101 of cultured pearls sea water pearls part 1 – a delicate operation

Did you know there are two main types of cultured pearls? There are seawater and freshwater cultured pearls just as in the natural pearl realm. First up let’s investigate sea water cultured pearls.

Not only are oysters delightful to eat, they also produce the most naturally beautiful gem known to mankind. Pearl production is the reaction of the mollusc in order to protect its wellbeing, we could also call it self-preservation.

Tahitian Pearl

The beginning of the road – Cultured seawater or oyster pearls start life when a technician implants a nucleus and a section of epithelial cells into a pearl bearing oyster. The oyster needs to be 3 years old in order to withstand the operation, and as an oyster is kept up till the age of 7 years in the farm, this means there is usually only one pearl produced per oyster.

Only the best will do When the Mise-Nishikawa method of pearl culturing was introduced, i.e. the process of aiding a pearl bearing mollusc to make a pearl, they discovered that the best nucleus to use was a round bead made of mother of pearl from a freshwater mollusc called a mullette or pig toe, a thick shelled mussel which can be cut into squares which can then be shaped into round beads of different dimensions. This particular shell is used because it has the perfect specific density in order for the oyster not to spit it out of hand. Nowadays most nuclei are made from resin.

pearl specialist

Hmmmm it is tough to be the best  Out of 1000 oysters that are seeded, 500 do not make it to pearl production, 200 produce rejected pearls which are very marked or with large dull patches that look like a dead fish eye, in short something you would not want to wear. 250 are pearls of marketable quality. 50 are top quality pearls. This ratio gives the reasoning behind the price calculation of a cultured oyster pearl. The adage “you pay for what you get” has never been truer.

For those who like percentages here we go:

  • 50% die or eject nucleus.
  • 25% produce pearls of marketable quality.
  • 20% are rejected pearls.
  • Only 5% produce top quality pearls.

Interested in knowing the nitty gritty of the culturing process see you on our next episode.

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In the beginning …. Of cultured pearls Part 2

Let’s give nature a helping hand

As natural pearls were so rare and prized, during the XVII and XVIII centuries scientists in France, America and Sweden, tried to help nature. Most notably the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus in 1748, studied how to aid pearls form in a mussel, with muted success.

Cultured Akoya Pearl

The heart of pearl culture technology

I’ll get by with a little help from my friends – In 1907 Tatsuhei Mise & Tokichi Nishikawa discovered independently and simultaneously the secret of seeding a nucleus into a living oyster. They each applied to patent aspects central to pearl production. Upon seeing each other’s patent applications it was clear they had both reached the same conclusion so they signed the Mise-Nishikawa agreement – which is to this day the heart of pearl culture technology.

Hot on their heels

The following year, in 1908 Mikimoto applied for a patent to produce full pearls, he had already been granted a patent in 1896 to produce half pearls, or Mabe pearls which are akin to the nacre covered “sleeping policemen” half pearls described earlier. When Mikimoto became aware of the Mise-Nishikawa patented method, he altered his own patent so as not to invalidate it, and bought rights to use the Mise-Nishikawa method. Mikimoto then began an unprecedented expansion of cultured pearls and left Mise and Nishikawa’s names for the history books.

Kokichi Mikimoto turns the pearl market on its head

Born in 1858 he was the son of noodle and vegetable vendors, and had a dream that every woman should have the opportunity of owning a pearl necklace. An outrageous dream at the time, as a natural pearl necklace cost half a million dollars in the 1900’s; yet this dream inspired him to change the pearl industry for good. Within a few decades, he had almost achieved his dream; pearls were more accessible than ever before. At the time of Mikimoto’s death aged 97, a strand of his own brand cultured Akoya pearls that cost $100, was to the untrained eye remarkably similar to a natural pearl strand worth ½ million dollars.

Akoya Pearl Necklace with Diamond Leaf CenterpieceAkoya Pearl Necklace with Diamond Leaf Centerpiece

A pearl crusade when Mikimoto began his to produce cultured pearls, they were viewed as “fake natural” pearls, but within a few years the best jewellers in the world recognised them for their individuality and beauty. At one point Mikimoto produced 75% of the world’s demand for cultured pearls.

Each pearl is individual

It is important to remember that cultured pearls, although aided to start their existence, are completely independent and man has no control over their eventual size, shape, colour or even whether they survive. Each pearl whether cultured or natural is truly individual.

Cultured oyster pearls

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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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How cultured are you about Cultured Pearls?

IMG_20171006_175746_180Cultured pearls start their existence by the introduction of an irritant into a mollusc by man, after which the process is continued solely by the metabolism of the living mollusc. Once the technician implants the irritant bead into a pearl bearing mollusc adding a graft made from epithelial cells the process can begin, in this case, it is not so much “make a pearl or DIE” as we read within the natural pearl formation, but more an alleviation of the discomfort created by the graft and irritant for the mollusc, it cooperates and creates the beautiful lustrous orb that is a pearl.

The crucial role of epithelial cells

The sole role in life for an epithelial cell is to make nacre, (calcium carbonate and Aragonite) this is normally laid in layers on the interior of the shell in order to create a hard surface –  or natural armour -making it crunchy and less attractive as a meal for predators, the same nacre substance is laid in concentric layers on the irritant which in effect entombs it.  Oysters create two layers of nacre each tide, however each layer is super thin hence although a cultured pearl may only be formed within three years in a farm it literally has thousands of layers of nacre.


Where do the Epithelial cells for a graft come from? In a cultured pearl the epithelial cell graft comes from the mantle tissue of a donor mollusc, which has been chosen for its extra beautiful shell colouring and markings. The donor is sacrificed, and its mantle is cut up into small segments, each segment is then placed into the “surrogate” mother mollusc.

Pearls and human embryos are remarkably similar  The graft which has been placed in the “surrogate mother” mollusc forms a pearl sac that covers the irritant and within this sac the mollusc will secrete concentric layers of nacre to cover the irritant. The pearl then rotates within the pearl sac, and as it rotates more layers are deposited onto the irritant. So as a human embryo moves around in the placenta as it grows so does a pearl during its formation.

Pearl Birth

Pearl bearing molluscs have a mind of their own !  It is important to bear in mind that after the irritant has been introduced the process is continued solely by the metabolism of the living mollusc. The pearl farmer has no control over what the pearl bearing molluscs will produce whether in size, shape, colour, or even whether they will produce a pearl at all. Each pearl is truly individual.

Did you know there are two main types of Cultured pearls? there are seawater or freshwater cultured pearls just as in the natural pearl realm, to learn more tune into our next episode of Cultured pearls.


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Become a connoisseur of natural pearls in 10 easy steps: Part 3

Our final blog on natural pearl expertise! Visit us at CDPearls 42 Beauchamp Place SW3 1NX for pearl talks where you can test your knowledge!

Keshi pearls are they ?? or are they not ???  A keshi pearl can be a natural pearl which occurs within a cultured oyster host, in a cultured pearl farm, or when the graft and nucleus in a cultured pearl fail to attach to each other; the oyster rejects the nucleus, and unusually the graft tissue remains behind to form a pearl sac and secretes nacre layers. The term Keshi in Japanese means seed, these pearls are almost always baroque in shape. Although a Keshi could well be a natural pearl in composition, it must always be described as Keshi because it is formed in a cultured oyster and in a farm so it was bound to be found.

Tahitian Pearl Brooche

What do a gypsy and Empress Eugenie have in common ? Natural freshwater pearls. They can be formed in rivers or lakes and as the term implies a freshwater pearl is formed accidentally without any human intervention in a pearl bearing mussel or mulette. Famous natural pearls have come from Scottish, European and American rivers; like the Queen Pearl which was once owned by Empress Eugenie and the Abernethy Pearl, or “wee Willie” found in 1967 by Bill Abernethy in the river Tay in Scotland.

Mussels can also have blisters and seed  Freshwater natural 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. Blister pearls have a flat surface on one side of the pearl and seed pearls are 2mm in diameter or less.


Natural pearls be they seawater or freshwater should always have certificates. A word of caution it is illegal to fish for freshwater natural pearls in Scotland so … best keep to pearl specialists who will be able to furnish you with natural freshwater pearls and furnish the requisite certificate of authenticity.

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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 cdp@pearls.co.uk3226_ss_website-1_large

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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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.