Buying Pearls

Pearls are one of nature's mysteries.  They are beautiful organic gems which have captivated us for centuries.  Pearls are formed inside oysters or mussels by a secretion of calcium carbonate and conchiolin.  No one quite knows why this occurs, but it is believed they react to an irritant inside the shell.

What we refer to as pearls are in fact in the main cultured, ie aided by man.  Usually a small bead or piece of tissue is implanted inside the oyster, which is then left for the pearl to form around, and after several years it is harvested.  Prior to the advent of cultured pearls, the great rarity and high price of natural pearls made them available to very few people.

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Over the last century, the pearl business has evolved from the very conservative classic style of Akoya pearl rows (nearly everyone remembers Granny's pearls), to an extraordinary array of different shapes, colours and sizes.

At Hettich, we are passionate about pearls and always carry a fantastic selection in stock.

Akoya Pearls
Akoya pearls are the classic white, saltwater pearls, which come from Japan and China.  They typically have the highest lustre and the greatest shine of all cultured pearls.  Akoya pearls range from 5mm to 11mm, with the 10-11mm sizes being the rarest.  These pearls can either be white or cream in body colour and typically have rose, cream or ivory overtones.

South Sea Pearls
The undisputed Queen of Pearls is admired for her size and fine nuances of colour.

South Sea pearls are saltwater pearls cultivated from oysters found in the South Seas, centering on Northern Australia and South-East Asia including Myanmar and Indonesia.  They produce 10-20mm pearls of silver and gold colour and are the largest of the pearl types.  South Sea pearls are also the most expensive pearls on the market due to their rarity and thick nacre.


Tahitian Pearls
Originating in the warm waters of the South Seas, Tahitian Pearls are cultivated by Black-Lipped oysters.  They are the only pearls to achieve a black body colour naturally and are typically very large, ranging from 9mm-16mm.  Although mostly dark, they can come in a wide range of hues including black, grey, silver, green, blue and purple.  They also have gorgeous overtones that give Tahitian pearls an incredible beauty of their own.

Freshwater Pearls
Freshwater pearls come from freshwater mussels and are primarily produced in China.  These pearls are unsurpassed for variety and shape, with shades ranging from white to pastel colours such as pink, peach, lavender, plum, purple and tangerine, depending on the type of mussel.  The typical size of these pearls ranges from 2-16mm, with 7-8mm being the most usual.  In the early days of freshwater pearl production, they were frequently found in baroque shapes.  However, with modern techniques they can be cultivated in virtually round shapes.  They are highly versatile in the way that they can be worn and offer great value for money.

Grading Pearls 
Pearls are graded by several factors.

Lustre - is the sheen, the fascinating way a pearl reflects light, giving a soft shimmer which almost appears to emanate from within.  The lustre gives a pearl its unique appearance and its seductive charm.  This is the most important criteria.

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Shape - has a major influence on value.  Some occur as perfect spheres, which increases their worth.  Others possess forms that emphasise a pearl's natural personality, such as baroque shapes.

Surface - always includes some unevenness, and this gives each pearl its unique character.  However, generally speaking, the fewer the blemishes, the greater the value.

Size - has a limited impact on its value, and is only considered once other criteria have been taken into account.  Nevertheless, prices usually rise in proportion to the size.

Colour - has, from an objective point of view, little to do with the quality of a pearl.  However, it does influence the value.  The rarer the colour, the greater the value.   

Matching - is of vital importance to the quality.  A row of pearls should have a harmonious combination of lustre, shape, surface, size and colour.  Our buyers only select pearls that conform to these exacting standards.

Pearl Care
Pearls are durable; however care is necessary to keep them beautiful and lustrous.

They should be kept separately from other items of jewellery, which may scratch their surface, and they should be gently wiped with a soft cloth to remove body oil or dirt before putting them away.  We would also advise storage in a soft pouch or cloth.  The atmosphere in which they are kept should not be too hot or dry as this can lead to cracking of the surface.

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Care should be taken to avoid contact with chlorine, bleach, vinegar, ammonia, hairspray and perfume, as contact with these substances will damage the surface.  Most pearl rows are strung on silk thread, which is extremely durable and flexible.  However, if worn regularly, the thread can stretch and eventually break.  We would recommend that your pearls are inspected and, if required, re-threaded every six to twelve months.