Modern-Day Pearl Industry

Modern-Day Pearl Industry

According to Joel Schechter, CEO of Honora Pearls in New York City, many freshwater cultured pearls are 90 percent nacre. ?This is the closest possible match to natural non-bead-nucleated pearls available on the market today,? he says. He attributes this to the shift away from the traditional process of nucleating pearls with beads?typical for akoya and South Seas cultured pearls?toward nucleating them with tissue, a tactic employed by producers of freshwater cultured pearls.

Grafting Seed Pearl and Pulling Pearl from Oyster, Fakarava, French Polynesia

Grafting Seed Pearl and Pulling Pearl from Oyster, Fakarava, French Polynesia

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Schechter says this move represents the biggest change in pearl production since Kokichi Mikimoto pioneered the cultivation process more than a century ago. Adds King: ?If you are told a pearl is natural, ask if that means the color is natural, if the pearl is natural in origin, or both.?

?The market is rife with impostor natural South Seas pearls,? warns Blaire Beavers, industry authority and JCK contributor. According to Beavers, there were rumors of tissue-nucleated South Seas pearls back in 2007, but none ever materialized for sale. ­Beavers? research reveals that many of these tissue-nucleated specimens were, in fact, prescreened and sold as high-quality ­naturals after labs unwittingly?but mistakenly?verified them as South Seas pearls, the lustrous beauties born of the oversized Pinctada maxima oyster.

Complicating matters, South Seas pearls have been nucleated with natural Pinna pearls (?Natural nacreous or non-nacreous pearls produced in mollusks from the Pinna or Atrina genus,? explains, making clear identification difficult. When buying investment-quality pieces, Beavers recommends securing a laboratory report. Outlining its concerns in a recent newsletter, Lichtenstein-based Gemlab went as far as to temporarily ?stop issuing reports for Pinctada pearls, except for evident cases such as pearls in ancient jewelry pieces of known provenance.?

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