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.

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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 real or fake? That IS the question: how to tell the difference between a real and a fake pearl

You have discovered what a pearl is and how a pearl is formed. Having skated past the difference between saltwater an freshwater pearls, we are now ready to tackle the BIG question, one that is put to me almost every week, “how do I know if a pearl is authentic, how can I tell if my pearls are real or imitation?”

Firstly, let’s clarify what we mean by real pearls. To most people this would mean a pearl which is made by a mollusc either wild or cultured, as a saltwater or freshwater pearl, as opposed to fake or imitation, which is man made.  Strictly speaking, a real pearl is a pearl which is formed in nature and the only human involvement is to find it, hence a real pearl should be a natural pearl.  But for the sake of simplicity in this Blog let’s talk about natural and cultured pearls vs. imitation or fake pearls or beads.

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“My pearls are old, they were given to me by my grandmother … so they MUST be real!” – Think again!

The first ever imitation pearls were worn by Elizabeth I who wore wax filled Venetian glass beads with an iridescent finish. These were sewn onto her dress in the 1600’s . They were the first “pearl impostors” and at the time they cost 1 penny each.

The first fake pearl, as we know it today, was created in France by Mr Jacquin who concentrated fish slime from a Bleak and mixed it with varnish in the 17th Century. He called it “Essence of Orient”. This method is still used to this day to make man made fish slime covered plastic beads, the main producer of which is Majorica. The fish slime that is used today comes from salmon and herring.

There is another method to produce imitation or fake pearls: coating plastic beads with acrylic paint. A factor worth considering is that this coating will easily chip off.

Recently a  new type of imitation pearl has entered the marketplace. They are deceptively called “semi-cultured pearls” or “shell pearls” both of which are misnomers. These new imitations are made with crushed mother of pearl mixed with resin, aka plastic. If they have overtones, these will be uniform throughout the strand.

Imitation “pearls” cannot enhance the beauty of the wearer nor attract the eye of the beholder in the same way that true pearls do, as the calcium carbonate crystal structure needed for a pearl to glow is not present. This also means that imitations have no play of light, reflection, refraction, colour or overtones.

Do not be deceived by imitation pearls; they might be expensively designed, packaged or even have individual certificates, but they have no lustre or inner glow. They shine on the surface and do little for their owner and, worse of all, imitation pearls are intrinsically worthless.

The best way to tell the difference is to rub one pearl against another: if it is imitation they will feel smooth, if they are authentic, either cultured pearls or natural pearls you will sense grittiness or traction, this is because you are picking up the microscopic level differences between the tiny calcium carbonate crystals called Aragonite which are held together by the glue like protein called  conchiolin.

We hold regular and very informative pearl talks at our studio. To find out when the next talk held at our studio at 42 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1NX

 

Pearls, Fashion & Afternoon Tea

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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.

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!

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!).

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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

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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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Valentine’s Day Pearls

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we at Coleman Douglas Pearls will start popping open the champagne at our studio in Beauchamp Place. Here is a selection of our favourite Valentine’s Day appropriate pearls. We also have a section dedicated to Anniversary Gifts so please do have a browse and …see you soon !

 

 

 

 

Types of Pearls

cultured_grid_largeHere at Coleman Douglas Pearls we understand that there is a lot of mystery behind pearls and how they are formed into beautiful pieces of jewellery, but there doesn’t need to be. It’s quite simple really.

As you probably know, they are created by oysters and mussels. Oysters tend to only produce one pearl in its lifetime whereas mussels can create up to 120 pearls. Pearls are a result from the protective reaction of an oyster or mussel to accidental or deliberate introduction of a foreign body into its organism. This reaction creates concentric layers of nacre (mother of pearl) which are deposited on the foreign body covering it completely.

No two pearls are the same. They usually have some form of irregularity which all adds to the natural aspect of this lustrous gem.

There are four main types of pearls that we sell here at Coleman Douglas Pearls, there are South Sea, Tahitian and Akoya pearls which are formed in oysters and there are mussels formed freshwater pearls.

south_sea_white_gold_pearls_compactSouth Sea Pearls– tend to be 9-14mm in size and are produced in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They vary in shades of white and gold.tahitian_pearls_compact

Tahitian Pearls are similar in size to the South Sea pearls but come in a variety of colours from white to deep black through aubergine and blue, all shades have a grey over tone. Tahitian pearls are mainly produced in Tahiti (surprise) French Polynesia and Mexico although some can be found in Autralia.

Akoya pearls  were first cultivated in Japan, their size varies from 3-10mm in size and in colour they range from pink through to white, gold and grey.akoya_medium

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Freshwater pearls are  produced mainly in China and are the easiest to access type of pearl but beautiful none the less. Some of these pearls can be called Biwa pearls which this is a generic name as the most famous freshwater pearls originated in Lake Biwa in Japan.

For a more in depth over view of pearls have a read through here. Or come along to one of our pearl talks, more dates coming soon.

The Gold Edit

This week the team at Coleman Douglas Pearls have decided to showcase just how well Pearls match with everyone’s favourite metal, Gold.

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Why do we love gold so much? It was the first metal to be widely known to the human race, beautiful, shiny and malleable it has been the favourite ever since. The Incas referred to gold as the “tears of the Sun” which is rather romantic. Gold is dispersed widely throughout the geologic world, its discovery occurred to many different groups in many different locales, and nearly everyone who found it was impressed with it as was the developing culture in which they lived. Gold’s early uses were ornamental, and its brilliance and permanence (it neither corrodes nor tarnishes) linked it to deities and royalty in early civilizations. It’s never gone out of fashion and we don’t see it ever doing so any time soon.

With Gold being ‘tears of the sun’ let’s match it with our favourite gemstone and what the Georgian and Victorian eras symbolized Pearls as “tears of mourning”. The earliest record we have of pearls as precious objects are artifacts from Mesopotamia dated to around 2300 B.C and recently, a two thousand year old pearl was found in an Australian Aboriginal archaeological dig in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Persian Gulf was one of the main sources of natural pearls for centuries, as were Venezuela & Panama where pearls were discovered by Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Balboa on their travels. Natural ‘real’ pearls are very rare these days and are worth thousands. Cleopatra won a bet that she could provide Marc Antony with a banquet costing more than the assets of a country. She took off a pearl earring, dissolved it in wine and drank it. How’s that for value!

We have lots of variations of pearls, gems and metals and don’t forget that we create bespoke designs, so if you have any of grannies pearls and gold lying around come in and meet our pearl specialist and designer Chrissie Douglas who will come up with a beautiful new design and make a match made in heaven.

Hope to see you at our studio soon at 42 Beauchamp Place, Knightsbridge, London.

Mix and Match

One of the best things about pearls is their ability to go with anything. You can wear them with jeans, you can wear pearls with your black tie dress, even men can wear them. Get Pierce Brosnan wearing a solo Tahitian pearl on a leather cord or Johnny Depp in a Tahitian pearl stud earring any day.ne1632_main_image_large_large

Pearls with other gemstones is what gets us extra excited here at Coleman Douglas Pearls. For example; Sapphires and Tahitian pearls are the true meaning of match made in heaven. Aquamarine and white freshwater Pearls are the perfect twosome for a beautiful bride adding that ‘something blue’ element to the mix.

Other favourites are gems such as the rainbow of colours that Tourmaline brings, Prehenite, Black Diamonds, Rose Quartz, Peridot, Citrine and Amethyst, the list could go on and on. Whatever you feel like mixing and matching, our designer extraordinaire Chrissie Douglas will create it for you. Make sure you pop down to our studio to pick and choose your favourite gemstones.

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