How Pink Pearls Get Their Color
Pink pearls start out the same as any other cultured pearl – by taking a mollusk and injecting some sort of irritant.
The mollusk covers the irritant in a protective coating called nacre which it secretes layer upon layer. These layers of nacre are what give the pearl it’s pearly luminescent coating and beauty. Although some pearls can be naturally colored due to water conditions, most cultured pearls are white or off white when the are farmed.
But there is a large market for pink pearls as well as other colors so methods have been developed to dye the pearls to satisfy market demands. This is a common practice and most people realize that a colored pearl will most likely get that way through artificial means. What most people don’t realize is that the white pearls are usually treated to enhance color as well.
When taken from the mollusk they may not have enough layers of nacre to cover the dark first layer so they are sometimes bleached to improve color. This is all part of pearl farming and perfectly acceptable.
Pink pearls can be used in a multitude of ways to create beautiful jewelry. Combined with pink crystals they can be delicate and feminine. Pink pearls are quickly becoming a favorite color along with gold pearls, black pearls and cream colored pearls. Like any other pearl they can be strung on necklaces of varying lengths. Some common pearl necklaces sizes are:
Choker – worn tight against the neck, about 15″ long and goes with anything!
Princess – about 18″, this necklace rests just below the hollow of your throat and is perfect for a high neckline.
Matinee – About 22″, this can go with almost anything and hangs about halfway down the chest.
Opera – about 30″ and hangs down to just below your chest. It can be doubled up or tied in a knot.
Rope – my favorite length this is over 45 ” and hangs down to your waist. It can be doubled, tripled or even quadrupled to make a multi strand pearl necklace – depending on the size of your neck. This style is the classic flapper style that you might see tied in a knot.
Pink pearls require the same care as white ones – they are very susceptible to chemicals and can scratch easily. Store them in a felt or flannel bag separate from other jewelry. Always put your pearls on last so that they will not get sprayed with perfumes, hair spray or other chemicals. Clean by rubbing with a soft cloth.
Pearl diving is the age old way to harvest these luminescent gems from the sea.
This traditions is still continued today, although most pearls on the market are cultured and not natural, they still grow inside a mollusk and need to be retrieved from the water.
Pearl diving goes back over 5000 years and probably originated with the Chinese who valued the gem quite highly. Once this gem was introduced to Japan, Japanese women began to dive for pearls as well. When Kichimatsu Mikimoto perfected the cultured pearl in the early 1900’s, his success was helped by the women pearl divers on Toba Island – and in fact, women are still employed as pearl divers there today!
Pearl diving is not for everyone. It can be dangerous and the body is not used to staying underwater for long periods of time. Divers may need to go down 200 feet or more and while most are safe from sea creatures, there could be a rare danger from sharks or other fish. Today, there are many pearl diving “tours” for scuba divers that one can take and perhaps find their own natural pearl!
Today, of course, the harvesting of cultured pearls has made pearl diving more of a hobby than an occupation. Pearls are formed when a foreign substance (either sand or a piece of shell or other small object) makes it’s way inside a mollusk like an oyster or mussel. The mollusk secretes a substance called nacre and covers the object so it will be less irritating. As time goes on, more and more layers of nacre cover the object and a pearl is formed.
Kichimatsu Mikimoto found a way to force an irritant into a mollusk in the early 1900’s. Pearls formed in this manner are called cultured pearls and are less valuable than pearls formed naturally. They are really the same thing as they are formed in the same way, but the culturing of pearls allows us to “grow” a pearl whenever we want instead of having to wait for it to occur naturally.