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Gemstone Care

Gemstone Care

Pearls Explained

I thought it would be useful to share some Pearl facts with you, so you know what you are purchasing, and how to care for them to keep them nice.


Where do Pearls come from?

All pearls grow inside certain varieties of hinged-shell mollusk known as bivalves. These creatures can open or close their casings at will, and a hungry specimen will spend hours under water with its shell at half-mast in hopes of catching some food. This open-door policy provides easy access to pearl-producing irritants. While any of the 20,000 species of bivalve can conceivably produce a pearl, relatively few of them actually do this with any regularity.


How is a Pearl formed?

Every pearl develops in response to an irritant inside the body of the mollusk that produces it. In the wild, the culprit could be a bit of dirt, a grain of sand, or a tiny parasite. Since the mollusk cannot eject the intruder, it responds by surrounding it with layers of an iridescent substance known as nacre. This is the same mother-of-pearl material that coats the inside of its shell. With the passage of time, the mollusk will continue adding layers of nacre that increase the size of the pearl. The longer the irritated mollusk remains alive, the larger it’s pearl is likely to grow. No two mollusks are created equal, and neither is the nacre with which they come equipped. This diversity of composition is responsible for the wide variety of pearls produced by different mollusks. It is also the reason that some of these creatures are far more prolific than others.


What are Natural Pearls?

A natural pearl is nothing more than a pearl that has formed spontaneously inside the mollusk without the aid of human intervention. These pearls are the rarest and most valuable, and command a huge price tag.


What are Cultured Pearls?

Cultured pearls are just as real as the natural variety. They grow inside the mollusk in exactly the same way. They are not imitation, and they are not fake. A cultured pearl necklace is as genuine as its natural cousin. The majority of cultured pearls available today derive from freshwater mussels and saltwater pearl oysters. Although all pearls develop in the same way, the cultured pearl requires some human assistance to get the process started. To do this, the pearl farmer inserts a small bead or section of mantle tissue under the mollusk's shell. Nature then takes over. The animal begins to deposit layers of nacre around the irritating substance, slowly building up the cultured pearl. Cultured pearls so closely resemble the natural variety that experts often find it difficult to tell the two types apart. A final determination frequently requires the use of an X-ray to identify the initial irritant deep in the pearl's interior.


What are Freshwater Pearls?

Contrary to popular belief, oysters do not produce freshwater pearls. This honour goes mainly to the pearl mussels that reside in rivers, ponds, and lakes. The majority of cultured freshwater pearls originate in China. A freshwater mussel can conceivably generate as many as 50 pearls at a time. However, it can take the animal between four and six years to accomplish this. Many mussels succumb to pollution and disease before the pearls have reached their peak.


What are characteristics of the Freshwater Pearl?

The greater thickness of a pearl mussel's nacre lends a softer lustre to freshwater pearls. This additional heft also endows them with a greater durability, so they are less likely than saltwater pearls to chip or wear down. The colors available in freshwater pearls range from soft pinks, lavenders, peaches, and whites to dramatic shades of peacock and black. This variety of hue combines with their reasonable price to make the freshwater pearl a favorite of the cost-conscious consumer.


What are characteristics of the Saltwater Pearls?

In contrast to the habitat of freshwater mussels, the oysters that generate saltwater pearls hail from the briny deep. Pearl oysters are native to tropical oceans, and the pearls they produce are of three main varieties: South Sea, Akoya, and Tahitian.


What are characteristics of the South Sea Pearls?

South Sea pearls are among the largest and most widely cultivated saltwater pearls available today. While the average South Sea pearl measures about 13 millimeters in diameter, the largest of them often span as much as 20 mm. Native to Indonesia and Australia, the colour of these pearls can vary from a pale white to a brilliant gold, and all of them shine with a satiny lustre. Collectors around the world value South Sea pearls for the immense size to which they often grow.


What are characteristics of the Akoya Pearls?

Connoisseurs prize Akoya pearls as much for their consistency of shape as for their reflective luster. The commonest colours of Akoya pearl are rose, soft vanilla, and bluish silver. Although their size is similar to that of most freshwater pearls, the Akoya pearl is often superior in brilliance. Some consider the Akoya pearl the crème de la crème of all cultured saltwater pearls.


What are characteristics of the Tahitian Pearls?

The third variety of cultured saltwater pearl is a relative newcomer to the jewelry scene. Tahitian pearls can be had in a wide variety of shades that range from blues and silvers to a minty shade of green. The diversity of these colours rivals that afforded by any other type of cultured pearl.


What to look for in Imitation Pearls?

Most imitation pearls are made of glass, plastic, or ceramic. Some manufacturers add ground seashells into the mix to mimic the texture of genuine pearls. Although the cleverest faux pearls may look quite real, their weight, texture, and inferior iridescence will usually give them away.



How To Identify An Imitation Pearl

If a Pearl's authenticity is forever in question, these simple tests can help...

  • Lustre Test - Study the pearl under various light sources. Genuine pearls will glow from within. If the shine is dull or comes only from the surface, the pearl is probably fake.
  • Magnification Test - Investigate the pearl under a magnifying glass. While a real pearl will reveal inherent ridges and irregularities, a fake will look disturbingly smooth.
  • Rub Test - Rub two pearls together. A gritty resistance between the two indicates that the pearls are probably real.
  • Weight Test - Real pearls are heavier than fake ones, so any that feel excessively light are most likely not genuine.
  • Shape Test - Since a genuine pearl is produced by nature, it will not be perfectly round. A pearl that is impeccably shaped is probably a fake.

Note: The Pearls at Camber & Kernz are cultured and are not necessarily round due to Mother Nature, but rest assured there are no imitations.

No two pearls are alike, and some are more perfect than others. Pearl graders normally use one of two common systems for assigning their quality. Whether natural or cultured, saltwater or fresh, pearls provide the perfect addition to any outfit.


How To Look After Your Pearls


To keep your Pearls looking their best for years to come, please note the following tips:

  • PROTECT YOUR PEARLS: Pearls can be damaged by contact with certain chemicals. Hairspray, perfume, cosmetics, sun block, chlorine bleach, vinegar and ammonia will dull the lustre of a pearl and eventually damage its surface. Put your pearls on after finishing putting on hairspray, perfume etc. (If possible allow 30 minutes before putting on your pearls.) Remove pearls before exercising to avoid damage by the natural acids in perspiration.


  • CLEAN YOUR PEARLS: Wipe the pearls with a soft, damp cloth after use to remove body oils and dirt. Pearls may be washed occasionally with mild soap (not detergent) and a soft cloth, rinsed in clean water, and blotted dry with a cotton towel. Acetone may be used, if necessary, to clean pearls but do not use jewellery cleaners containing ammonia or vinegar.


  • STORING YOUR PEARLS: Keep pearls separated from hard or sharp jewellery items that may scratch them. Wrap them in a soft cloth or store in a soft pouch or soft lined jewellery box. Do not store in an airtight bag as pearls need moisture. In a very dry atmosphere or a safety deposit box, leave a damp cloth nearby to provide needed moisture and prevent cracking.



Tarnish, Patina & Discoloration 

Tarnish and discoloration is a natural occurring process that is usually caused by contact between the product and the air. This is why all Camber & Kernz chain products come in a sealed bag with a tarnish strip enclosed. We strongly recommend you store all products in the same container that you receive your purchase, this will help ensure your purchased item will stay in good condition.

Depending on the individual, all .925 Sterling Silver, Silver plated, Gold filled, Gold plated or Gold chain can tarnish or discolour in varying timescales. This can occur due to many reasons; natural acidity in the skin, body excreting oil, perfumed products, over exposure to the air, sweating etc., this list is not exhaustive.

Tarnish and discoloration is by no means an indication of quality (or lack of) it is more aesthetic and is not detrimental to the metal, only to our perception. At Camber & Kernz we appreciate this can occur, and will help you to rectify the problem, however we take no responsibility for it. If this does occur with a Camber and Kernz purchased product, use the Contact Us form to explain your problem also attaching a photograph of the item, if possible.

Should the problem be something we can help you with, you will be asked to send your complete item back to us (at your cost). We shall then assess the item and contact you with a price for rectifying the issue. This can range from a simple clean of the item/area, to the cost of full replacement of the chain, (again this is not an exhaustive list, but will include return postage). Once this price has been agreed with all parties we will give accurate timescales, usually between 4 and 6 weeks, and commence any agreed corrective procedures.

Please note we cannot guarantee we will replace the same chain exactly like for like, however it will be as close to previous chain as possible.


Hope this was of interest...

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