Natural pearls are created when a grain of sand or other foreign body finds its way into a pearl oyster. The oyster reacts by coating the irritant with layer upon layer of the pearly substance known as ‘nacre’ that gives the pearl its delicate glow and iridescent beauty. Cultivated pearls are formed similarly, except that pearl fishermen introduce the nucleus into the oyster (or mussel or clam) to encourage the bivalve to form a pearl. Pearls are primarily formed from calcium carbonate.
Keshi pearls are incredibly luminous and iridescent because they are pure nacre, the result of oysters forming pearls without the nucleus that typically gives them their usual rounded shape. Keshi (Japanese for “poppy seed”) are much less common than they used to be as oyster farmers have begun to use x-rays to see whether oysters have been “nucleated,” which you might agree is kind of a shame when you see these beautiful beads under light.
Tahitian pearls are produced in the black-lipped oyster ‘Pinctada margaritifera’, in and around Tahiti and the French Polynesian islands. This oyster itself is quite large – sometimes over 12 inches across and weighing as much as 10 pounds – which often results in much larger-than-average pearls. The pearls are unique because of their natural dark colors. Most “black” Tahitian pearls are not actually black, but are instead silver, charcoal, or a multitude of colors with the dominant color being green. Truly black pearls are among the most beautiful pearls in the world, and are extremely rare.
Metaphysical: Hindu texts say that Krishna discovered the first pearl, which he presented to his daughter on her wedding day. Pearls are also said to symbolize tears, to provide love and fertility, to symbolize purity, and to ward off evil. They’re June’s birthstone, and also the traditional symbol for the 3rd and 30th wedding anniversaries.
Global Pathways jewelers have a special affinity for using traditional techniques to hand-knot strands of pearls (and other gems too, of course) and we’d be glad to create one for you.