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

 

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 Diamond Edit

neakdi_main_image_largeDiamonds and pearls have to be two of the most beautiful and recognizable gemstones. Here at Coleman Douglas Pearls we can’t get enough of them. Here is a blog post dedicated to the beautiful pairing.

For 1,000 years, starting in roughly the 4th century BC, India was the only source of diamonds. In 1725, important sources were discovered in Brazil, and in the 1870s major finds in South Africa marked a dramatic increase in the diamond supply. The stone’s name is derived from the Greek word adamas, which translates to “unconquerable”.

In ancient Rome, pearls were considered the ultimate symbol of wealth and social standing. The Greeks held the pearl in high esteem for both its unrivaled beauty and its association with love and marriage. Because pearls were (and are) so highly regarded, a number of European countries actually passed laws forbidding anyone but nobility to wear them, a bit like in the 18th century and beforehand when only royalty were seen with diamond engagement rings. ri1575_main_image_large_large

Putting these two gemstones together make for the absolute perfect engagement ring or gift for your loved one. They both represent eternal love and strength. As we adore pearls here at Coleman Douglas, we’ve got the most beautiful collections to show you. If you’ve got an idea in mind as to what you’re looking for (and you have some pearls in a locked drawer somewhere), bring them in and we’ll transform them into your perfect piece of jewellery.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

pearl + seed pearl ne + macaroons 2October is breast cancer awareness month – something that all of us here at Coleman Douglas Pearls are very passionate about supporting. Raising awareness for the disease is very important to us so we have come up with a few ways for you to raise awareness at home! Firstly Breast Cancer Care are holding The Big Pink on 14th October this year. This is the perfect opportunity for you to gather your friends and family and host a pink tea extravaganza!

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The theme would obviously be Think Pink with a pink dress code, pink pearls, pink food, pink drinks . . . the list of possibilities is endless! Make sure you register to get your free kit and ask everyone to donate generously of course. Either host it at home or convince your boss to turn your workplace into a pink paradise for the day (mention charity and cakes and watch the idea take off!).

classic pink + rose + macaroonsOn a similar theme are bakesales at the school gates (guaranteed to raise money as kids+cakes+amazing cause . . . ) why not even get the school to help and get the children involved! If baking cakes is not a possibility maybe decorating could be? Or even just getting them to make decorations in class for the aforementioned party could be a great way of getting the younger generation involved and raising awareness.

3240 WebsiteHowever if your feeling active why not take part in one of the hundreds of sporting events across the country and raise money that way. Whether it is a 5km race for life, marathon, or even a triathlon, pull on your sports kit and raise money for a good cause! And don’t forget to wear your pink pearls with pride as you cross the finishing line! Also keep your eyes out for our own special take at our pearl jewellery store located at 42 Beauchamp Place, London, SW3 1NX.

October’s birthstone | Opulent Opals

Kite opalSmall triangular opal

 

We are excited to announce that we have a new selection of beautiful opals at our London Pearl Showroom!

 

Opals are the stone of inspiration and are meant to inspire the imagination and creativity – and it is easy to see why with their mesmerizing colours. Opal is the birthstone for October and in the Middle ages was believed to bring the wearer good luck.

Opal NecklaceWith their beautiful rainbow colours opals are the perfect complimentary companion to your pearls. Opals pick up on the natural luster of a pearl through their impressive play of colour. Opals come in a range of colours from white to black! Other common body colours include red and orange “Fire” opals as well as blue and green. Black opals are the rarest with the black body colour allowing the best play of colour to be seen.


Our opals are Australian boulder opals which mean that they are not fully separated from their rock matrix.
We mainly have black opals with predominantly blue and green play of colour which set off our pearls – especially our tahitian pearls perfectly.
We also have some truly amazing black opals showing the full colour spectrum from violet through to red.

 

Opal is a form of silica and the play of colour that you see is due to its internal structure. Opal is actually made up of hundreds of tiny silica spheres in a tightly packed lattice, and the regularity of the size and shape of these spheres determine the opals quality and how much play of colour you can see through the diffraction of light passing through. Smaller gaps between the spheres produce the blue and violet colours and larger gaps give red’s and oranges. The greater the uniformity of the spheres, the more intense and brilliant the colours produced will be.
Opal pendant

If you want to pop in and take a look at our opals and pearls we are open Monday – Saturday, 11am-7pm at our store in Beauchamp Place. We can make a bespoke design to meet your individual needs if you can’t find what you are after in store.

 

Queen Victoria and Royal Jewels

Victoria itvWe have been struck with Royal fever here at Coleman Douglas Pearls as we are absolutely hooked on ITV’s new period drama Victoria! Apparently it is not far from the truth with Victoria’s diaries being used heavily in the research to the show. And oh the jewelleryPearls galore on top of stunning pieces still in existence today!

Below is a brief introduction to a couple of our favourite Victorian jewels.

_GeorgeIVStateDiademUp first is the George IV State Diadem made in 1820 originally for King George IV himself! The diadem features a set of 4 crosses pattée alternating with 4 bouquets of roses, thistles, and shamrocks. The motifs are set on a band of diamond scrollwork between two bands of pearls.
The front cross is set with a 4 carat yellow diamond, and the piece features an incredible 1,333 diamonds in all. This diadem was a firm favourite of Victoria’s and she even wore it to the christening of two of her children! It is also popular with our current Queen who reserves it for state occasions and to and from the opening of parliament.

queen in pearlsNext is Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee Necklace given to her in 1887 by a committee of ladies who were raising money for a commemorative statue of Victoria’s late husband Prince Albert. Having raised far more than was needed for the statue it was agreed that the excess money was to go to the St. Katherine’s Fund for Nurses and for a necklace to be made for Victoria. However, some of the committee did not think that the money should be spent on a necklace. With the group divided and Victoria apparently fuming that she would not get her necklace this was the £5000 compromise reached!
Made from gold, diamonds and pearls it features a central quatrefoil diamond motif with a large central pearl, topped by a crown and underlined with a drop pearl. Ever practical this necklace is a multi tasking piece with the central piece and the six largest trefoils can be worn as brooches. Again this necklace has found a fan with Queen Elizabeth II who often pairs it with the Grand Duchess Vladimir’s Tiara with pearls.

So now you know a bit about the jewellery…which is your favourite piece?!

Water for hot chocolate

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In the Autumn we, Coleman Douglas Pearls, will be launching our latest collection “Water For Hot Chocolate”, pairing gorgeous copper brown pearls with smoky quartz and citrine, making the designs so enticing you’re bound to have chocolate cravings!
So with that in mind our pearl team have decided to fully embrace the cravings and are going to talk about all things chocolate!

Chocolate_Olympia_Other_0Being three dedicated chocoholics we could think of nothing better than attending The Chocolate Show in October. Running from 16th -18th October at London Olympia get ready to loosen those waist belts and delve into the wonderful world of chocolate with famous chefs, free tasters and a fabulous chocolate fashion show!

prestat hot chocolateIf you can’t wait until October to get your chocolate fix we recommend a good dose of copper pearls and a trip to ‘Chocolatiers to the Queen’ – Prestat. Not only does Prestat produce the most INCREDIBLE truffles in all sorts of fun flavours they also do an incredibly indulgent hot chocolate range! Keep your eyes peeled for our next news update which will surely tempt you chocoholics this upcoming season . . . . .

Whilst the remainder of the summer sun lasts we will try and resist temptation and stick to the fruit at our Pearl Jewellery store. However, as soon as the leaves start to turn and the jumpers go back on we know our faithful friend will be there waiting for us!

Sparkling Sapphire

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Stunning September Sapphires! Coleman Douglas Pearls love a good bit of mid month alliteration! During the Medieval Ages, European lapidaries started calling blue corundum crystal “sapphire”, a derivative of the Latin word for blue: “sapphirus”. Despite the reasoning behind the name, this stone is actually so much more than the traditional shades of blue. Yes, blue sets off pearls beautifully, from White South Sea pearls through to Tahitian pearls, with the palest cornflower hues to deep Kashimir blues, all matching elegantly with pearls. However, sapphire is the popular name given to the mineral corundum which actually comes in a full rainbow of colours.

IMG_4285aeThe word sapphire without a prefix, implies blue only. Sapphires of all other colors are assigned a color prefix (Green Sapphire, Yellow Sapphire etc) or are collectively termed fancy sapphires. If the color is red, it is a “ruby.” Like ruby the most important factor to consider when looking at sapphires of any colour is their hue.
A strong colour is desirable, not too pale and not too dark, with inclusion being not as important in comparison. You can often see colour zoning in sapphires where bands of colour are stronger in some places in the stone than others.

star sapphireAsterism or the “star effect” is a reflection effect that appears as two or more intersecting bands of light across the surface of a gem.  Asterism in sapphires is due to reflections from multitudes of exsolved needle inclusions (silk), which in most varieties consist of rutile and/or hematite. Asterism is rare with the largest star sapphire weighing 1,404.49 carats and would cost you around $300million. So not much then…

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Famous sapphires include the Duchess of Cambridge’s engagement ring, formerly belonging to Princess Diana.
Here at our pearl jewellery store we also have a selection of sapphire rings, either for you to give to the ‘Kate’ in your life, or if you just fancy a treat as its Monday! We are open Monday – Saturday from 11am – 7pm so please pop in and have a look.

Back to School!

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The final throws of summer holidays are upon us but back to school needn’t mean doom and gloom! Coleman Douglas Pearls are trying desperately hard to not get carried away buying all the fabulous stationary in the shops . . . . We will have to settle for our colourful pearls instead of pens!

pearl alice band back to school blogA new school year was the perfect chance for a new look when we were young, but why should the kids have all the fun?! The Autumn/Winter 16 trends were so varied there was the perfect look for everyone. Firstly, ‘alice bands’ are no longer for just your daughters! Embrace the easy elegance like Kate and the rest of the ‘fashion’ pack and banish those pesky kirby grips to the bathroom cabinet and wear our pearl tiara instead of a boring black number.

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vogue autumn trends waterproofNext to be dug out of the wardrobe and reinvented is the waterproof jacket. Catwalks rarely combine fashion with comfort and practicality so make the most of this sporty trend this winter! Either dig out your “retro” waterproof (remember the one you bought years ago for it to be banished under the stairs…) or invest in a brightly coloured new one to chase away the grey. Here’s to looking forward to a winter downpour that doesn’t end in your umbrella turning inside out!

And if all else fails back to school means that you no longer have to think up increasingly more difficult ways to entertain the children. With all your time back you may be looking for some me time so pop on down to our pearl jewellery store! We have put the coffee machine ON in anticipation . . . .