Pearls are an ancient gemstone discovered and coveted by man since the beginning of recorded history. Blah… I’m boring myself writing this. Hence our mission: pull those pearls out of the oil portraits and get you all wearing them in an instagram. And since, before you you stumbled onto dolma, you never considered converting your look to grandma-couture (wait for it on the runway)… you may have some questions. Luckily, I’m a know-it-all.
As for the making of a pearl, you’ve got two types: freshwater and saltwater. The name tells you the type of water in which it grows. The presence of a foreign object, like a grain of sand or a piece of shell causes an irritation inside of an oyster/mollusk. The irritation causes the secretion of nacre, which forms around the irritant, and thus, creates a pearl. If this process occurs by chance in nature, the pearl is called a natural pearl. If the irritant is placed in the mollusk, it’s a cultured pearl.
Freshwater pearls can take between 1 and 6 years to form; whereas saltwater may take between 5 and 20 years. The longer a pearl stays in the shell, the more nacre that forms and the larger the pearl. Freshwater pearls can grow to be just as big as saltwater pearls, but they take less time to develop because the layers of nacre are not as compact as those surrounding the saltwater pearl.
Imitation pearls are made to appear as though they are genuine pearls. These pearls are made with either shell, plastic, or even glass. Imitation pearls are sometimes referred to as “man made” or “stimulated” pearls. However, do not confuse these terms with “cultured pearls.” Cultured pearls go through the same natural process and are made of the same substance as natural pearls. So, how can you tell imitation pearls from genuine pearls? Imitation pearls are smooth–too smooth. Pearls that occur in a natural environment are gritty, and create a sense of friction as you move your fingers over them.
Don’t trust the tooth test. Ever heard that a real pearl will not scratch against your teeth? Well, that statement is not entirely true. A freshwater pearl will scratch against the teeth. Saltwater pearls, on the other hand, will not. This is because the nacre of the saltwater pearl is much more compact.
Different Types of Pearls
Classic Pearls are round, symmetrical, and have few or no imperfections. These are what most people imagine when they think of a pearl. dolma offers classic pearls in strands of all lengths. We also weave classic pearls in with other, more oddly-shaped pearls to redefine your perception of this “ordinary” pearl. We usually choose A quality, as it keeps price reasonable.
The rarest of freshwater pearls, keshi pearls are 100% nacre. They do not have a nucleus, and as a result, have a luster more superior to the nucleus-bearing pearls. Notice it’s irregular shape? The nucleus determines the structure of a pearl. So, the absence of a nucleus results in this non-round shape you see.
Coin pearls get their name from their shape. They are the second-most lustrous freshwater pearls, after the keshi pearl. The reason for the high luster on these pearls is their flat surface that allows the nacre to reflect more light.
Mother of Pearl
Mother of Pearl (we call it MOP) is the shell of the oyster or mollusk. Often time, MOP is used as a nucleus for cultured pearls. It can also be transformed into a bead, and strung just like a pearl. We love MOP because of the smooth texture it adds to a strand of mixed pearls, and the fact that, because it is the shell and not a real pearl, you really get a lot of bang for your buck – without having to resort a strand of, dare we even say the words on our site… fake pearls. Yak.
MOP isn’t only round! We carry it in the baroque shape, too.
You’ll notice when you’re wearing mother of pearl that it’s heavier, shinier, and smoother compared to a real pearl.
This term is tricky. Technically, “Baroque” means misshapen pearl. So it’s the umbrella under which all pearls that are not classic fall. These “faults” make baroque pearls less expensive; however to us, the faults are what make the pearls so desirable. Baroque pearls have a unique look, and really catch people’s attention. They are more exciting than a traditional pearl.
But, it also refers to a specific shape of a pearl. A baroque pearl is round-ish, but not spherical, nor symmetrical, nor does it have a smooth surface.
One more time: Pearls can be classified as Classic or Baroque. Under Baroque falls Rice, Coin, and all other non-classic pearls – including baroque. Confused?
Potato pearls are small and have a more square-like shape. They are dolma’s most popular pearl. These pearls are low-key and can add a touch of class and femininity to your casual outfits.
Rice pearls are given their name because they look like grains of rice. They are more formal than other, non-round (remember the baroque umbrella) pearls. We love to feature these pearls in multiple strands – twist them tightly for the symphony… but don’t be afraid to leave them loose for an open-air concert with your capris. For rice pearls, we say: “the smaller the fancier”. As they get larger, their imperfections are magnified and they look more casual. Also, smaller rice pearls are more expensive, due to the laborious task of drilling and stringing them! But don’t write off large rice pearls! They are the perfect medium for a customer looking for an inexpensive, everyday strand of pearls.
Who knew nature had a BOGO? Two pearls fused into one, this pearl has a barbell-like appearance in it’s most true form, though it can be super irregular and funky . Twin pearls are a perfect gift for any twin – duh – but are also significant for weddings. Their shape symbolizes unity.
Egg pearls are round on one end, and tapered at the other. The trick to telling these pearl apart from other baroque (still talking baroque umbrella, here) pearls, is to examine the drilling. Egg pearls are drilled on the tapered end, not in the middle, like the other pearls.
Cross pearls are coin pearls that have formed in the shape of a cross. These pearls are the perfect gift for a Sunday School teacher, a confirmation student, an acolyte – they’re also a no-brainer for Easter baskets and stocking stuffers.
We give this name to our big bulky, junky baroque pearls. If you watch the Designing a Lifestyle” Video from our Fall 2011 China trips, you’ll meet one of the farmers from which we get these pearls!
More pearl buzzwords follow this bold text. When talking about pearls, you’ll want to describe it’s color, shape, luster, surface and type. Type means the type (potato or rice, etc). Shape is how spherical (you’ve got you’re spherical and your non-spherical). Color is trickier: you have a base color, like white or pink, and then you’ve got other colors that are reflected by the layers of nacre, as well. The more spherical (referencing shape), classic (referencing type) pearls will only have one undertone. But our baroque (as in baroque umbrella) pearls might reflect 3 colors, and they’ll even reflect the colors you put near them. Now, you should also know that natural freshwater pearls form only white and pink. The other colors are dyed. Originally, people started dying pearls to mimic the wide variety of colors found naturally in saltwater pearls, but now, it’s because – why not? Dying freshwater pearls does not affect the pearl’s value. However, dying a saltwater does effect it’s value. That’s because you dye saltwater pearl to enhance its color – so, its less expensive than the equally vibrant, naturally occurring, saltwater pearl.
Luster describes how well the layers of nacre reflect light. It is the most important characteristic. We carry lots of irregular, bumpy, junky pearls – but they will always shine! That’s what make them (and thus, you) look so good.
The most valuable pearls have a smooth surface with no bumps, grooves or imperfections. We carry some of those, but really specialize in the pearls with grooves and bumps. We like our pearls to have pearlsonality. (Oh geez, before I get the hook, I’m exiting stage right.)