In the beginning …. Of cultured pearls Part 1

The notion of helping a mollusc create pearls or a product of beauty has been around since the 14th century. When in China semi-circular pearls or “sleeping policemen shaped” Buddha figurines were made from mud and placed into the interior shell of a freshwater mollusc, the mollusc then obligingly covered the mud figurines in nacre.

Natural Pearls were the ultimate symbol of power and wealth

Natural Pearl ring with diamonds

In Roman times they were the adornment of choice – for those who could afford it. Roman women were so fond of choosing pearls that their husbands were being made bankrupt, because of their insatiable lust for lustrous pearls. It is recorded that Julius Caesar was petitioned to pass a decree ordering that only patrician women could wear pearls, it was passed, ordinary male roman citizens breathed a sigh of relief. No imitating item or substance came close hence…

Pearls reign supreme

Within Europe pearls maintained their premium position as the adornment of choice and hence were highly prized. Ever wondered why all the portraits of monarchs, male or female are seen adorned with swathes of pearls? It was basically an attempt to convince any conquering monarch, that those portrayed were beyond reach, bring to mind the Portraits of Elizabeth 1 they were no dating card, their meaning is clear…. Don’t mess with me, I am so wealthy that I can afford to sew pearls on my dress! In fact these “pearls” were iridescent glass beads bought from Venice for 1 penny a piece – a significant amount of money at the time, and the first relatively convincing imitation pearls.

Surprise … Surprise

natural pearl pin with diamonds

In 1670 the traveller Tavernier expressed surprise that the Japanese people did not hold pearls in high esteem and observed that some fine pearls could be obtained along the coastline of Japan. Half a century later the Japanese discovered the esteem in which the Chinese held pearls, they were so precious that a pearl was placed in the mouth of the deceased in the funeral ritual; ready for a good start in the afterlife. In 1727 Kaempfer recorded that the finest pearls found were those from the Akoya oyster in Japan, which were not unlike the oysters from the Persian Gulf, which were reputed to produce the best pearls of all.

Akoya Pearl stud with diamond

Pearls (especially those from a sea oyster) continued to be prohibitively expensive and the love for their gentle glow continued to grow so …. Man decided to give nature a helping hand. Interested ….do read part two.

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PEARLS – Seawater vs Freshwater

Now that you know how a pearl is formed from our last Blog it is time to explore the provenance and difference between saltwater pearls and freshwater pearls.

Saltwater pearls have their provenance in the PINTADINES

Seawater pearl producing shellfish are not in fact oysters. Although for ease everyone has and will continue to call pearl bearing shellfish oysters, for the most part, seawater pearl bearing molluscs belong to the Pintadine family. Within the Pintadine family there are seven pearl producing shellfish; unlike their edible sedentary namesakes, the Pintadines are not edible and are mobile from one generation to another.


The mobility of the Pintadine shellfish is due to their reproductive cycle, when conditions are right one shellfish releases spermatozoa into the water; this act begins a chain reaction on all other pearl producing Pintadines in the area. They release eggs and spermatozoa into the water; which are mixed at the mercy of the currents and larvae is formed. The larva propels itself with a small foot in the water and grows into spat. At 45 days the spat is ½ inch long or approximately the size of your thumb nail, with the appearance of a very thin and transparent oyster.  It will, at this early stage, make the biggest decision of its existence: once this small spat finds a suitable spot in which to attach itself and grow, surrounded with plenty of light, food and warmth,  it can no longer move.

Once the spat is attached and has become a baby oyster much of its energy will go into growing mother of pearl layers to cover its shell. These nacre layers are in effect the oyster’s protection against hungry predators.

It is a miracle of nature that we have pearl bearing oysters at all! The existence of pearls rely on chance fertilisation, the avoidance of being eaten by predators and then the precarious decision of where to settle for life. If a life threatening piece of coral or shell is lodged in the flesh of the oyster before it is 3 years old or weak it will die.

Looking on the bright side if the oyster is alive and healthy at 3 years of age it is strong enough to withstand the introduction of a foreign body into its organism. As the intruder slices its way into the depths of the oysters ‘body’ it carries with it epithelial cells from the mantle, these cells form a pearl sac around the intruder and the epithelial cells start doing what they do best they deposit concentric layers of nacre that surround the offending object and slowly form the pearl, layer by layer, a miracle of nature. It is not surprising that this rarity is reflected in the value of pearls.

Freshwater pearls have their provenance in UNIONIDES

Freshwater mussels kept by Alfred, 1938

The Unionides produce the majority of the freshwater pearls that we know. These are bivalve shellfish, normally referred to as mussels or mulettes; they too are mobile and mainly inedible. The mobility of pearl producing mussels is also due to their reproductive cycle; in this case the fertilised egg enters the gills of a fish and feeds off its blood turning into larva. When the larva has been in the host fish for about two months and the fish reaches a particularly suitable stretch of water, the larva disengages from the fish and settles. It will usually choose a stretch of slow moving waters in a river or a suitable spot in a lake, the depth at which these mussels are found is between 1 and 1.5 metres from the surface. Hence when fishing for freshwater pearls they can be spotted by looking into a glass bottomed jar, which will give clarity to the water and enable the fisher to see if mussels have unusually protruding areas in the smooth outer shell. Pearls are formed when a small stone or a calcareous concretion lodges in the pearl bearing mussel and starts the formation of a pearl; these pearls have rounded surfaces although they can be of many different shapes. Their colours can be among others white, soft pink, mauve, heather, brown and pale grey.

How do you fish for Natural freshwater pearls?  Take your lead from Chrissie Douglas’s ancestor Alfred Smith who regularly sought pearls in the river Tay, a glass bottomed viewer and a staff to move things around in the river bed, as seen below, but be warned it is illegal nowadays to fish for pearls in Scotland!

Alfred pearl fishing 1, Inverurie

For more information on pearls visit our instagram page

Pearls, Fashion & Afternoon Tea

Highlights from the Best of Britain Luxury Shopping event

If you were invited to the Best of Britain Luxury Shopping event last week but couldn’t make it, here are a few highlights! The event was at the luscious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge and it brought together some new and some established luxury ladies brands for an afternoon of tea, cakes, champagne, pearls and shopping! Gomez-Grazia, the celebrity endorsed fashion brand hosted us and other brands including swimwear, diamonds and even super luxurious hairpieces. We invited all our lovely clients – thank you to those who made it and we hope you enjoyed yourself. Ten percent of all sales went to The Great Ormond Street Hospital and a three lucky shoppers won complimentary nights in top hotels in Paris, Monaco and Geneva.

The gorgeous Anna is wearing a stunning Gomez Grazia evening gown and a load of our white freshwater pearl bracelets (you can never wear too many!).

White Freshwater Pearl Bracelet

One of our youngest clients, aged 16, was treated to a pink freshwater drop pendant. Her warm skin tones and Gaelic colouring, with dark hair and blue eyes, meant that pink was her colour! She also suited the peacock black pearls, but young and pretty calls for pink!


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Your perfect pearl match

DSC_9216.JPGWe have a dedicated team at Coleman Douglas Pearls to assist you in finding the perfect pearl jewellery for every occasion, selecting specific designs that will allow you to wear the jewellery in various ways giving you ultimate versatility and choosing the perfect classic pearls. Our latest theme is called “What is your colour” because we all have a optimum set of colours, although all pearls will look good, the right colour will have an extraordinary effect of lighting up your eyes.  The optimum colour is to do with skin tone, lip undertone, eye colour and whether you tan well or not.
67highWe would be delighted to assist in helping you choose the perfect shape, colour and design or if you prefer we can draw a shortlist of “must haves” for your wardrobe that will accompany you through life to every occasion.

Do not hesitate to contact us should you be unable to find the ideal design from the shopping pages of our website. One of our team will be pleased to help you by phone on 0207 373 3369 if you are dialing from within the United Kingdom, or +44 207 373 3369 if you are dialing from outside the United Kingdom, alternatively you can email any of our team for assistance at

In order to help us find the perfect item of pearl jewellery it would be helpful for us to know:

  • your eye colour and skin tone
  • the look or occasions you require the designs for
  • your preferred price range

We have a broad range to choose from and would be delighted in helping you. We look forward to hearing from you soon, Team CDP x

Coleman Douglas Pearls X Aqua Flor Perfume

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Pearl Essence Perfume

‘Dawn and Dusk’ are a revolutionary concept in perfume, the new Coleman Douglas Pearl friendly perfume essences. A novel concept on which our designer, Chrissie Douglas and Sileno Cheloni of AquaFlor in Florence, have worked on for the last three years.

A natural creation: Most perfumes have alcohol which attacks a pearls’ radiance and eventually dulls the pearls and even changes the colour of our skin. Dawn and Dusk essences have a base tone of salt and water, mimicking the natural oils produced by our body and maintaining the pearls moisture whilst adding to its splendor. To prove this point, each phial of pearl essence contains a cultured pearl which as time goes by increases in lustre. Once the essence finishes it can be strung into a necklace exuding a gentle scent for years to come.
Easy handling: The delicate phials fit perfectly into a handbag and their “roll on” feature allows for easy use “on the go”.
Our Pearl Essences have two distinct scents
Dawn evokes a fresh morning sea breeze in French Polynesia. Its base notes are Amber and a musk accord of Ambergris and sea moss. Its head notes are seaweed and pink salt whilst white thyme and wild fennel are Dawn’s heart notes.
Dusk has an essence which builds on Dawn and brings a sultry note with base characteristics of amber and a woody accord of ambergris and bamboo wood. Its heart notes are an aromatic melody of white thyme and African rosemary, with seaweed, pink salt and bergamot as its head notes.
Come to our showroom in Beauchamp Place and sense for yourself this groundbreaking perfume essence it is guaranteed to make you want more …


The pearl clasp – is our signature

tahitian + Tourmaline NE + petals
Most of the designs in our pearl collections at Coleman Douglas have our signature pearl clasp, an innovative departure for pearl jewellery design, the pearl toggle clasp is far simpler to put on and take off than a traditional metal clasp and is ideal for the busy woman of today, it proved so popular that it has become our signature.

Our signature pearl clasp came into being over 25 years ago.  Mrs B, one of our clients suffered from arthritis, she found the normal workings of a metal clasp too fiddly. At the time good magnetic clasps were not easily available. Mrs B asked Chrissie our designer,  if Coleman Douglas Pearls could come up with an easier clasp. Something, she said, like a toggle but thicker…. The result is our signature clasp a naturally formed long cultured freshwater pearl, drilled halfway so that it acts as a hinge within a lasso of tiny seed pearls. It is easy to put on even blindfolded and it is very secure, so secure that 95% of the designs are Coleman Douglas Pearls are finished with the pearl toggle. If you have not tried it do pop into the studio at 42 Beauchamp Place to check it out and the moral of the story is if you listen to your customers you get GREAT INSPIRATION.

Here are a few of our favourite pieces with our pearl clasp, can you guess what they are before linking into the image?

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Mother’s Day Pearls

What better way to celebrate our wonderful mothers than with pearls? Over the next two weeks we are giving away six stunning pieces for you to either keep or give to a special mother you know. To enter, just follow us on Instagram or Facebook and tag a friend on the competition image.

mothers day image

Meanwhile, at the studio, we are busy stringing lots of pearls ready for you to come and choose the perfect gift for the best mum in the world. Whatever her style, colouring or age, we have the perfect pearls for every mum out there! Here are a few of our favourites.

Akoya Pearl and Diamond Earrings £1,170

Large Freshwater Pearl Stud Earrings £137

‘Triple Strand ‘Raindrop’ Long Lariat Necklace in White £714

Biwa pearl & Rock Crystal Short Lasso Necklace in Peacock Black £154

Labradorite & Tahitian Pearl Bracelet £909

Freshwater pearl & Rock Crystal Necklace in Grey £193


Jackie film revives a fascination with pearls

She may only have been America’s First Lady for a brief couple of years but Jacqueline Onassis Kennedy, with her elegant style, left a much-mirrored legacy to the fashion world. Portman portrays her with aplomb in Pablo Larraín’s fêted biopic Jackie. The film’s French costume designer Madeline Fontaine was recently awarded the 2017 Costume Design BAFTA for her epic recreations of Jackie’s outfits.

Jackie excelled in simple, classic dressing: camel, white, black and navy were her staple colours. She loved a strapless silk dress in a shade of sherbet to make her jewellery sing. She was queen of oversized shades and luscious headscarves. And no doubt the best-known 1960s Jackie O image is of the tailored suit, pillbox hat and white gloves – perfectly accessorized, of course, by several strings of pearls.

Jackie, who once said: ‘Jewelry is epoch making and to me it has a significance of its own’, was sure of the impact of jewellery on a look. Her pearls – usually the three-strand necklace, sometimes a pair of oversized statement pearl and diamond earrings and perhaps also a brooch – were her daily, go-to accessories. Surprisingly, these were often not of the real variety. But she gave them iconic status anyway, and in 2010 two of her simulated pearl necklaces along with a pair of faux pearl and diamond earrings sold for more than £50,000 at auction – an inflation of its value by more than 10,000 per cent.

In the well-known words of Mrs Kennedy: ‘Pearls are always appropriate.’

Channel your inner Jackie O with our pearls:


Classic 3 Strand Biwa Pearl Necklace in White, £273


Large Freshwater Pearl Stud Earrings, £137


Triple Strand Biwa Pearl Bracelet in white, £166

Taking Care of Pearls


Pearls are the most sensual and flattering of gems. They beautify their owner, reflecting a soft glow that enhances the natural harmony of our features. It is therefore essential to maintain the gentle lustre that has been so painstakingly created by nature. Pearls improve their lustre when worn next to the skin as the oils of the person wearing them keep them moisturized.

Important points to consider in caring for your pearls

  • Wear your pearls as much as possible.
  • Wipe pearls after use to remove any trace of perspiration or perfume.
  • Keep pearls in silk or chamois leather when not in use, away from diamonds or metal.
  • Give your pearls an annual check-up – look for thread stretching, discolouration or fraying.
  • If you wear your pearls often, have them cleaned by a pearl expert once a year.

Things to avoid

  • Keep your pearls away from perfume, hairspray and fake tan.
  • Don’t wear pearls for aerobic exercise or swimming in treated water as they are damaged by excessive perspiration and chemicals.
  • Do not test the genuineness of a pearl by biting it with your teeth.
  • Never store pearls in a hanging position as it can stretch and damage the silk.
  • A storage place that is too dry or airless, for example, a sealed plastic bag, will dry the pearl.

Why not try our pearl essence perfume that has been made with zero alcohol with natural oils that actually enhance your pearls. We’ve had fantastic feedback on it that the smell lingers through to the next day. More info – click here.

Count down to the BAFTAs

BAFTAs time is almost upon us. This Sunday, the best contributions to film of 2016 will be honoured at the 70th EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Albert Hall, presented by the delightfully funny national treasure Stephen Fry. Team Coleman Douglas Pearls will certainly be watching.

After all this gloomy British winter weather, it seems just the right moment for an injection of glam and a celebration of the best in on-screen entertainment. No doubt there will be a chance to watch numerous clips of the aesthetic delight that was La La Land, which has unsurprisingly had the highest number of nominations. And then there will be gorgeous frocks galore, and of course the accompanying jewellery. This year, we’re expecting to spot pearls aplenty on the red carpet, particularly after they featured big in the outfits of a number of celebrities at the Golden Globes last month.

We loved British actress Sienna Miller’s Golden Globes look; a simple strand of South Sea pearls was complemented by oversized diamond earrings. Sienna wore a cluster of pearl bracelets as well as pearl rings on both hands.


Singer songwriter and actress Janelle Monae opted for pearl jewellery in her hair, a delicate detail to counterbalance her statement monochrome gown.


Both Sienna and Janelle offset the clean, finished elegance of their pearls with ‘undone hair’, keeping the look young and light.

Pearls have often loomed large at the BAFTAs: we were honoured that British actress Kristin Scott Thomas chose our Lariat pearl necklace in pink to wear as she presented the event a few years ago.


The BAFTAs essentials:

When: Sunday 12th February, 9pm, BBC 1

Spoiler alert: The BAFTAs are not filmed live, so keep clear of social media beforehand if you don’t want to know the winners ahead of time.