Pearls are often known as “organic” gemstones because they are made by living creatures. These living creatures are mollusks: shelled organisms that can be found in either freshwater or saltwater.
Pearls are formed when a foreign object gets into the mollusk’s shell. A mollusk’s insides are very soft and sensitive, so in defense, the mollusk will layer a substance called nacre over it. Each layer makes the pearl a little bigger, and the biggest pearls are the ones that have been in the mollusk the longest.
Once all pearls were natural — that is, formed without the intercession of man. In fact, for many centuries, no one had any idea how pearls were made. Some mollusks had pearls and some didn’t, and that was just how it was.
However, at the turn of the 20th century, people realized how pearls could be made. Since then, almost all pearls on the market have been cultured — in other words, small beads have been inserted into mollusks to encourage pearls to form.
Natural pearls are very rare, and are mostly only found in vintage jewelry.
Pearls are extremely distinctive, with many different shapes and colors. To find two “matching” pearls for earrings for instance, as many as 10,000 pearls may have to be sorted through.
Round pearls remain the most popular shape, but there are also symmetrical pearls in pear or oval shapes, as well as “baroque” pearls which are irregular and uniquely shaped.
Pearls are quite soft and can be easily chipped, but their luster and beauty is timeless. Come into Midtown Jewelers to see our stunning collection of pearls and speak to our experienced staff.