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Cameo Jewelry Articles



Preston Reuther Master Wire Sculptor

pearl pendant 

With pearl jewelry being bought each second of every day I thought any information regarding pearl buying would be a huge money saver to any perl lover. I have gathered lots of information on them thru the years of designing, buying and working with pearls of all types and will pass some tips and secretson to you so you can use it when buying pearl jewelry.

AND don't forget if you know how and where to buy pearls you can get them much cheaper then your glass and chrome jewelry stores.

The pearl is the traditional birthstone for the month of June ---the month of love and marriage. A white pearl represents purity, faith, innocence and joy. In the past it was also the symbol of chastity and was a traditional piece of jewelry worn by the bride.

Legend says that the god Krishna took a lustrous pearl from the sea for a jewel for his daughter on her wedding day. To this day Hindu women follow this custom of wearing pearls at their wedding as well as women from all over the world.

Pearls just seem to go naturally with the creamy white of a wedding dress. The #1 Component used in wedding or bridal jewelry is the mighty pearl. The pearl is a gem but not a gemstone.

Although we don't think of them as minerals or gems, they are composed of crystalline aragonite---calcium carbonate. The pearl, along with amber, is one of the few gems of organic materials rather than inorganic materials. Most pearls have a core--this may be a piece of sand, a small bit of organic material, or anything foreign to the mollusk.

The mollusk senses the irritant and begins to deposit nacre (white milky stuff) completely around it. It's kind of like when you get something in your eye and form tears to wash it out. The mollusk cannot remove the irritant so it covers it with its own material. Each layer of nacre represents a period of growth.

It is interesting to note that any mollusk can produce a pearl BUT only a mollusk with a shell of mother of pearl lining can produce a gem pearl. The cells of the outer surface of the valve produce the nacre or mother-of-pearl. Mikimoto the father of the pearl industry lived to be in his 90's and swallowed two pearls a day since he was 20 years old! True or not True?---Well, it could be.

In the orient, pearls are valued for their medicinal properties. The main component of pearls are calcium carbonate (CaCO3). It is the main ingredient in many antacids and also used as a dietary product.----------But Mikimoto had little idea of what was about to happen to this little white sea treasure. Pearls would become the favor of kings, used in the crowns of emperors and worn by the most beautiful woman in the world from China to New York.

mabe pearl set 

BUT the people who would benefit the most would be the jewelers of the world. It would open up a whole new world of jewelry making, that seems, will never end. With all this in mind I thought a quick reference of info would help in selecting and buying your pearl jewelry.


Akoya Pearl --- These pearls are often called Japanese pearls but are now produced in China, Korea, Hong Kong, and Sri Lanka. For the most part these are a little pricey and usually out of the reach of the average jewelry buyer

 These are saltwater pearls from the Akoya oyster which are usually round and have a wide range of colors from white to gold.-----Japan is the leader in production of large Akoya pearls with China being the leading producer of smaller Akoya pearls---5mm to 7mm.

Biwa pearls ---This word refers to the name of the lake in Japan in which these pearls are produced. Lake Biwa is Japan's largest body of water and is now polluted and pearl production is about over. Japanese pearl farmers now culture a hybrid pearl mussel which is a cross-breed between the last remaining Biwa Pearl mussels and a closely related species from China.

With that in mind, new names are being used for those pearls produced in the now dead lake. These are sometime called "stick" pearls--most are long and slender but frankly can be just about any size or shape. These have no artificial center---they're all nacre. The sticks pearlss are HOT items among jewelry designers from around the world and they are reasonably priced so jewelers from all over the country are seeking them out in all shapes and sizes.

You're starting to see them in jewelry stores everywhere.

Oriental Pearls---Any natural saltwater pearl originating from the Persian gulf or the gulf of Mannar.

Osmena Pearl Shell -- The pearl commonly called the osmena pearl is really not a true pearl but a composite pearl put together from a white pearl-like seashell whose name is derived from a past president of the Philippines--where these shells are harvested. These shells are white but many times they are dyed various colors from pink to blue. This is a very economical pearl and can make a great piece of jewelry for a very low cost. They have the same high end look of their more expensive relative--the mabe pearl.

The osmena pearl shell is also a composite pearl in that it is usually filled with a resin and has a strong backing.

Rainbow Pearls--These pearls derive their name from their rainbow colors, usually a light to dark silver with rainbow highlights. Originally cultured only in Australia, the Penguin Oyster producing these pearls are now grown in the South China Sea.

Nearly all rainbow pearls sold today are half round pearls or blister pearls. The oyster is seeded with a half round object---oval shaped, heart shaped, or many different shapes---and the pearl is attached to the shell. It is cut together with the shell base and hence the design of the pearl may vary. Because the size of the pearl is bigger, it produces better luster and color. Due to the pollution in saltwater seas, these pearls are reducing in number and becoming more costly. BUT they are still reasonably priced and are a popular item for jewelry designers.

South Sea Pearls---Any saltwater pearl found in the south seas. These south sea pearls are very large and come from the silver lip or golden lip oyster.---Again a little pricey and for the most part out of the reach of the average jewelry buyer, but beautifull

Black Pearls---Any pearl that is naturally created and not dyed----originating from the black lip oyster and are very dark in color.

EXPENSIVE Blue Pearls---These are dark colored pearls that are naturally dyed by the pollutants inside of them. Hard to get, very inconsistent, and a mixed response from jewelry buyers. Confusing to most jewelry consumers.

mabe pearl pendant 

Mabe Pearls---These pearls and the term seem to be the most misunderstood even among jewelers and dealers. These pearls despite popular opinion are not very expensive for the jeweler or dealer as they are composite pearls. Let's look at two types

1. The mabe pearl -- This pearl is grown from the inside wall of the mollusk, cut off, packed with a filler, and backed with mother of pearl and in some cases the cheaper ones can be backed with white plastic. These pearls are usually priced very reasonably.

 2. The mabe pearl shell ---These are mabe pearls many times seen on the late night TV sellathons at very reasonable prices. These pearls are taken from certain sections of the white helmet shell, packed with a filler, and backed with mother of pearl. It is also a composite pearl but usually much cheaper  than the grown mabe pearl.

So, in fact, the mabe is a composite or made up of parts and assembled. Regardless, it is highly prized among jewelry buyers especially when found in a unique setting. 

Note: Composite mabe pearls will many times fall apart in an ultrasonic cleaner. Use the ionic cleaner or clean them by hand.

Blister Pearls----Cultured pearls that are attached to the inner side of the oyster and cut out leaving the rough side of the shell on one side and the smooth pearly side on the other. Blister pearls are much more durable than mabes.

Blister pearls can be formed into all shapes by changing the nucleus shape to hearts, pears, ovals, rounds etc. This practice is nothing new. The Chinese did it in the 13th century with small lead Buddhas. They are priced according to quality, color, and luster of the pearl, the way it was cut from the shell and the total application.

Seed Pearls---- Small natural pearls which usually are about 2 or 3 millimeters in size--Too small for the most part to do anything with---maybe accent beads. Keshi Pearls---In the past the keshi pearl (which means poppy seed in Japanese) was a very small pearl which grew as a by product in the cultured Akoya pearl industry.

These pearls were too small to be used and were usually ground up and used for medicinal purposes in China, India and Hong Kong. Today the term keshi pearl refers to pearls without artificial nucleus which are naturally formed, usually uneven and irregularly shaped. They are used in all sorts of designer jewely.

They look good even in irregular shapes and sizes and can be drilled and strung. Mikimoto Pearls---Pearls produced by the Mikimoto company from Japan. Each Mikimoto set of pearls come with a solid gold emblem with a flower and a diamond or pearl in the center and is usually accompanied by a certificate from the company.


Preston Reuther is a Master Wire Sculptor that has been designing, showing and selling Pearl Jewelry for more than 20 years. He has written several e-books, 34 jewelry making dvds and over 1000 articles on jewelry design and creation. Visit his Pearl Jewelry Collection at   or call 816- 689-2779




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