Harvested from the waters off Australia coasts, Pinctada Maxima, the oysters that grow South Sea pearls, are the largest and rarest oysters in the world. These special oysters produce the most beautiful nacre and the smoothest pearls. Pinctada Maxima oysters only exist in a small area known as 'the South Sea', which includes the Indian Ocean around Northern Australia, Southern Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. With the world’s cleanest coasts, north Australia is the area that produces the loveliest South Sea pearls.
Sizes and Shapes of South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls are the largest pearls in the world. Due to the thickness of nacre produced by their shells, the South Sea pearl is also famous for the variety of unique and desirable shapes often found. The shapes of South Sea pearls include round, teardrop, semi-round and baroque. Each one is unique product of nature.
The Rarity of South Sea Pearls
Pinctada Maxima oysters are the rarest oysters in the world. They only exist on an extremely limited number of shell beds found in the warm tropical seas sometimes referred to as the South Sea. Pinctada Maxima oysters are solitary and sensitive. They won't survive in densely populated communities. The oyster shell beds are located in deep waters of extremely remote locations. South Sea pearl oysters produce thick nacre surrounding pearl nucleus only when they are presented with ideal natural conditions.
The Australian government has a strict control over production of pearls. Each oyster is issued a license number. Only a limited number of oysters are cultivated each year.
South Sea pearls require the most labor intensive cultivating process of all pearls.
Cultured South Sea pearls account only for 1% of whole global productions of cultured pearls.
Colors of South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls come with a wide range of beautiful colors: white, silver, cream, yellow and deep gold. They also display a special overtone color including pink, blue or green. Dark blue South Sea pearls are very rare and they can be called "black pearls". The colors of South Sea pearl are totally natural.
Distinctive Characteristics of South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls are distinguished from all other pearls by their magnificent thick natural nacre. The nacre produces an unequalled luster - a luster that not only delivers shininess as with other pearls - but a complex luster which resembles a soft creamy voluptuous appearance which changes mood under different light conditions.
Value of South Sea Pearls
Due to the extremely thick nacre of South Sea pearls, their quality is similar to a natural pearl's. The fineness of nacre has big impact on the value of South Sea pearls. Other factors such as pearl size, shape, color also determine the pearl's value.
How to buy South Sea Pearls
Five factors need to be considered when buying South Sea pearls: pearl luster, size, shape, color and surface.
Luster is the most important factor in determining a pearl’s value. A pearl’s luster gives the pearl iridescence and depth. Luster is determined by the thickness of pearl nacre. Very lustrous pearls have a deep-mirror like surface and bright shininess. Pearls with low luster look dull. South Sea pearls possess a thick, creamy nacre and are famous for their rich and silky luster.
Shapes of South Sea pearls include round, teardrop, semi-round, circle, oval and baroque. Perfect round and teardrop shapes are extremely rare and are the most valuable. Though other shapes are less valuable, they do have their own unique appeal. Baroque pearls, for instance, are popular for their uniqueness, size and casual character.
The general rule is: the cleaner the surface, the more valuable the pearl is. Flawless South Sea pearls are very rare and they command a high price. As pearls are a natural creation, they tend to have some natural imperfections. When buying South Sea pearl jewelry, examine the pearl surface carefully. Avoid big flaws on the surface.
Most common sizes for South Sea Pearls are 10-15mm. South Sea pearl farmers have begun to cultivate smaller pearls down to 7mm to capture more of the Japanese market. South Sea pearls in 16mm-20mm are very rare and they are extremely valuable.
Body colors of South Sea pearls include warm white, silver, cream, yellow and sparkling gold. Overtone colors include pink, blue and green. Combinations of the most beautiful and rarest colors such as white- pink, silver- pink and deep gold are the most south-after colors. South Sea pearls in these color ranges command a top price in the market.
How to Care South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls need gentle care to ensure their beauty last. Since South Sea pearls are made of many layers of thin nacres and possess a silky smooth surface, they should be handled very gently. Here are some tips:
• Wipe pearls gently with a soft cloth before putting them away. If the pearls have oil or dirt on the surface, wipe pearls with a cloth dipped in a diluted mixture of alcohol and warm water or in a weak solution of soap and water. Then dip the cloth in clean water and rub over the pearls. Finally dry the pearls with a clean dry cloth. Never leave pearls wet.
• Always put pearls on after you have applied make-up, perfume or hair spray.
• Avoid storing pearls next to abrasive jewelry such as diamonds or stones. Always store pearls in a soft place such as in a soft pouch.
• Have pearl strands restrung every one or two years since silk thread may get weakened.