Pearls grow inside oysters, mussels and clams. When a small irritant such as a piece of sand becomes trapped inside, the shellfish releases a substance called nacre, which forms a smooth, hard layer around the irritant. This creates a natural pearl. Freshwater pearls form when this irritant is inserted thru human intervention. Akoya pearls have a small shell bead inserted. This creates a perfectly round pearl, thus increasing the value of the pearl. Pearls are judged by their nacre, luster, size, shape and color. Nacre- is a pearls external layer. Larger pearls generally have thicker nacre layers and greater luster. The thickness of the nacre also determines the pearls durability. Luster – is the shine created by light reflecting on the pearl. The thicker the nacre is the higher the luster. A pearl with a smooth and blemish free surface produces a higher luster. Size – another factor in determining the quality of pearls. Larger pearls are more expensive. The type of pearl can determine the size. For example, freshwater pearls usually are 3mm to 8mm in size. Akoya pearls range from 4mm to 8mm and SouthSea and Tahitian can go to 15-16mm. Shape – most pearls are round, but only a small percentage is perfectly spherical. Pearls are grown in many shapes: round, oval, teardrop, button, baroque, coin, etc. Color – the color of a pearl is called “body color”. Pearls usually come in the following colors: white, cream, black, silver and pink. Some colors are caused by dying the pearls. Caring For Your Pearls The luster of pearls can grow over the years if you take care of them. The oils from your skin keep pearls moist, but contact with cologne or perfume can dull your pearls. Use a soft cloth like those used for eyeglasses to wipe your pearls after wearing and before storing them. You can clean your pearls with soapy water. For necklaces and bracelets make sure you clean between the pearls. Never use cleaners such as ammonia, bleach or an ultrasonic cleaner as they will destroy the luster of the pearls. Restring your pearl necklace and bracelet every few years using silk thread.
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