8-14mm. Usually spherical but could form in shapes like oval, pear and baroque. Colours can range from near neutral silver, cream, brown to black or grey, to blue, green, yellowish green, or purple with a green, blue or pink overtone.

South Sea: Typically range from 10-15mm. Usually spherical but could form in shapes like oval, pear, drop or baroque. Colours can range from near neutral, white,, cream or silver to yellow, orangey, or blue with green, blue or pink overtones.

Freshwater: Typically range from 2-13mm. Usually spherical in shape, can also form in pear, oval, drop or baroque. Colours can range from neutral to white, grey, cream, yellow, pink, purple with blue or green overtones and orient.

Mother of Pearl: Usually formed into buttons, cameo’s, beads, cabochon cuts or inlaid into other stones or jewellery and watches. This should show orient and can be found translucent, white, pink and grey.