ORIGINS

The birth of venus

LEGEND HAS IT (Venus)

When Venus, goddess of love and beauty rose from the sea, the drops of water that fell from her body scattered and became a thousand perfect pearls.

In Persia, pearls are called the ‘Tears of the Gods’.

During many Chinese dynasties, it was believed that pearls fell from the sky when dragons fought.

We now call the pearl the queen of gems, but once a pearl was known as the Gem of Queens for good reason… Cleopatra was so enamoured by these lustrous gifts that she may well have convinced her lover, Julius Caesar to invade Britain to secure the Green Isles supply of the pearls.

Gone are the days where a single pearl strand could buy a building on Fifth Avenue in New York.

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THE MOST FAMOUS PEARL IN THE WORLD

The pearl known as "La Peregrina", is considered the most famous pearl in the world. Discovered in 1513 off the Pearl Islands it was the largest pearl of its time.

The pearl entered the Spanish Crown Jewels during 1479-1516. Worn by Queen Mary 1, King Phillip of Spain and various other Queen consorts of Spain as a pendant, necklace and hat ornament.

Taken by Napolean Bonaparte during the Spanish war and gifted to Joseph Bonaparte and then his son Charles, the pearl was eventually sold to the 2nd Marques of Abercorn.

Purchased by Richard Burton for his wife Elizabeth Taylor it was in 1969 set into a pearl, diamonds and rubies pendant by Cartier.

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BIRTH OF A PEARL

Ancient Greeks believed, when the sun went down, oysters, attracted by moonlight, would float to the surface, open their shells, and collect the glistening evening dew. The dew would soon be transformed into a radiant pearl.

Many scientists and poets have tried to explain how pearls are formed, but recent observations showed that few if any of natural pearls x-rayed contain the grain of sand or irritant at the origin of the gem,

The latest acknowledged explanation is that pearl formation is triggered by an occurrence resulting in the disruption of the epithelial cells of the mollusks within its soft tissues,

This occurrence can be an accident, an intrusion and/ or a reaction to a parasite. The fact that it takes up to 20,000 oysters to find a decent pearl combined with the button industry appetite for oyster nacre lead to the progressive depletion of natural oyster beds.

MODERN PEARL FARMING

Today most pearls are cultured, meaning that they are implanted with a nucleus to encourage the natural formation of a pearl.

Over 100 years ago, a group of passionate Japanese gentlemen perfected the method to produce round pearls reliably. Among them, Kokichi Mikimoto, a man with extraordinary vison and drive started marketing those cultured pearls internationally, making them accessible to a larger group of fans. His example was followed by other pearlers and the history of the pearl was changed forever.

The value of pearls would not be solely driven on provenance or rarity anymore, but on the unique combination of 5 virtues that define each gem: size, surface, shape, shade and shine.

The endless quest of man for the perfect cultured pearl has produced gems whose virtues surpass any natural pearl ever harvested. Whilst the odds of harvesting a quality cultured pearl can reach 80% of seeded oysters, it can still take up to 1 million pearls to assemble a perfectly matched strand.

 

 

NOT ALL PEARLS ARE BORN EQUAL

Cultured pearls are split into two main groups: freshwaters are grown in mussels while saltwater pearls are grown in oysters. We will focus on the latter because Atlas Pearls has been at the forefront of South Sea pearl cultivation for over 20 years.

Pearl traders are often referring to both mother of pearl oysters and country of origin to differentiate pearls. Our focus here is limited to key points of differences between oyster species because we believe that there are no boundaries in the ocean and that the passion and dedication of pearl farmers have more influence on pearl quality and value than their country of origin.


 
SOUTH SEA PEARLS

South Sea pearls are produced by the largest and rarest of all pearl oysters – the Pinctada Maxima. It can take up to four years to create one pearl, two years to raise the baby oyster and two years for the pearl to grow. Pinctada Maxima requires nutrient-rich, clean sea water to produce a beautiful South Sea pearl which size can range from 9 up to 20mm and color palette spread from neutral white and silver to rich gold. Each oyster usually only produces a single pearl; however, some oysters can be seeded twice and sometimes three times. Quality South Sea pearls usually commend a higher value compared to their counterparts thanks to a superior nacre thickness –or coating- which guaranties exceptional and long lasting virtues.

 


TAHITIAN BLACK PEARLS

Tahitian black pearls are born of a cousin shell, the Pinctada Margaritifera. Cultured pearl techniques were commercially applied to this particular species in the 1970’s. Tahitian Pearls are celebrated for their amazing rainbow like color variety, ranging from deep black to green, blue and peacock and their size range from 8 to 18mm. The cultivation and seeding techniques are essentially the same as South Seas. While the geographical area where Pinctada Margaritifera naturally grows is widely spread, the oysters producing the best colors are found in a handful of very remote lagoons in French Polynesia.


 

AKOYA PEARLS

Last but not least Pinctada Fucata gives birth to the famous Akoya pearl, the “grand-mother” of all cultured pearls. This saltwater oyster originating from Japan and now grown in China and India as well was the first bivalve mollusk producing reliably round pearls over a 100 years ago. They are seeded with a round bead, made of mother of pearl, and a small piece of living tissue called Saibo in Japanese. Akoya pearls usually come in sizes ranging from 6 to 9mm, neutral hues and feature very fine luster.

 

PEARLING...THE FIRST 100 YEARS

Timeline of the history of pearling

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