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Fine quality, natural pearls are very rare jewels. The value of a pearl is determined similarly to those of other precious gems, according to size, shape, color, quality of surface, orient and luster.
Natural pearls were found in many parts of the world, but today natural pearling is rare, Australia has one of the world's last remaining fleets of pearl diving ships. Australian pearl divers dive for south sea pearl oysters to be used in the cultured south sea pearl industry, hence significant numbers of natural pearls are still found in the Australian Indian Ocean waters from wild oysters. In 1893, Kokichi Mikimoto successfully cultured a pearl in Japan, which began the world of cultured pearls.
There are four types of cultured pearls, Akoya, South Sea, Tahitian and Freshwater.
Each type of pearl has a separate grading scale they are judged against. There are several names for the blemishes a pearl will contain, the colors and overtones are graded, the shapes vary, the luster and the orient can all be subject to opinion. Grading pearls is a very difficult process! To add to the confusion, there are fake pearls all over the marketplace... plastic, glass, coated, dyed, it's unfortunate that it's not easy to be a smart buyer.
To see the top ten of the most famous pearls, click here.
The Parable of the Pearl is one of the parables of Jesus. It appears in Matthew 13:45-46. The pearl is also mentioned in Job 28:18, "Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned; And the acquisition of wisdom is above that of pearls."
Cultured pearls stacked high on tables at the Tuscon, Arizona gem show