All About South Sea Pearls

| 3 min read

Pearls are some of the most beloved jewels on the planet. Once the exclusive territory of the very wealthy, Pearls have been a favourite with royalty and Hollywood starlets alike. With new techniques in Pearl farming making them more affordable, they are now in the purlieu of us mere mortals. South Sea Pearls are among the largest Pearls available on the market and are some of the most treasured.

Where Do South Sea Pearls Come From?

South Sea Pearls are cultured throughout areas in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, but most commonly they come from Australia, the Philippines and Indonesia. These waters are the natural habitat of the Pinctada Maxima oyster. This is a natural large oyster, growing up to 12 inches in diameter. This makes a large Pearl – the average size is 13mm, but they can range from 9mm-20mm. This is not only due to the larger oyster, which is able to take a larger nucleating seed, but it is also given longer to grow. Whereas Japanese Akoya Pearls are given around 9 months to grow, South Sea Pearls can grow for up to two years without their shape deforming. This means that their nacre (the layers of coating produced by the mollusc) is unusually thick, ranging from 2-6mm. The warm, clean, plankton-rich seas in this region are the perfect habitat for forming large and pristine Pearls.

Where Do South Sea Pearls Get Their Colour From?

South Sea Pearls come in a range of beautiful colours, from white to silver to gold. The most valuable of all are white with a pink overtone. Gold is also prized as it is such a rare colour to find in other types of Pearl. The Pinctada Maxima has two varieties – the silver-lipped and the gold-lipped. The colour of the Pearl follows the colour of the oyster.

Pearl farm location

What Makes A Good South Sea Pearl?

Just as Diamonds are graded on the ‘Four Cs’, a Pearl’s value comes from the ‘Five Virtues’.

Lustre – The natural sheen on the surface of a Pearl is known as ‘lustre’. A poor lustre looks chalky and dim. An excellent lustre will be luminous and reflective.

Complexion – Pearls are natural and it is normal to see flaws in their surface. Very rarely, a Pearl will look perfectly smooth. Most Pearls will have some spotting, ranging from ‘lightly spotted’ to ‘heavily spotted’.

Shape – The rarest Pearls will be perfectly round and symmetrical, or will be a perfect tear-drop shape. Other than these shapes, Pearls can also be oval, button (a squashed round shape) or Baroque. Baroque Pearls are those with a free-form, organic shape. They’re often used in one-of-a-kind artisanal pieces due to their uniqueness. Pearls with distinctive banding around their middles are called ‘circled Pearls’, which are also sought after for their individuality. Keshi Pearls are Pearls formed without a solid nucleus. ‘Keshi’ is the Japanese for ‘poppy seed’. These smaller Pearls (around 2-8mm) are often used in necklaces and bracelets and have unique freeform shapes.

Colour – South Sea Pearls can are usually white, silver, gold or cream, sometimes with a prized pinkish tone.

Size – South Sea Pearls are usually bigger than other Pearls, typically they are 11-16mm, but they can rarely be found in sizes of 20mm or more.

Find your perfect piece of South Sea Pearl jewellery here.

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