American Pearl Category - White South Sea Pearl Jewelry

Quick Look into South Sea Pearls

South Sea pearls form in the "White Lipped" oysters Pinctada maxima. Because most South Sea pearls are cultivated from these wild, handpicked oysters, strict quotas have been established to prevent their depletion.

Pearl-farm divers go 10 to 80 meters deep in search of healthy and only mature oysters for growing South Sea pearls. Though most South Sea pearl-oyster divers today use modern scuba equipment, in the Philippines, oysters are still routinely collected by "free-divers" who use no equipment at all. Some South Sea pearling operations employ pearling ships; unique to South Sea pearl cultivation.

Nucleated South Sea pearl oysters are nurtured in isolated bays of the purest water, far distant from industrial areas. After 3 or 4 months, each oyster is x-rayed to confirm that its nucleus has not been rejected. Oysters with nuclei still inside are returned to the water to continue cultivation, a period that lasts 2 to 3 years. Because of their long, 2-to-3 year cultivation period, South Sea pearls develop an exceptionally thick coating of nacre -- from 2 to 6 millimeters -- perhaps the thickest of all saltwater cultured pearl varieties.

Luster refers both to a pearl's brilliance -- the way its surface reflects light -- and its inner glow: the way it refracts light. The nacre coating of South Sea pearls is especially thick, giving them a soft yet deep, rich luster unlike that of any other type of pearl. Their luster may be referred to as "satiny," less "mirror-like" than that of Akoya pearls. South Sea pearls also possess a beautiful soft iridescence found only in pearls with exceptionally thick nacre.

Surface quality refers to the amount and kinds of flaws that appear on the outside of a pearl, ranging from "clean" -- virtually free of spots, bumps, pits, cracks, circles and wrinkles -- to "heavily blemished" -- pearls dominated by such flaws. Non-damaging blemishes such as spots, bumps, pits, circles and wrinkles will occur on South Sea pearls. But remember, as products of nature, pearls are almost never flawless, and flaws don't always detract from the value or beauty of a pearl. This is especially so with South Sea cultured pearls, whose exceptionally long cultivation period makes flawless or slightly flawed South Sea pearls extremely rare.

South Sea pearls can be found in all the shapes possible: all beautiful in their own right -- "round," "drop," "button," "oval," "semi-round," "circle -- or "ringed"," "baroque," and "semi-baroque." Because of their popularity, the "round" and "drop" shapes are usually the most expensive, but as always, personal preference dictates the shape each customer will find most beautiful.

South Sea pearls appear in a wide range of colors, with the most common being white, silver/white, pink, and gold. As a note, South Sea pearls produced in Australia usually come in white; so too with those from the Philippines and Indonesia, though they tend to be creamier, more champagne or golden in color.

Thesizeof a South Sea pearls are among the largest of all saltwater cultured pearl varieties, ranging from 8 millimeters to as large as 22 millimeters. Their average size is 15 millimeters. Note that South Sea pearls are also found in smaller sizes, between 2 and 8 millimeters. Pearls of this size are usually very baroque "keshii" pearls, a very rare type of pearl that is all nacre with no nucleus. [Kesh-ee]

For More Detail on Sotuh Sea Pearls go to ‘Learn About Pearl’ Page.