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9 Things You Didn't Know About Pearls

Did you know the largest and most expensive pearl in the world was found in the Philippines?

"A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls." -Coco Chanel

When taking a page out of Coco Chanel's styling notes, we noticed she likes to keep things fabulous yet classy, and more than anything, she loves her pearls.

The pearl is one of nature’s most precious miracles. While you may know that its creation is often a long and tedious one, there’s much more to learn about this gem such as its history, cultivation process, and variations. 

1. Despite the large production numbers, pearls are quite rare.

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Pearls are the only jewels created by living animals, according to National Geographic. For every 10,000 wild oysters, only one natural pearl is found. Pearl oysters are born male and after maturing for three years, transform into females.

2. Pearls may either be natural or cultured and from either salt water or fresh water.

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Natural pearls are formed without human intervention, while cultured pearls come from the introduction of irritants that cause the oysters to react and produce pearls as part of their natural protective reaction. Freshwater pearls account for 95 percent of the pearl production index, while saltwater pearls are much more valuable.

3. The first record of pearls accounting as valuable objects was in Mesopotamia, dating around 2300 B.C.

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Elsewhere during that time, they were also presented as gifts among Chinese royalty and were considered status symbols in Rome.

4. Kokichi Mikimoto was the first person in the world to create cultured pearls.


Mikimoto has become synonymous with cultured pearls because on July 11, 1893, this son of an udon shop owner successfully created the world’s first cultured pearls. The island where Mikimoto first cultured pearls has been christened Mikimoto Pearl Island. Mikimoto opened the first specialty pearl shop in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1899.

5. The most popular saltwater natural pearl, La Peregrina, was passed on from royalty to celebrities.

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Perhaps the most famous variation of saltwater pearl is La Peregrina, which translates to “the incomparable” in Spanish. La Peregrina, a 500-year-old pearl, comes in a pear shape and is about the size of a large pigeon egg. It was first discovered in the Americas and was gifted to Mary Tudor from Phillip II of Spain. Later, it was taken to France and Prince Louis Napoleon sold it to the marquis of Abercorn, whose son recorded it to be 10.192 grams. In 1969, Richard Burton purchased La Peregrina at an auction for $37,000. He gifted the pearl to Elizabeth Taylor, who commissioned Cartier to mount it in a lavish necklace similar to one that Mary, Queen of Scots wore in a 16th-century portrait.

6. The world’s largest and most expensive pearl was valued at $100 million, and was discovered in Palawan.

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At two-feet long and weighing 75 pounds, the world’s largest pearl was discovered by a fisherman about 10 years ago off the coast of Palawan. He kept it under his bed for a decade, not fully knowing its worth. The pearl was discovered by officials recently after the fisherman's house burned down. It’s been recorded as the largest and most valuable pearl in the world, beating the Pearl of Allah, a 15-pound pearl also found in Palawan in 1934.

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7. Pearls have made it into a variety of skincare products.

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Similar to the gems themselves, pearl-infused skincare adheres to a hierarchy. Pearl powder, in particular, is said to have an illuminizing quality. Pearls consist of 30 to 80 percent calcium, some magnesium and amino acids that contribute to the overall wellness of women’s skin. The presence of pearl powder in a product is said to contain brightening, rebuilding, and firming properties.

8. According to the American Gem Society, the different lengths of pearl necklaces are given fun names.

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When shopping for pearl necklaces, be aware of the names that the various lengths hold. A collar fits against the throat, while a choker rests on the base of the neck. The common princess length almost reaches the collarbone, and a matinee is usually 20 to 24 inches in length. The Opera length reaches 30 to 36 inches long, and lastly, the rope refers to all strands that measure beyond 36 inches.

9. Of the valuable South Sea pearl variants, the golden color is said to be rarer than gold.

Produced solely by golden-lipped pearl oysters, golden pearls usually come in sizes of 9mm and up. These high-quality pearls are harvested in the Philippines, with Jewelmer being the pioneer pearl producer that has cultivated these pearls in their natural golden color. The rarest strand Jewelmer has ever produced took 37 years to complete.

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Hannah Lazatin
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