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Natural Pearls V Cultured Pearls

Happy Monday and last day of June my friends. I’ve surrounded myself with pearls today in my studio so I thought it only fitting I do another blog post on these beautiful gems!

Do you know where pearls come from? Do you know the difference between natural and cultured pearls? Well that is what I would like to chat about today. I think there is a misconception out there that cultured pearls are not as good as naturally found pearls, I would like to set the record straight and also highlight the importance of cultured pearls and how they benefit the environment and local economy.

Back in the day (before the 20th century)… the oldest pearl is dated 420 BC …. Pearls were sourced using free divers, this was very dangerous, some had to dive up to 100ft and they were not guaranteed to find many quality pearls. Not every oyster had a pearl either, it is thought that 1 in 10,000 oysters will have a pearl, but like I mentioned earlier that 1 pearl may not have the quality required for sale. Originally pearls were worn by the elite such as royalty or those in power.

Let’s move on to the 20th century when in 1893 Kokichi Mikimoto created the first cultured pearl. As you can imagine once these cultured pearls were made in abundance the price of pearls decreased and pearls became more accessible to us mere mortals (the likes of me – I thank Mikimoto). As the years progressed there became more and more pearl farms in both fresh and salt water. Depending on the mollusk used will dictate the type of pearl produced.

Fresh water farms are mostly found in China and they are cheaper than the salt water pearls due to the volume produced. Salt water pearls are found in places such as Japan, Tahiti, Australia, Indonesia and Philippines.

So are cultured pearls as good as natural pearls? In short – yes! They are just as real as natural pearls, the only difference is the start of the process. In natural pearls an irritant enters the mollusk and as a healing mechanism the pearl coats this irritant in nacre which protects the mollusk . With cultured pearls the irritant (normally a bead such as a pearl) is placed into the mollusk encouraging this process. So cultured pearls are as real as natural pearls.

There are many benefits of cultured pearls to the farmer, economy and environment:

In the farms most of the mollusks produce pearls, this does not happen in the wild.

The quality of the pearls can be better as the farmer can try and keep the water quality high (more variable in the wild).

The pearls in each farm are grown in the same conditions and so the quality of the pearls are similar.

Pearl farms are machine light and labour intensive meaning that very little pollution is produced and there are lots of jobs created.

Once the pearl is removed, the mollusk will either be used again or the rest of the mollusk may be used further such as the shell for buttons and the meat as food. Very little wastage.

The quality of the water is important to the farmers (mollusks are very sensitive to water quality) so they campaign for clean water quality and try to prevent the use of pesticides and any other chemicals.

They also encourage planting of trees instead of cutting them down as this can lead to soil erosion which can disrupt the water quality.

Mollusks increase marine biodiversity.

Although this blog is just skimming the surface of cultured pearls I hope it has reassured you that cultured pearls are indeed very much as good as naturally found pearls. And buying cultured pearls is good for the environment and good for the local economy!

Well that is all for this week, if you would like to read my previous blogs on pearls you can do so here. I really hope you enjoyed today’s blog and will tune in next week for some more jewellery chat! If you can’t wait that long then why not join me over on my FB group ‘For the love of jewellery with Katrina Lucas’ click here. Or if you would like to see what happens here daily at KL jewellery designs then why not follow me on IG here. If you would like to be the first to know about any of my new collections coming out and any offers then please do sign up for my newsletter (bottom of page), you get 10% as a thank you.

Until next week, stay safe, keep communicating and always sparkle!

Katrina xx


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