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
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.
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
At Hettich, we are passionate about pearls and
always carry a fantastic selection in stock.
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.
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.
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 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.
Pearls are graded by several
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
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
Surface - always includes some unevenness, and this
gives each pearl its unique character. However, generally
speaking, the fewer the blemishes, the greater the
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
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
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
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.
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