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

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Our Christmas Gift Guide

zPinkChampagneTruffleTree-PinkEarringsQuestionMarkShape_24404December is here and the festivities are really starting to get us all excited here at Coleman Douglas Pearls. Don’t worry if you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping yet you have come to the right place! We can help you find presents for everyone you are looking for and wrap them in our luxury Christmas gift wrap to take all the stress out of the way for you!

c SMALL Freshwater Double Drop earrings in grey £168First up are the girls in your life, whether it be your mum, wife, sister, daughter, girlfriend . . . we guarantee we have something to suit all ages and tastes. Our classic double strand necklace in white was featured this year in Vogue’s 100 year anniversary edition and is perfect for both younger and older ladies. Paired with our large joy of life earrings this is the perfect combination for that special lady in your life to find under the tree!

Pearl, Tourmaline and diamond Pendant £2273We also do great gifts for younger girls with our white freshwater drop pendant and our small pearl studs. These don’t just come in white – we have also got them in pink, grey, peacock black and copper so you can find the perfect pearl for your girl! If, however, you are needing to pull out ALL the stops this Christmas our cognac diamond and south sea pearl necklace is the gift for you! Stunning glittering diamonds in shades between yellow and brown reflect perfectly with our golden and white south sea pearls making this a truly special piece for a truly special girl.

b SMALL Freshwater pearl cufflinks on silver £151And here come the boys! Our For Him range has everything a discerning gentleman could want with a wide variety of cufflinks and tie pins (which us girls also like to steal now and then to put on our pashminas . . . shhhhh!) we will find the pearl for your guy. You can’t go wrong with one of our classic biwa pearl tie pins they work with literally everything! If you’re looking to add some glamour into you’re man’s life then look no further than these tahitian pearl cufflinks – the perfect addition for those special occasions.

Pop by our pearl jewellery store this December and try some of our delicious prestat truffles with your coffee/tea or even a glass of champagne – you will deserve it after completing all your Christmas shopping!

Award winning pearls

47b-webOur designer Chrissie Douglas has won numerous design awards since starting her career, especially in her Tahitian pearl designs. Chrissie’s aim has always been to offer an investment in style and value by utilising her expert pearl knowledge coupled with an excellent network of suppliers. Her innovative and fresh use of pearls with semi-precious stones and other more unusual materials like leather, silk gauze, wood and felt have produced unique designs.

Titania warrior pic2Out of all the ranges that Chrissie has designed our favourite for the winter has to be the Warrior pearl collection. This collection never goes out of fashion as it is so edgy it enables the wearer to go full on Rock Chick or just to slightly toughen up an otherwise girly outfit. Mainly made from knotted leather and Tahitian pearls this range sure knows how to make an impact. Wear the Tahitian Warrior armband and earrings with your most feminine outfit this Christmas party season and you will be guaranteed to wow your friends.

cog dia ss ne + macaroonOur fine jewellery range is also perfect for all the glitz and glam of this time of year. Enhance your natural sparkle with our cognac diamond and south sea necklace – a great transitional piece through the seasons picking up on the golds of Christmas but also delicate enough to wear in the spring and summer. Other great investment pieces include our Tahitian pearl, diamond and rainbow moonstone pendant and matching earrings. The moonstone has a gorgeous adularescence effect where the light travels across the gem changing its colour from apparently colourless to gorgeous blues.

590.Paul ViantFor other final flourishes to your party outfit please bring a photo of you wearing the outfit along to our showrooms where our pearl team can then source the perfect finishing item. Whether you choose to go for an amazing statement necklace or a classic pair of earrings, here at Coleman Douglas Pearls we’ll have the piece for you!

Golden Summertime

South Sea Golden Pearl Strands2Golden south sea pearls are set to be a big hit this summer at Coleman Douglas Pearls! With their range of summery yellow and golden hues these pearl collections will be with you every step of this exciting summer. These pearls just exude a flame-like warmth perfect as this summer marks the 350th anniversary of the Great Fire of London! In honour of this the Museum of London are putting on an exhibition of rarely seen artifacts, as well as an impressive hands on area where people can see what London was like before, during and after the fire.

curesd-childIf your pearls aren’t bringing enough magic into your life then this summer (which we doubt will be the case!) JK Rowling has the answer – her eighth installment of the Harry Potter Franchise! Set 19 years after Harry and Co were students at Hogwarts this new play will incorporate all your old favourite characters alongside some new ones. If you weren’t lucky enough to get tickets to the West End show a book of the play is going to be released at the end of July. . . .

olympic slideAnd if all this nostalgia is making you feel like a child again then fear not – the Belgian artist Carsten Holler has just the activity for you. Kicking off the Olympic 2016 excitement is a brand new installation at the 2012 Olympic Park. The infamous Olympic sculpture (The Helter Skelter) has been converted into the worlds longest and tallest slide – the perfect activity for children of all ages!

cogdiaOur Pearl team still think the best way to make your summer golden is with pearls so pop in to our London pearl jewellery showroom to find the perfect coloured pearl for you. We are also crossing our fingers for all the athletes heading to Rio that their summer will also be golden.