Sourcing, Grading and Value: Everything you need to know about Australian South Sea Pearls
Grace Kelly said, 'The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens'
These jewels of the sea are one of the most eco-friendly gems available, with a timeless beauty that has led them to be highly sought after across the world. Today, we're looking at everything that happens to a pearl before it reaches the jeweller, with a focus on the natural Australian South Sea Pearls. If you want o know about Palomino's sustainable, ethically sourced and high-value pearls, read on!
How Are Pearls Formed
While other gemstones are typically found in the earth, pearls are unique because they're formed inside an animal. It may sound a bit 'icky', but the formation process is what makes pearls so unique.
In order for a pearl to from in an oyster, an irritant, called a 'bead' must be present inside. The oyster's mantle tissue coats the bead in layers of nacre (calcium carbonate). These layers form the pearl. While oysters do produce pearls naturally, specialised technicians have leant to insert beads manually in order to produce more pearls than we would otherwise find, as well as control where the pearls can be found.
Sustainable Sourcing of Australian Pearls
Australian South Sea Pearls come from the wild oysters found off the coast of Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Oysters are hand collected by a team of divers, before being seeded by a highly trained technician. The oysters are then returned to the ocean to allow the pearl production process to occur, which takes two to three years - definitely not fast fashion. After this time, the pearls will be harvested from the oyster by the same technician that planted the beads previously.
While there has been some criticism of manually seeding beads into oysters, but this process is actually beneficial to the environment and the oysters. Rather than damaging the environment looking for pearls in a haphazard way, the Australian Pearl Industry ensures the pristine environment is maintained by carefully selecting the oysters used for pearl formation and caring for the creatures while they form their pearls - sweet, huh!
How Are Pearls Graded
Harvested pearls are graded according to five factors, each with varying importance. The higher a pearl is graded, the rarer the pearl is and the more valuable the pearl will be, making highly graded pearls worth far more than their lesser counterparts (they're also a lot prettier!) . The five grading factors are as follows:
- Size - large pearls are rare, and thus seen as much more valuable. Palomino Jewels use 11mm pearls in our earrings and 12mm pearls in our pendants to ensure we will have consistency and uniformity in supply.
- Shape - round pearls are rare and usually more expensive. We use round pearls in our standard earrings and pendants and drop shape pearls in a range of earrings because they have a very high lustre and are quite unique.
- Colour - Australian pearls are always fair in colour. We strive to purchase pearls that are pure white with pink hues, since this is the tone that is most flattering and easy to wear. If you have white pearls with a high lustre, they will reflect your skin tone, your hair colour and even the colour of your clothes, so they will appear to match whatever you're wearing o the day.
- Lustre - this is the most difficult to capture but is by far the most important factor. Lustre is the amount and quality of light reflected from the pearl. The quality of lustre is a result of the uniformity of the layers of nacre the oyster has coated over the bead. Put simply, it is how sparkly the pearl is, or how well you are able to see your reflection in the surface of the pearl. At Palomino Jewels, we always purchase lustre before everything else, which is why our pearls have exceptional shine and are so pretty.
- Surface - perfectly smooth pearls are hard to come by, which again makes them rare and expensive. Because South Sea Pearls are produced naturally, the oyster may put its own 'stamps' on its pearl, resulting in small natural markings. A jeweller will will always place any markings at the back of a piece of jewellery so they won't be seen, but if you happen to go looking for them you might find them.
Palomino Jewels Australian South Sea Pearls
Featured: Palomino Jewels South Sea Pearl Drop Earrings with 18ct Yellow Gold Shepherd Hooks and Palomino Jewels South Sea Pearl and 18ct White Gold Horsebit Necklace.
As we mentioned, Palomino pearls will always have a high lustre. In Australian South Sea Pearls, this helps bring out the 'Orient of Pearl', the subtle rose or pink hue produced by the refraction of light when it is reflected from the the pearl's thin layers of nacre. At Palomino Jewels, we pride ourselves on utilising Australian pearls that are sustainable, beautiful, and always possess an exceptional lustre.