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

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



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.

Pearl Month!

3226 ta website.1A new month means a new birthstone and this month it is the pearl – associated with faithfulness, loyalty & friendship. Pearls are formed 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 which are deposited on the foreign body covering it completely. Nacre layers are very thin, translucent and reflect light, thus creating the pearls distinctive lustre.

pearl blog ss

There are many different types of pearl including natural seawater and freshwater pearls and their cultured counterparts, you can also get imitation pearls. The main features of a pearl are shape, purity and lustre. Seawater pearls are produced in an oyster and can be either South Sea pearls originating in Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines, and range in colour from white – gold or Tahitian pearls from Tahiti and Mexico, which come in a variety of colours but always with a grey overtone.

 FWLrg main image LargeFreshwater pearls are produced using a mussel as opposed to an oyster. Their colour naturally ranges from white to pink and peach. These pearls are farmed in sweet water and are mainly produced in China. Pearls are kept most lustrous when worn next to the skin and can be seriously affected by beauty products. It is best to apply all make up first, including perfume, then add the pearls after cleaning your hands. Fake tan and hairspray are also your pearls enemies! To clean your pearls just use a slightly damp, clean cloth and only use water.

mercy ministries br309Here at our Beauchamp Place pearl jewellery store we have a wide variety of all types of pearl for you to look at. If you are looking for a special gift we offer a personal shopper service and we can also re-design existing pieces.


Delicious September

oyster 1Finally we have got through the summer and September is here with all her delicious oyster goodness!
But before you dive into the oysters let our Pearl Company share a pearl of wisdom with you.
Only eat oysters in months containing the letter ‘R’ in their names. For example September, October, November etc.
…It would be wise to follow this nugget of golden information!
oyster 2

Fun fact:
Did you know that the oysters you eat are completely different to the oysters that create cultured pearls?
The oysters that create cultured pearls are far more chewy than the succulent ones served in restaurants.

oyster 4
Fancy an Oyster and Pearl extravaganza?
If you roam over to Knightsbridge your wish can come true with the delicious sea food restaurant Outlaws at The Capital located on Basil Street and our Pearl Center located 3 minutes down the road on Beauchamp Place.

But which type of cultured oyster pearl do you choose?  Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls or South Sea Pearls?

S.S prl image 550
To reflect the Indian Summer (we hope to have) let’s look at the naturally golden coloured South Sea Pearls.
Produced in gold lipped oysters that inhabit the waters of the Philippines, Indonesia and Burma, the pearls are usually 9-16mm in diameter.
Join us at 42 Beauchamp Place, London, SW3 1NX, where our Pearl Team will help you find the perfect South Sea Pearl shade to suit you. From necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, tie pins… the world is your oyster (excuse the pun!)

‘All art is autobiographical. The pearl is an oyster’s autobiography.’ – Federico Fellini




Many of you will have watched the James Bond films ‘Man with the Golden gun’ and ‘Golden Eye’. But why, I hear you ask, is a Pearl Company dedicating a whole blog to them?!
The clue is in the title…Gold.
_______________________________GOLDEN PEARLS_____________________________

South Sea Golden Pearl Strands2
577. South Sea prls and royals

Did you know that you can find deep golden natural coloured pearls?

Produced in gold lipped oysters that inhabit the waters of Indonesia, the Phillipines and Burma, Golden South Sea pearls range in size from 9 to 16mm in diameter.

The pearl’s colour all depends on the colour of the host oyster shell. Gold lipped oysters create pearls that range from a light golden hue to a deep orange golden hue.

Do you desire some Gold in your life?
Our Pearl Showroom, as well as having a golden interior, has a stunning selection of golden south sea pearl necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Hyland and ObamaJoin the likes of Sarah Hyland and Michelle Obama who both love their golden pearls.
‘Modern Family’ actress Sarah Hyland, wore her golden south sea pearl and diamond necklace to the Golden Globes…a rather fitting occasion for golden pearls! While Michelle Obama wore her 3 strand Tahitian and South Sea pearl necklace to a conference.

Golden S.S prl ring
So the big questions is…where will you wear yours?

‘The best things in life are free. The second best are the most expensive!’ – Coco Chanel

Only $5.1 million!

Natural Pearl 1So the big question is… what was sold for $5.1 million? A house, super car, gym palace? …try a pearl necklace!
The 4 strand grey natural saltwater pearl necklace was sold on Tuesday at the Christie’s Jewels Sale setting yet another milestone auction price for a natural pearl necklace. One of our pearl company members was able to closer inspect this necklace, spotting a few marks here and there, she come away in awe of the beauty of the metallic coloured hues of the pearls.

Natural Pearl 2This isn’t the first time that a natural pearl has been sold for such a high amount.
Do you remember the Elizabeth Taylor jewellery auction? One item of jewellery that particularly caught the attention of our Pearl Team was the necklace holding La Peregrina, one of the most famous seawater natural pearls.

Discovered in the Americas, the drop shaped natural pearl was given by Phillip II of Spain to Mary Tudor as a wedding gift. On her death it returned to Spain and was taken to France. Prince Louis Napoleon sold it to the marquis of Abercorn in 1837. In 1969 Richard Burton purchased the pearl off the Dukes of Abercorn and set it in the extravagant necklace setting seen today, gifting it to Elizabeth Taylor.

Important Facts to know about Natural Pearls:
Natural Pearl 3
The natural pearl process is hardly ever, if ever, started by a grain of sand, due to the oyster being able to easily expel it. The process actually occurs when a piece of shell, coral, bone or large piece of grit hooks into the flesh of the oyster. If the oyster is unable to dislodge the irritant then it will jump into self preservation mode, covering the foreign body in nacre, eventually making a pearl.

Natural Pearl 4Do you dream of owning a natural pearl necklace, bracelet, ring or brooch?
If you do you’re in luck as our Pearl Company has a beautiful collection of natural pearl jewellery at our Pearls London showroom.

Make an appointment with our pearl specialist today to make your dream natural pearl jewellery a reality….not all natural pearl jewellery costs $5.1 million!

Tantalising Tahitian Pearls

Coleman Douglas PearlsIntrigued by Tahitian Pearls?
Well you should be. Naturally dark their colours range from grey to black and peacock green to aubergine. However, they can sometimes be very light in colour from white with grey overtones to yellow and pink.
Here at Coleman Douglas Pearls we have Tahitian Pearl necklacesTahitian Pearl braceletsTahitian Pearl earringsTahitian Pearl rings and many other Tahitian Pearl accessories.
Coleman Douglas Pearls
Tahitian Pearls are made by inserting a mother of pearl bead, the nucleus, into a black lipped oyster. These particular oysters are found in Panama, Mexico and Tahiti. Tahitian pearls are mainly 8-18mm in diameter, although they can grow to 21mm. To see a beautiful selection of these pearls call into our Pearl Showroom, located at 42 Beauchamp Place, London, SW3 1NX.

Coleman Douglas PearlsTahitian Pearls are the perfect pearls for all the ‘twinset and pearl a’fobes’ who want to still look elegant while retaining the edgy glamorous style.
We have several designs that use Tahitian Pearls alongside contrasting materials such as leather and metal.
Coleman Douglas Pearls

Our fabulous Tahitian Pearl drop earrings are the perfect example of how we have mixed materials together to create interesting, beautiful jewellery.
The light pink ribbon used in these earrings allows the Tahitian Pearls to sway while almost looking like they are floating, while the bead picks up the peacock colours of the Tahitian Pearls.

Coleman Douglas PearlsAs well as having a fabulous diverse collection of Tahitian Pearl designs, we also offer a Bespoke service. Make an appointment with our Pearl Specialist and Designer, Chrissie Douglas, and start creating jewellery that you will wear for a lifetime.

Akoya Pearls

Coleman Douglas Pearls
This week we, Coleman Douglas Pearls, are looking at Akoya Pearls.
How and where they are made, the colours they come in and where you can find the most beautiful
Akoya Pearl necklaces,
Pearl bracelets
Pearl earrings
Pearl accessories

Akoya pearls are created by Coleman Douglas Pearlstechnicians implanting a spherical mother of pearl nucleus into the host oyster alongside an epithelial cell graft that has come from a donor oyster. The graft forms a pearl sac within which the oyster secretes layers of nacre to cover the nucleus. Grown mainly in Japan, the pearls can range in size from 3mm to 10mm, and on rare occasions 10.5mm in diameter.
The host oysters need to be 3 years old before they are able to hold a pearl successfully.

Akoya pearls areColeman Douglas Pearls normally found in all shades of white from very pure white through pale pink to golden tones. They can also be found naturally in pale grey shades, although this is unusual. Most Akoya pearls are bleached and “pinked” a permanent colour change and a process which leaves them permanently lighter in colour than when they were originally created in the oyster.

It is very important to find the right Coleman Douglas Pearlscolour Akoya Pearl for you.
Not everyone looks good in dazzling white.
Our Pearl Team at Coleman Douglas Pearls, located at 42 Beauchamp Place, London, SW3 1NX, is on hand to help you choose the perfect pearls for you.

Coleman Douglas PearlsAs well as providing classic Akoya Pearl strand necklaces and Akoya Pearl earrings, we also create designs by mixing different pearls together.
For example have a look at the necklace being worn by our model.
We have used Freshwater Pearls, Akoya Pearls and South Sea Pearls to create exciting, new, unusual designs.
Join us at our Pearl Showroom to see a wider selection of designs and collections.

How well do you know your Pearls?

Coleman Douglas Pearls
Do you really know your pearls?
How your pearls were made?
Where your pearls were made?
Which type of oyster created them?

It would be amazing if experts could extract DNA from your pearls without disrupting their value, with results that show how old they are, where they were made and which oyster produced them.Pearls

For centuries it was thought impossible to isolate the genetic material of a pearl without destroying the gem… until now!
A Swiss research team, lead by Joana Meyer of ETHZ Zurich and Laurent Cartier of SSEF, have successfully managed, for the first time in history, to extract trace amounts of DNA from a variety of cultured pearls while still retaining the value of the pearl.

TPearlshe genetic material is usually located in the organic matter found in the calcium carbonate matrix of the pearl.

The Swiss team used a fine drill to enlarge the existing drill hole of the pearl in order to isolate the DNA without destroying the pearl. Once extracted the DNA revealed the species of pearl oyster and the age of the pearl.

If you would like to learn more Pearlsabout your pearls then make an appointment with out Pearl Specialist and Designer, Chrissie Douglas, who will be able to give you an in-depth valuation of your pearls.

‘Chrissie Douglas can tell a natural pearl from a cultivated one as easily as you and I can tell a tomato from an aubergine.’ – Lucia van der Post, FT How To Spend It

PearlsWe have 2 more Pearl Talks coming up in November so book quickly to avoid disappointment as these events  are often oversubscribed. Chrissie Douglas will guide you through the history of pearls, going into detail about a wide selection of cultured and natural pearls.
These Pearl Talks take place at our Pearl Showroom, located at 42 Beauchamp Place, London, SW3 1NX.

Autumnal Pearls?

Coleman Douglas Pearls
The season is changing with vibrant reds, golds and bronzes appearing in the leaves. But how about adding some glorious autumnal colour to your wardrobe? ….Golden South Sea Pearls?!
Golden South Sea Pearls are produced in gold lipped oysters that inhabit the waters of the Philippines New Guinea and Burma. The South Sea Pearl golden colours vary from very light to deep, intense gold.
South Sea pearls are usually 9-16mm in diameter although you can find some that are well over 20mm.

Here at Coleman Douglas Pearls we have a Pearlsmagnificent selection of golden South Sea Pearl jewellery, as well as several loose South Sea Pearls that can be made into a Bespoke necklaces, bracelets or earrings. Make an appointment today with our Pearl Specialist and Designer, Chrissie Douglas, and start designing one of a kind jewellery that you can wear and treasure forever.

Coleman Douglas Pearls
Pearls play the same role in a women’s jewellery collection that the little black dress does in their wardrobes – it is the all-time classic.’ – Lucia van der Post

As well providing timelessColeman Douglas Pearls classic South Sea Pearl strands we also have several other designs that incorporate a variety of different coloured stones. For example the necklace on the right is made up of Citrine, Garnet, Tahitian Pearls and South Sea Pearls.
The contrasting colours and textures in this necklace add depth, while the clasp tassel can be worn at the front or back giving you two looks in one pearl necklace.

PearlsIf you would like to learn more about Pearls come and join us at our Pearl Showroom, located at 42 Beauchamp Place, London, SW3 1NX, for one of our Pearl Talks.
Chrissie Douglas will teach you all about the different types of pearl, how and where pearls are made, how to discern if a pearl is real or not, how to choose the best pearl for you, as well as much more.
These Pearl Talks are often oversubscribed so book early to avoid disappointment.