The Queen of gems is the South Sea Pearl.  The North West of Australia, near Broome, in the seas around Indonesia, is the ideal home for the growth of the Pinctada Maxima oyster.

Voluminous, feminine and warm, pearl connoisseurs go nacres about them! These types of pearls are just so flattering to a woman's beauty.

Just take one look at the girl with the Pearl necklace, congresswomen Nancy Pelosi, (top of the page)  wearing her unconventional pearl necklace strand, and you get the picture.  As thick as a rope,  the strand consists of contrasting combinations of 11-14 mm Golden and  Black Tahitian Pearls.  One of the most powerful women in the United States, Nancy is known for her beautiful pearl necklaces.

Non-drilled keepsake pearls are also available in the marketplace. But they don't come cheap. One large, perfectly round gem of 12 millimeters can cost several thousand dollars.

Obscenely plump, they  come in extra large sizes and a variety of shapes. The chart below shows the wide range of  shapes.  As you move from left to right  the pearls become less expensive.

How the Name - "South Sea Pearls" Originated

 La Pearl from the "South Seas" is a misleading term, especially in reference to those farmed in Australia's "South Seas".   Australia also plays enviable host to  Gem Opals and Argyle Pink Diamonds.

In the warm waters around Broome in Western Australia some of the finest pearls in the world are produced. The waters around Broome, in the North West of Australia, is clearly nowhere near the South Seas.

The "south sea" misnomer can be traced back to the iconic founder of Mikimoto pearls. (Mikimoto was not the first to discover the pearl culturing technique) Kokichi Mikimoto thought Broome in Australia, might be a good location for pearl farming. Yep, he was right! You see, Mikimoto considered anything south of Japan, as the "South Seas". And so that is how the name "South Seas" Pearls stuck.

Clever Mikimoto marketing was responsible for the perfecting the cultured pearling technique and thensuccessfully marketing  them to the world. He  changed the course of pearl history and stamped his own name onto pearls in the process.  There was now an affordable alternative to Rare Natural Pearls.

The Pearl Islands

The following ar some of the world's finest producers:

  • Arafura Pearls, Elizabeth Bay, Northern Territory
  • Arrow Pearl Co., Beagle bay, Western Australia
  • Atlas South Sea Pearl Ltd, Waigeo Island, Indonesia
  • Autore Pearling, Quondong Point, Western Australia
  • Blue Seas Pearling Co, Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia
  • Cygnet Bay Pearls, Dampier Peninsula, Western Australia
  • PT Autore Pearl Culture, Lombok, Indonesia

( Autore Magazine, New World Order, author, date, unknown)

The Shades of Pinctada Maxima

The species of oyster and the environment in which they grow are the main factors behind determining a pearl's color and complexion.   Australia Produces the Best White Sea Pearls in the World and that is why Australia doesn't have much competition for their white pearls. They can ask whatever prices they want for these high quality beauties.

The queen of gems and the gem of queens  are highly coveted for their rich varied colors.  Pearls from the Pinctada maxima oyster come in shades of white, ivory, silver, blue, yellow and rich gold.

Pearls from the Pinctada margaritifera oyster, referred to as Tahitian or Black Pearls come in the shades of aubergine, blue, greeen and grey, all with various hues. Hardly ever true Black!

Every pearl refects color in a different way, either boldly on the surface or hinting at hues from whithin their layers of nacre. This property is called SHEEN and  often show beautiful iridescent overtones, especially in the pinks and greens.

South Sea Pearl Sizes

The pinctada maxima oyster is the largest species of pearl producing oyster. Measured in millimeters, they commonly range form 9 - 20+ mm with the majority falling within the range of 10 - 17 mm.  Above 17 mm? Hmmmm...pure Pearl Orbcentities!

With this pearl size  does matter. Indonesian, Myanmar pearls and the Silver Lip of Tahiti are the largest species of mollusk cabable of producing pearl.

In contrast, the Akoya oyster which produces the Japanese Akoyas, tops out at 10mm, the White  Pearls from Australia, the black pearls from Tahiti (the primary island of French Polynesia) and the golden pearls from Indonesia and Myanmar have a minimum size of 10mm and a maximum of 20mm!

It is rare to to find pearls smaller than 10mm and larger than 16mm in the south seas.  Though very rare, the irregularly shaped baroque pearl can reach sizes up to 40-mm or more.

All types of pearls are generally measured using what is called a milligauge which can measure the pearl within 0.01m accuracy.

In recent years the market has seen an increase in sizes under 10mm. These smaller pearls, 8 millimeter and 9 millimeter pearls are used in "baby south sea pearl necklaces." The comparison chart below shows the size range of white south sea pearls from Australia and Black Tahitan Pearls. 

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