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Unexpected Pearls | According to many...

According to many of the leading fashion editors, “unexpected pearls” are one of this fall’s leading fashion trends. Considering that pearls have been a staple in J.Forks Designs’ line from the beginning, we applaud this. However, we would like to rebuttal with: pearls are not a trend. Within the last century, pearls have graced the necks, hands, and wrists of some fashion-forward individuals ranging from Jackie O to rappers such as A$AP Rocky, Rhianna to Meghan Markle, and of course Sarah Jessica Parker. 


Pearls have this inherent ability to revolutionize and remain relevant, transcending multiple generations. Today, pearls are still worn in traditional ways such as the pearl choker, the pearl opera, and the pearl rope, but they are also integrated into unexpected looks combined with turquoise, chains, and coral. Whether a person leans towards traditional or extravagant, pearls are still holding their own on the runway. 

Pearls have been highly praised for thousands of years and cherished by many cultures across the globe. To put the “love of pearls” into perspective, according to PBS, “At the height of the Roman Empire... the historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman general, Vitellius, financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother's pearl earrings.” Fast forward to the 20th century, in 1917 Pierre Cartier traded a double strand of natural pearls for a mansion on Fifth Avenue in NYC. The world's obsession with pearls came at a high cost. To keep up with demand, overfishing depleted the natural source of pearls. As a result, by the 1920s only one in every 10,000 oysters will produce one pearl on its own that is good enough for commercial use. (These pearls are extremely rare and very expensive!)

Fortunately, by the late 1800s the son of a Japanese noodle maker, Kokichi Mikimoto, was able to successfully culture a pearl, thus revolutionizing the pearling industry. (This is actually a slightly complicated and very interesting story in itself.) How? By placing a microscopic bead or piece of mussel tissue into a mollusk’s shell, and the pearl is created as we explain in Image 1. 

It is good to note that cultured pearls are real pearls. We point this out because imitation pearls, typically glass-coated beads, are common. It can often be difficult to visually distinguish the real pearls from imitation pearls, as they can both be bright and lustrous. The difference lies in the “feel.” 

A real pearl’s nacre is made up of millions of tiny crystals, thus creating a rough surface. Whereas an imitation pearl is smooth. Here at J.Forks Designs, we only use real pearls, both freshwater, and saltwater.

When determining the value and/or quality of a pearl, the pearl is judged by the following factors: luster, surface, shape, color, nacre thickness, size, and matching. (The following information comes from the Gemological Institute of America.) 

  • Luster: Of the seven pearl value factors, luster might be the most important. Luster is what gives a natural or cultured pearl its unique beauty. Pearls with high luster have sharp bright reflections on the surface. Different pearl varieties have different standards for luster.
  • Surface: If surface characteristics are numerous or severe, they can affect the durability of the pearl and severely depress its value. Surface characteristics have less effect on the pearl’s beauty and value if they are few in number, or if they are minor enough to be hidden by a drill-hole or mounting.
  • Shape: Pearls come in eight basic shapes: round, semi-round, button, drop, pear, oval, baroque, and circled. Perfectly spherical pearls and symmetrical drops are the most valued. There are exceptions, though. Well-formed pear, oval, or baroque cultured pearls are also prized by pearl lovers.
  • Color: Pearl body colors vary by variety. Although white and black are traditional, unusual colors are becoming more popular. Overtones in a pearl’s luster and the rainbow iridescence known as orient also add to the color of a pearl.
  • Nacre Thickness: Luster and nacre quality are closely related. If the nucleus is visible under the nacre, or if the pearl has a dull, chalky appearance, you can assume that the nacre is thin. This affects the luster as well as the durability of the pearl. Nacre thickness is evaluated to make sure that cultured pearls are durable as well as beautiful.
  • Size: In general, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. Different varieties come in different sizes: South Sea cultured pearls are the largest.
  • Matching: Jewelry designers sometimes deliberately mix colors, shapes, and sizes for unique effects, but for most pearl strands, earrings, or other multiple-pearl jewelry, the pearls should match in all the quality factors.

Here at J.Forks Designs, we incorporate pearls into many different designs. Go headfirst into this season with some J.Forks Designs’ unexpected pearls. 

Interesting Tidbits:

  1. The chemistry is: CaCO3
  2. The mineral is: Calcium Carbonate
  3. Pearls are the birthstone for June
  4. Pearls are the gemstone for the 3rd and 30th anniversary
  5. According to Tiffany’s, “Pearls are a naturally perfect gem that requires no cutting to enhance its lustrous beauty.”
  6. The oyster is born a male and transforms into a female. (National Geographic.)
  7. According to the Gemological Institute of America, “A Chinese historian recorded the oldest written mention of natural pearls in 2206 BC.”
  8. According to Forbes, the most expensive pearl in the world was discovered by a Filipino fisherman off the coast of Palawan Island, the Philippines in the early 2000s. “Via officials in the Philippines, the pearl has been verified at 26 inches in length, 12 inches in width and weighing nearly 75 pounds. It is valued at $100 Million.”
  9.  It is said that Julius Caesar created a law that only allowed for aristocrats to wear them. 
  10. Since 1994, the Red Tide has been killing off the Akoya oysters of Ago bay, “The heart of Japan's cultured-pearl business.” PBS
  11. One legend has the Hindu god Krishna discovering pearls when he plucks the first one from the sea and presents it to his daughter Pandaïa on her wedding day. PBS
  12. There are four major types of cultured pearls: 
    1. Akoya Pearls, 
    2. South Sea Pearls
    3. Tahitian Pearls
    4. Freshwater Pearls.