The Secrets of Pearls
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The Secrets of Pearls
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The Secrets of Pearls
Pearl Jewellery Sells!
If you want to make quality, impressive jewellery that everyone appreciates, then go for pearls. If you want to make quality, impressive jewellery that everyone appreciates, then go for pearls. Pearl is the gemstone for June.
Pearls are expected to be expensive and in short supply
The reason is that people understand pearls are natural. However, since the 1950s, natural pearls have been cultivated by man – making them much cheaper to buy. This means that including them in jewellery, you will make you even more profit!
The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens
What are Cultured Pearls?
The least expensive cultured pearls today rival the most expensive natural pearls ever found. Cultured freshwater pearls occur in mussels for the same reason saltwater pearls occur in oysters.
Foreign material inside a mussel can’t be expelled. To reduce irritation, the mollusk coats the intruder with the same secretion it uses for shell-building, nacre. To cultivate a pearl, farmers slit the mussel and insert small pieces of live tissue from another mussel.
The ancient Chinese practiced this technique, but the first real cultured freshwater pearls originated from Japan in the 1930’s.Japanese farmers by Lake Biwa achieved natural colours previously unseen in saltwater pearls. However, water pollution today has virtually destroyed pearl production there.
China now has the resources that Japan lacks: many large lakes, rivers, and a low-cost work force. China has now revolutionized pearling – shapes, lustre, and colours of Chinese pearls now surpass Biwa quality.
Copying the Japanese to improve off-white and mottling, China uses a mild bleach, bright lights, and heat. Natural freshwater pearls are usually odd shapes. So for more roundness, they reshape rejected pearls into spheres, and then nucleate mussels with them.
Freshwater pearls are popular for their colours: white, silvery-white, pink, red, copper, brown, lavender, purple, green, blue, and yellow. The most desirable are the pastel pinks, roses, lavenders, and purples. Natural colour comes from the mussel species and water quality – with pearls taking the colour of the shell in which they form. However, permanent dyes are used today for most saturated colours.
The Best Pearls
Good pearls have thick overlapping layers of nacre. This can be tested by viewing its “lustre”. Roll the pearl with a pen in good light – the best pearls will reflect the pen the most. A large pearl is only more valuable if it’s the same quality as a smaller one – the rounder the better. Being an organic gem, grooves, pits, or dents are expected.
What is Mother-of-Pearl?
The shining, playful, reflected light of mother-of-pearl has attracted attention since ancient times. From then, different technology has turned mother-of-pearl into many uses, apart from jewellery. Today, it’s dyed every colour under the sun – creating attractive jewellery at affordable prices.
The mollusk forms mother-of-pearl as a protective shell. Like the pearl it’s a secretion of the mantle, composed of alternate layers of calcium carbonate and conchiolin. Among the chief sources are pearl oysters from the tropical seas.
See our Mother of Pearl Beads.
As the name, these are coated glass to look like the best quality pearls possible. Any pearl that is a perfect round shape without any grooving, will either cost thousands of pounds or made of glass! However, glass pearls are fantastic value for money and have a big place making affordable fashion jewellery. To see our colourful range of glass pearls at under £1 a string, click here.
Matching pearls isn’t easy, but is important when planning jewellery. It’s an art in itself, requiring a sharp eye, excellent judgment, and experience. Try to buy all the pearls for a project at the same time, as later batches may not match your original purchase. When balancing pearls for jewellery, you need to consider:
- How the pearls blend together in colour, shape, lustre, size and surface perfection.
- How smooth the size increase is of pearls in graduated strands.
- If a necklace is part of a set, all of its pearls on earrings, bracelets or whatever, must match. However, don’t put too much attention perfectly matching against other factors.
Knotting a Pearl Necklace
If you look closely, you’ll see tiny knots in between each pearl on a good necklace. This prevents the pearls rubbing against each other – and if the necklace breaks, beads won’t go flying. Knotting also makes the necklace drape nicely and adds length so you need less pearls.
Pearls should be restrung every few years, depending on the amount of wear and exposure to hair spray, perfume, body oils, lotions, moisture, and perspiration they receive. These elements can weaken the silk and cause a potential break point for the strand.
There are a few ways to knot a beaded necklace, but I’ll only tell you the easiest for beginners. First, you’ll need to choose a type of cord to use. There are two types that are usually used for knotting: silk and nylon. Silk is traditional, however many complain that it snags and frays. Nylon cord can also be used. Both come in a variety of colours.
They can be purchased on small cards with about 6 feet of cord and a needle attached, or for the serious knotter, larger spools can be purchased with separate needles. They also come in different sizes. The thicker cord is used for larger beads. For the beginner’s technique, two strands are put through each bead, so a thinner size is needed. For 6mm beads, use size 2 for this technique, and try to match the colour of the cord with the colour of the beads.
A popular way to start any beaded necklace is with bead tips. The only difference here is that two strands of the cord are inserted through the bead tip instead of one. Once the necklace is started, string on a bead, and make an over hand knot. Make the knot tight so it’s snug up against the bead. Continue to do this: string a bead, make an over hand knot, string a bead, make an over hand knot. Finish the necklace as you would any beaded necklace whether it’s knotted or not. This is easier than using one strand of cord, and the results look almost the same.
How to Tell Real from Fake Pearls
You can identify fake pearls by what they’re called: simulated, faux, glass, plastic, resin, artificial, manmade. Genuine pearls will be called natural, cultured, freshwater, or sea.
Real pearls may come from either freshwater or saltwater, and it’s very difficult to tell which – both form in a variety of molluscs (not just oysters). However, all grow the same way in baroque shapes as well as round. There are also shell pearls and genuine pearls which have been artificially coated or dyed. Before you deal in pearls, you need to know if they’re natural or not.
If you want to buy expensive pearls that are perfectly matched, a gemmologist certificate (from one of your choice) is essential. It costs about £100 to have pearls tested, as opposed to several-thousands for the type that warrant the test. An x-ray will show variations in density the inside of the pearl, a parasite that might have caused the formation of a natural pearl, and the characteristic shapes of drill holes.
The Tooth Test
Rub the surface of the pearl over your teeth – a real pearl feels gritty, while a faux pearl feels smooth. Real pearls are made up of layers of nacre that are deposited like sand on a beach. The slight waves in the nacre give a bumpy feeling against the teeth. However, if the pearls are dyed, the dye can fill in natural depressions.
Look at the pearls in bright light. Unless they’re very expensive, genuine pearl There will be slight variations in shape, size and colour – along with grooves in their nacre, bumps, ridges, or pits. Otherwise, or if any are a perfect sphere or have a grainy smoothness: they’re suspect.
Cutting a pearl open will reveal its true nature. Natural pearls are comprised of many layers of nacre. Cultured pearls have a mother-of-pearl shell core covered with a thin layer of nacre. Fake pearls have a core with one or more layers of coating which tends to flake away on cutting.
Examine drill holes to see the nacre layers and what lies beneath. Real pearls are usually drilled from both sides to meet in the middle – making the hole appear wider at the outside edge of the pearl. Holes of fake pearls are usually strait and are more likely to be larger all the way through. The nacre of fake pearls near the drill holes, flakes away easier than on a natural pearls. And cheap real pearls may not be drilled straight, making a necklace hang badly, unless it’s knotted.
Sometimes fakes are made to look irregular, and glass pearls often have flattened ends. Genuine pearls warm to the skin faster than glass pearls – while plastic pearls tend to feel warm right away.
Real pearls are heavier for their size than any fakes. Other signs are in the pearl’s surroundings. A genuine pearl necklace is more likely to be knotted and set in gold, silver, or platinum. You can examine clasps for stamps in the metal. The clasp should have a safety mechanism, like a fish hook. No one would use insecure clasps on good pearls.
Faux pearls, although manmade, are not necessarily a cheap substitute to the real thing. They have genuine beauty of their own, looking “almost” the same as natural pearls costing thousands of dollars. They’re created by coating the outside of glass or plastic beads with essence d’orient or pearl powder. This is then dipped into various solutions of pearl film to simulate the lustre of a natural pearl.
Pearl Folk Lore
There are an almost infinite number of myths and folk lore associated with pearls. Many pearl web sites included their own version of pearl myths. Here are a few that I found:
- Pearls have the powers of love, money, protection, and luck.
- Pearls were dedicated by the Romans to Isis and they were worn to obtain her favour.
- In early Chinese myths, pearls fell from the sky when dragons fought among the clouds.
Special care is needed for pearls. Since they are naturally porous, it’s important to make sure they do not absorb cologne, hair spray, lotions, or make up. Although oils from your skin help keep the pearls from drying out. Pearl jewellery is often purchased in a silk or felt pouch. You should keep the pearls in this to prevent scratches. To clean pearls, don’t use any jewellery cleaners – wipe gently with a damp cloth.
Rain flower beads are among our most popular right now, so we have brought a few new designs to feed this trend.
Rain flower viewing stone is natural agate formed along the banks of China’s Yangtze River over 1.5 million years ago. Its famous in China for its glittering rich colors and lively veins resembling flowers in the rain. Minerals in the rock, like crystal, jade, agate and chalcedony, create the colors. Because of their naturalness, no two of these stones are alike.
Another explanation of their name, also called lucky peace stone, is a Chinese legend from the Southern Dynasties (502-557): when Monk Yunguang read Buddhist texts, Heaven was so moved that it rained flowers!
MrBead Bead Fairs
- Sun 4th June, Cheshire Bead Fair, Nantwich Civic Hall, Market Street, Nantwick, CW5 5DG – Details Cheshire Bead Fair.
- Sat & Sun 10th & 11th June, Wood Green Animal Sanctuary Gem ‘n’ Bead Fair, King’s Bush Farm, London Road, Godmanchester, Cambridgeshire, PE29 2NH – Details here.
- Sun 18th June, Cornish Bead Show, Out of the Box, Cornish Craft House, Unit 4, Woods Browning Industrial Estate Respryn Road Bodmin, PL31 1DQ – Details Cornish Bead Fair.
- Saturday 1st July, London MrBead Bead Show – NEW LOCATION at Highgate – Holly Lodge Community Centre, 30 Makepeace Avenue, London N6 6HL. Details here.
- Sunday 2nd July, Oxfordshire MrBead Bead Show, The Corn Exchange, Gloucester Street, Faringdon, Oxfordshire SN7 7JA. Details here.
We will be at over 30 shows this year. Rest of bead fairs and full 2017 Bead Fair List
Exhibit at a MrBead Show
We have limited space available for crafters at some of our own bead shows:
In Cornwall on 18th June at http://mrbead.co.uk/cornishbeadfair.htm
In our Oxfordshire hall on 2nd July at http://www.mrbead.co.uk/oxfordshirebeadfair.htm
Or our Essex Bead Show on Sunday 24th September at http://mrbead.co.uk/essexbeadfair.htm
We market for beaders making jewellery, rather than selling ready-made jewellery – so to attract your customers, you may need to market yourself. However, we’re just looking for a small contribution towards costs. If interested, email Nigel at nigel@MrBead.com
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