1, Whiter Pearl is not necessarily Better…
Traditionally, “white” pearls are perceived as “good”… It’s even part of slang: have you ever heard anyone mention “pearly whites” meaning teeth? With some pearls, particularly the South Sea variety, this is true. But in the majority of cases, whiter is actually NOT better.
Take Akoya pearls. The best Akoya pearls typically have overtones of color. Traditionally, a ‘rose’ overtone is considered best and most flattering on the skin. Other overtones can include blue or silver. But a stark-white Akoya pearl is usually an indication that it has been bleached – not ideal!
Similarly, freshwater pearls that are stark white have often been bleached and tend to become “chalky” looking, losing some of their luster along with their color overtones. Of course, many pearls (notably Tahitian Pearls or Golden South Sea Pearls) are not white at all and in these cases the play of colors is highly valued.
2,Harvesting a pearl does NOT kill the oyster, and Pearl Farming is very much a ‘sustainable’ practice.
Not only does removing a pearl not kill the oyster that produced it, Pearl Farmers are extremely careful not to harm their oysters… In fact, pearl farmers typically use surgical-style instruments to harvest pearls. As oysters age, they typically produce better and better pearls. So why on earth would an oyster farmer want to harm them? Pearl Farmers are usually quite focused on ‘tending their flock’ with great care!
3, Pearls serve as an early-warning sign of pollution problems.
Pearls are only produced by oysters in unpolluted, pristine water. Even slight levels of pollutants will prevent oysters from proper pearl production. That’s one reason most pearl farms are quite remote, often on distant islands and reachable only by seaplane.
Unfortunately, even the most remote areas are starting to see pollution problems. Pearl Farmers are often very involved in “green” movements, since they’re on the front-lines of environmental concerns. Listen to the oysters before it’s too late…
4,The color of a pearl is determined by the oyster’s ‘lip’
Pearls come in a vast array of colors determined by the Oyster’s outer edge – their lip.
BUT wait a minute! For cultured pearls, it’s not so much the lip color of the oyster in which the pearl grows, but rather the ‘donor’ oyster used in culturing. You see, when culturing pearls, a tiny bit of ‘mantle’ from a donor oyster is added with the ‘seed’ that is inserted into the oyster where the pearl will grow… So the oyster growing the pearl is the ‘surrogate’ really. You can think of the donor oyster as the ‘biological mother’ of the pearl that will grow. So it’s the lip color of that donor oyster which really determines pearl color the most.
5,There’s no such thing as a ‘round pearl’…
Most linguists agree that our word “pearl” is derived from the Latin “pirum” meaning “pear” or “pear-shaped”… That’s because until pearls were cultured in the late 19th century, the overwhelming majority of naturally-occurring pearls were anything but round. Most pearls were baroque or pear-shaped with round pearls being extraordinarily rare.
So when you say “round pearl” you’re really saying “round pear.”