You don’t get much classier than Johannes Vermeer’s painting of ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, 1665. Pearl earrings were once restricted to royalty in various countries like India, Japan, China, and Russia. Unlike diamonds, pearls do not need to be cut or polished to attain their lovely, natural beauty. The largest resource of pearl earrings was the Persian Gulf due to the combination of unique types of waters that flow into it. Following the discovery of oil, the pearl industry was abandoned. In this time and age, the largest manufacturer of pearls is China. Only one in forty different pearl oysters carry a pearl inside. Like diamond stud earrings and various other jewelry and ‘womanly’ accessories, both men and women donned pearl accessories. Men have often sought to obtain pearls due to their value and estimated power. Knights often wore pearls into battle as they were said to protect the wearer from harm.
Kinds of Pearls
Tahitian – Found around French Polynesia in large (up to 10 lbs) black-lipped oysters, Tahitian pearls come in a natural, dark color. Tahitian pearls that are black are considered the rarest type of pearl in the world, though these pearls tend to come in darker colors they are never true black. The oysters themselves were nearly hunted to extinction at the turn of the 20th century.
Golden – Also known as South Sea golden pearl come in a brilliant color that could easily be confused with the metal gold.
Freshwater – These kinds of pearls come from freshwater mussels only. They are cultured throughout the United States and Japan in a small amount, while a greater amount is reproduced in China. The only freshwater pearl farm in existence outside of Asia is located in Tennessee.
Akoya – Pearls from Asia (Japan, China, Vietnam, South Korea, and Australia) and the smallest kind of pearl out there, ranging from sizes 2 to 11mm. Generally these pearls are cream colored as well as rose overtones, silver, and white.