To buy cultured pearls means to spend a lot of money so it is very important to have some knowledge of pearls and know what you are buying before you spend one cent.
What are cultured pearls? A cultured peal is different to a natural pearl in that it is artificially prompted by the inclusion of a foreign substance, usually a piece of flesh or a shell, into an oyster who then proceeds to cover it in nacre, the substance that goes to make up a pearl.
As distinct to nature, in which such an introduction is a hot and miss affair, this virtually guarantees a pearl will be produced of a period of time, usually 3-5 years. The monger the oyster is left the larger the pearl will become.
It also produces more rounder pearls suitable for jewelry such as necklaces where the size and shape are most important.
There are two types of cultured pearls. Saltwater pearls in which a core bead of a mother of pearl is inserted into an akoya oyster and the freshwater pearls which are grown in clams rather than oysters. Freshwater pearls can grow very large and in the South Seas the pearls there can reach over 18mm in size. A very large pearl indeed.
When you go to buy a pearl or some pearl jewelery the jeweler or dealer should state what sort of pearl it is. This should be backed up with some form of documentation to validate the pearl origin and quality.
Natural pearls are rare (and expensive) so it is not likely you will get a natural pearl in mistake for a cultured one. Natural pearls also tend to be irregular in shape and have a different luster to cultured pearls.
The points to look for when buying cultured pearls are:
So when buying cultured pearls in jewelry carefully examine the jewelry piece all over and ensure the pearls have a good uniform luster, the surface condition is good, the size, shape and color match and they are well secured. If a necklace ensure the shape and size is right for the necklace and that there are no irregular pearls that stand out. Check them in natural light and ensure that the luster of all the pearls is uniform. Are they shiny and does the surface feel the same for each pearl. Any that feel different may not be a cultured pearl and might even be artificial.
Loose pearls can be checked for rounded shape by rolling them on a flat surface. If they veer to one side then you have a pearl that is not round but oval shaped.
Keeping the above in mind will help you when you embark on a trip to the jewelers to buy cultured pearls!