- 29 Mar
Make the Fashion World your Oyster
In the ever-changing world of hemlines and hairstyles, versatility is everything when it comes to keeping au courant with today’s fashion trends. Style makers from Jackie Kennedy Onasis to Madonna, however, have always seemed to agree on one thing: the appeal of pearls. Pearls have attracted and intrigued us for centuries. Sleek and modern with classical allure, today’s designers continue to show them with everything from couture to casual wear.
Today we can enjoy a wonderful range of both natural and cultured pearls. Natural pearl growth occurs when a mollusk protects or soothes itself from an irritation. The irritant may be a parasite or other tiny invader. The layers of protection form what is called “nacre,” and is what gives pearl its subtle beauty. Cultured pearls form in basically the same way, except that humans foster the irritation by placing a shell bead and/or a piece of mollusk tissue into the animal.
According to GIA, an independent nonprofit research and education institute dedicated to protecting purchasers of gems and fine jewellery, when shopping for cultured pearls, it’s important to look for a retailer who is recognized as a GIA Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) or a GIA Accredited Jewelry Professional (A.J.P.).
GIA developed the 7 Pearl Value Factors™ a system for evaluating the quality characteristics of pearls.
Size: Pearl size is measured in millimeters. Typically, all other factors being equal, a larger pearl of a certain type is more expensive than a smaller one.
Shape: There are three main categories to pearl shape: spherical, symmetrical, and baroque. An example of a symmetrical pearl is an oval, while baroque pearls are irregular in shape
Colour: With cultured pearls, look at body colour and, if present, overtone. Body colour is the dominant colour of the pearl, while overtone refers to one or more translucent colours that overlie the body color (like blush on a woman’s cheek). A third component of some pearls’ colour is orient. When present, it looks like a moving iridescence on or just below a pearl’s surface.
Lustre: This is the intensity of light reflected from a pearl’s surface. In general, more lustrous pearls will have a higher value. GIA uses the terms excellent, good, and fair to describe lustre on cultured pearls.
Surface Quality: This factor looks at the blemishes, or surface irregularities, on a pearl. Typical blemishes include bumps, abrasions, and spots; the visibility of the irregularities will affect the cost. Very few pearls, however, are completely free of blemishes.
Nacre Quality: Fine nacre quality means that a cultured pearl has a reasonable thickness of nacre around the nucleus as well as a high lustre.
Matching: This is the uniformity of appearance in strands and multi-pearl pieces of jewellery, and is judged by the consistency of all of the above factors.
Cultured pearls do require a little special care to ensure a lifetime of enjoyment. Keep these four tips in mind:
- Apply any cosmetics, perfume and/or hairspray before putting on your pearls. If the pearls will be touching your skin, leave that area free of cosmetics or perfumes
- Don’t take pearls into the pool because the chlorine can affect their lustre.
- Clean your pearls periodically with warm water and mild, non-detergent soap. Never put pearls in an ultrasonic cleaner or use anything containing ammonia.
- Have your pearl strand re-strung every year or so by a jeweller.
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