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Xrays of Natural vs Cultured Pearls Essay Sample

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Xrays of Natural vs Cultured Pearls Essay Sample

            Pearls have been one of the most beautiful and valuable components used in both simple and extravagant jewelry pieces.  There are pearls that are created by nature and cultured ones which are man-made pearls. According to the Pearl Guide, the pearl is the “world’s oldest gem, being prized an collected for 4000 years.” Cultured pearls were first made during the 1900s.  Henry Ward said in an article entitled “History of Pearls,” that before this period, only the extremely wealthy and noble people exclusively owned and wore natural pearls (par 2).  It was in 1896 that Kokichi Mikimoto received patent for producing cultured pearls. He worked with two other researchers in Japan: Tatsuhei Mise and Tokishi Nishikawa.

            How do pearls form? Natural or “Oriental” pearls are formed from nacre, a calcium carbonate substance that the mollusks secrete whenever a foreign object like a parasite enters the mollusk’s tissue. “Over a period of several years, this build-up of nacre forms a natural pearl” (par. 1). The pearls that form in the mantle of the mollusks are usually free-formed and in varying shapes.  The formation of natural pearls are said to be rare and are considered as one of nature’s wonderful accidents.  Thus, natural pearls are very expensive and valuable.  Just last year, “a double strand of 68 perfect natural pearls known as the ‘Baroda Pearls’ was auctioned at Christie’s Auction House for $7 million.” Meanwhile, to form cultured pearls, man deliberately inserts a foreign object in the mollusk so that it secretes nacre and forms pearl.  Cultured pearls were initially hemispherical mabes and were not round.

According to Pearl Guide, Mikimoto discovered in 1916 a technique of allowing formation of round pearls.  This involves “tissue and bead insertion into the gonad of an akoya mollusk.” Richard Brown, in his article entitled “What are Real Natural Pearls” claims that “For a natural pearl to form with a nice round or oval shape, and be free of any flaws, is actually a real-life “miracle.”  The odds of a perfect natural pearl are 1 in a million. ” He mentions that one can distinguish the natural from cultured and imitation pearl via Xray.  The difference is that for natural pearls there are “concentric growth rings.”  Natural pearls consist of all natural nacre while the cultured ones contain only a thin layer of the said substance.

            There are several types of pearls depending on the oysters or mollusks they form into.  Gemology Project enumerates these, as listed below:

  • Pinctada martensii (Akoya pearls)
  • Pinctada maxima (South Sea pearls)
  • Pinctada margaritifera (Black or Tahiti pearls)
  • Pteria sterna (Sea of Cortez pearls®)
  • Pinctada mazatlanica (Mexican pearls)
  • Pteria penguin (Blister pearls – Mabe)
  • Haliotidae haliotis (Abalone)
  • Hyriopsis cumingi (freshwater “Zebra mussel”)
  • Cristaria plicata (freshwater “Cockscomb mussel”)

Pearls are now accessible to anyone but its value, shape, size and quality are of a variety.  Pearls are a wonder and a “must” possession, as they are created by a natural phenomenon; though man assisted and in the process created perfect round shaped for cultured ones.

Works Cited

Brown, Richard S. “What are Real Natural Pearls?”2008. PGA Website. 30 Apr. 2008. <http://www.p-g-a.org/pearls.html>.

“Pearl.”Gemology Project. 30 Apr 2008. <http://gemologyproject.com/wiki/index.php?title=Pearl>

Ward, Fred. “The History of Pearls.” 1998. Nova. 30 Apr. 2008. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pearl/time.html>

“Natural Pearls.” 2008. Pearl-guide.com. 30 Apr. 2008. <http://www.pearl-guide.com/natural-pearls.shtml>.

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