Pearls are very special gems produced by saltwater oysters (the ones we don't eat) or freshwater mollusk. They are created when small foreign objects such as parasites find their way into the shell and then eventually into the tissue of the animal. If this parasite or object becomes trapped and the oyster can't rid itself of it, the oyster produces a black substance called conchiolin, over which another substance, a whitish substance called "narce", is secreted. This building of layer after layer of narce is creatd by the animal prevent further irritation from the foreign body. Pearl jewelry has strong associations with love, success, happiness, and have been around for thousands of years. They are one of the most versitale gems that can be included in any garmet, in any place, and can be worn for a variety of occasions. It is believed by many that perals posess mystical qualities. The narce is essential millions of microscopic crystal, each aligned perfect with the others to produce a beatuiful glow of light.
In today's fine Jewelry market, most of the pearls you will come across today are cultured pearls. Cultured pearls are obviously not natural, because natural pearls (or Oriental pearls) are the rarest of all gems and cost a great deal more money.
Cultured pearls are the result of the help from fine Jewelry manufactures who take the oysters and mollusks and implant their own foreign body to have the animal start the narce process. A mother of pearl bead is called the nucleus, and fine Jewelry items that are created this way will have it in the title. Jewelry manufactures control all sorts of variables of the pearls including the food, temp, and other environmental conditions, but the ultimate creation of the pearl is the result of the animal.
There is little difference int he appearance of cultured vs. naturally occurring pearls except for the thickness of the narce. Cultured pearls are harvested much sooner than naturally occurring pearls that can take several years to create.
Naturally occurring pearls are less perfectly round than fine cultured pearls because there is such a larger quantity of cultured pearls.
If you are interested in buying natural pearls and because you will be spending a great deal more money, inquire about an identification report from a reliable laboratory to prove the natural qualities of the pearl through x-rays. All fine Jewelry retailers as well as pearl distributors should always be accompanied by certificates of authentication.
There are also completely artificial pearls in the fine Jewelry market. Imitation pearls are often glass or plastic beads dipped in ground fish scales and lacquer or a plastic substance that imitates the appears of natural pearls. You will notice that the shine of the artificial pearl will be much less than the natural pearl, as well as no true inner glow, but simply a solid substance that is not see through what-so-ever. In a real pearl or high quality cultured pearl, look for a strong reflection. Other various between natural and artificial pearls include color, luster, orient, narce thickness, quality, shape, size, and texture.