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the longs blog

Pearls of Wisdom: All You Need to Know About Pearls & Their Origins

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The pearl is unlike any other gemstone. While most gemstones are minerals, the pearl is the composite of a mineral and an organic protein formed inside a mollusk. Despite all having the same basic creation, no pearl is alike. Some are formed naturally while others are farmed. Some grow in salt water and some in fresh water. Even the location of where they grow and what type of mollusk they grow in can affect the pearl's outcome. Here we've curated a list of some of our favorite vintage & estate pearl pieces from all different backgrounds!


Cultured vs. Natural Pearls

  1. 1. ESTATE MIKIMOTO 18K WHITE GOLD PEARL NECKLACE
    ESNK3663 || $2,795 || SHOP NOW

  2. 2. ESTATE MIKIMOTO 18K YELLOW GOLD CULTURED PEARL STUDS
    SOLD!

3. ANTIQUE PLATINUM NATURAL PEARL AND DIAMOND PIN
ESPN1799 || $6,250 || SHOP NOW

There are two ways pearls are formed, natural or cultured. As their names suggest, natural pearls are created naturally in the wild while cultured or farmed pearls are created by humans under controlled conditions. Natural pearls are extremely rare. The majority of pearls on the market right now are cultured pearls. To create a cultured pearl, an oyster farmer inserts a particle into the oyster to stimulate secretions of "nacre," also known as mother of pearl, that build up in hundreds of thousands of layers to form a pearl. In 1893, Kokichi Mikimoto of Japan became the first person to create a cultured pearl, and patented his technique in 1896. His brand lives on today as one of the finest purveyor of pearls in the world. Currently in our Vintage & Estate Jewelry Collection, we have two examples of  estate Mikimoto cultured pearls. The first is an 18k white gold necklace designed with 46 graduated Akoya cultured pearls (15”). The second is a classic pair of pearl studs. We also have a beautiful example of natural pearls. This antique pearl and diamond platinum pin is set with five old mine cut diamonds and four natural pearls.

Freshwater Pearls

  1. 1. ASSAEL 18K YELLOW GOLD FRESHWATER PEARL, TAHITIAN PEARL, AND RUBY NECKLACE
    ESNK4333 || $2,880 || SHOP NOW

  2. 2. YVEL 18K WHITE GOLD BAROQUE FRESHWATER PEARL AND DIAMOND EARRINGS
    ESER5990 || $475 || SHOP NOW

3. YVEL 18K WHITE GOLD BAROQUE FRESHWATER PEARL AND BLACK DIAMOND BEAD NECKLACE
SOLD!

Pearls are formed in both salt water and fresh water. While saltwater pearls grow within pearl oysters, which live in oceans, freshwater pearls are formed in various species of freshwater mussels, which live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water. Unlike saltwater pearls, which grown only in warmer waters, freshwater pearls occur in both hot climates and cold climates like Scotland. The majority of today’s cultured freshwater pearls come from China. Our first example of freshwater pearls is an Assael 18K Yellow Gold Freshwater Pearl, Tahitian Pearl and Ruby Necklace. The necklace is designed with pearls ranging in size from 7.5 to 11.5 mm., spaced by ruby beads and textured gold tubes (49.5"). We also have two Yvel freshwater pearl pieces. The first is a pair of 18k white gold baroque freshwater pearl and diamond earrings. The drop earrings are designed with faceted black diamond beads suspending two pearls. The second is a matching 18k white gold baroque freshwater pearl and black diamond bead necklace. The necklace is comprised of seven pearls joined by faceted black diamond beads (17").

South Sea Pearls
 

1. ESTATE MIKIMOTO 18K WHITE GOLD SOUTH SEA PEARL AND DIAMOND PENDANT
ESNK4354 || $3,275 || SHOP NOW

2. 14K YELLOW GOLD GOLDEN SOUTH SEA PEARL AND DIAMOND PENDANT
SOLD!

3. 18K YELLOW GOLD SOUTH SEA PEARL AND DIAMOND RING
SOLD!

4. MULTI COLORED SOUTH SEA AND TAHITIAN PEARL NECKLACE
ESNK4564 || $14,950 || SHOP NOW

South Sea pearls are the largest and rarest of cultured pearls, and are prized for their beautiful luster. A South Sea pearl is a pearl produced by the Pinctada maxima pearl oyster, and come in a variety of colors including white, silver, pink, gold, and cream. They are most commonly farmed in Australia, the Philippines, and Indonesia. Due to their rarity, the South Sea pearl is also one of the most valuable. Here we have an estate Mikimoto 18k white gold South Sea pearl and diamond pendant. The pendant is comprised of a South Sea pearl measuring 11.00mm and is accented with a full cut diamond (18”). We also have a golden South Sea pearl and diamond necklace set in 14k yellow gold (20”). Next is an 18k yellow gold South Sea pearl and diamond ring set with one pearl measuring 10 mm. as well as nine marquise cut and six full cut diamonds. Finally, we have a multi-colored South Sea and Tahitian pearl necklace comprised of 32 various colored pearls ranging in size from 11.5 to 16.5 mm (18.5”).

Tahitian Pearls

 

  1. 1. 14K WHITE GOLD PEARL AND DIAMOND DROP EARRINGS
    ESER5200 || $1,000 || SHOP NOW

  2. 2. 18K YELLOW GOLD TAHITIAN PEARL AND DIAMOND BRACELET
    ESBR3439 || $3,890 || SHOP NOW

The Tahitian pearl, also known as the black pearl, is formed from the black lipped oyster, Pinctada margaritifera. They are primarily cultivated in French Polynesia, specifically Tahiti. It is French Polynesia’s largest export, making up over 55% of the country's annual exports. While not as rare as the South Sea pearl, the Tahitian pearl is still considered one of the rarest types of pearls. Despite its name, Tahitian or black pearls are rarely black. They can often include overtones and undertones of green, pink, blue, silver, yellow, or a combination of colors. Currently in our collection we have these 14k white gold Tahitian pearl and diamond drop earrings as well as an 18k yellow gold Tahitian pearl and diamond bracelet.

  1. Baroque Pearls

     

    1. 1. YVEL 18K YELLOW GOLD BAROQUE PEARL AND COGNAC DIAMOND NECKLACE
      ESNK4669 || $24,300 || SHOP NOW

Baroque pearls refer to the shape of the pearl. A baroque pearl has an irregular non-spherical shape. This can range from minor aberrations to curved, pinched, lumpy, or egg shaped pearls. The majority of baroque pearls are freshwater pearls because they are mantle-tissue nucleated instead of bead nucleated. Cultured saltwater pearls can also be baroque, but tend to be more teardrop-shaped. Here we have an Yvel 18k yellow gold Baroque pearl and cognac diamond necklace. The necklace is comprised of 28 various colored pearls ranging from 10 to 15 mm. and four beads set with natural cognac diamonds (17”).

Which type of pearl is your favorite? Browse our full vintage & estate online collection or visit us in stores to see more estate pearl jewelry in person!

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