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The History of Pearls - Natural and Cultured Pearls


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The History of Pearls

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Pearls have always been a valuable and divine jewel. They are softer than mineral gems and don't need to be cut and polished as they are naturally shiny.

The Pearl was the King of jewels until man created polishing technology in the 15 th century. Ancient Japanese literature known as "kojiki" and "manyousyu" abounds with references to pearls.

Natural pearls were so rare and valuable that only the rich and noble elite could acquire them.

In the 11 th century, in China, they tried to grow semi-spherical pearls. Around 13 th century, they created a "Buddha Pearl" by putting a little lead Buddha into a mussel.

A viable technique for producing "Cultured Pearls" was invented in Japan. In 1893, Kokichi Mikimoto succeeded in producing the world's first cultured semi-spherical pearl. Later, Tokichi Nishikawa, Shinpei Mise and Kokichi Mikimoto invented the technology of culturing spherical pearls.

In 1905, Mikimoto succeeded in culturing a spherical pearl with Akoya oysters. With this success, the Japanese cultured pearl and the Mikimoto name became known around the world.

In 1912, the European pearl industry asked Paris and London courts to forbid the sale of the Japanese cultured pearl as "real pearls". They claimed the cultured pearls to be of inferior quality. But scientists in France and England proved that a Cultured pearl and Natural pearl were identical in composition and quality.

A cultured pearl develops in the same way as a natural pearl in the wild. Pearls are created from the core of certain shellfish, mainly oysters and mussels.

The core of a natural pearl is simply a fragment of shell or a grain of sand. A pearl forms when an irritant enters the shell. The mollusc then secretes layer upon layer of calcium carbonate, known as nacre, around the foreign body. It is this innate defence mechanism that creates the bead of pearl.

The only difference between a cultured and a natural pearl is whether the irritant is implanted or not. The cultured pearl's irritant is created from pig-toe shell (clam shell) in the shape of a round bead. The pig-toe shell has similar genetic properties to the Akoya oyster and therefore lowers the chances of being rejected by the oyster.

Whether natural or cultured, pearls are created by forces of nature.

Read about The Seven Types of Pearls

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