The Culturing of Pearls
So, those of you who have heard my spiel probably know it by now. But here is a very brief run down based on how I explain it in my history of pearls talk. The Japanese started culturing pearls in saltwater, they saw the value (accessibility, low cost, lower risk) involved in culturing pearls in freshwater so they tried it. And it really wasn’t so easy to transfer the process of culturing pearls in saltwater to culturing pearls in freshwater. So they were not successful at it. So, what happened next? The Chinese took over and they perfected the process of culturing pearls in freshwater.
I usually go on to say that culturing pearls in freshwater is done without the mother of pearl bead. And this is so true, right? Most of the freshwater pearls I sell at The Pearl Girls do not have a mother of pearl bead as the nucleus, or center, of the pearl.
However, as time has gone on, my line doesn’t hold water because some freshwater pearls do, in fact, have a nucleus.
Coin pearls? They are formed by a coin shaped nucleus.
And these massive baroques? They are freshwater and they have a bead inside of them, too.
The same is true for Edisons. Like these baroques, they are massive and beautiful. But their surface is cleaner and they are closer to round than these baroques. They are the new thing in big, beautiful pearls. It is one of those “gotta have them” moments.
How It Started
I knew a bit about Edison pearls from years back. First introduced into the market in 2012, they were not an immediate hit. They were impressive, of course, large pearls with a beautiful luster and a ripple like nacre. But, they were expensive and hard to find. They were almost too exclusive, if that makes sense.
Well, at the end of 2018 a woman drove from Naples, FL drove through Athens to meet with me and to work on a talk she was giving on pearls. We had a ball! Sitting around talking about pearls all day, yes, please! She brought me all of her pearls and I was thrilled to tell her about each treasure she showed me. However, there was one pearl I could not readily explain to her. It was a single pearl on a chain that was beautiful and large with a unique nacre. She had bought the pearl, not really knowing what it was. I knew it wasn’t South Sea; I assumed it was a freshwater pearl from China but it was a different looking pearl. “This must be an Edison!” I exclaimed. “And Edi-what?” She wondered. Exactly! And if you are wondering if the Chinese named it for THE Thomas Edison, well, you are right!
Let’s Fly Away
This is when I decided to fly to Hong Kong. I used to visit the International Jewelry Show in Hong Kong every year and I loved seeing all the new pearls, new designs and popping in to see some gemstones, too. It is pretty much a candy store for jewelry lovers. The Pearl Girls began with contacts I made at this show.
But,I go so many places, including so many new places, that I haven’t been to Hong Kong in years. But I wanted to know more about these Edison pearls.
Interestingly enough, I travel a lot. I have been traveling internationally since I was four years old. And I have been many places on my own. But, somehow my Mom doesn’t see things the way I do. She believes I should always have a travel companion. So, I invited our Office Manager, Tara, to come along. Our metal artist Sylvia decided to join, too, and we were off. I was in search of the Edison Pearl!
And we ate well along the way.
The Low Down
So, here is the low down on Edison Pearls..
Edisons are nucleated like saltwater pearls, with a mother of pearl bead inserted in the gonad of the mollusk. Sometimes two beads are placed there.
And it is not necessarily a big bead, either! Edisons can be nucleated with different sized mother of pearl beads. I have heard 5mm and I have heard 8mm. So, lets’s say the nucleus can be anywhere between 5mm and 8mm in size.
And the pearls are BIG!! So, even if they are nucleated with a larger bead, the nacre on that bead is thick! These pearls range in size between 11mm and 14mm and some pearls can get up to 17mm.
They are a nearly round to round shape and the luster is very high, bordering on metallic. They come in a range of natural colors. The white is beautiful because it rivals a South Sea Pearl in its largeness and whiteness but they can also come in natural colors of lavender, pink, champagne.
The colors are really luscious and again, you can really see the metallic look to them. In terms of their creation, the actual grafting process has received three national patents so it truly is a new way of creating pearls!
And it takes a while for them to form which I believe is why it has taken them a while to catch on in the marketplace. You are looking at about three years of growth in the mollusk before they are harvested. They are stunning!
Do you want Edisons? I know I did! So I created the India Earrings in honor of these beautiful pearls I found in Hong Kong.
I am a modern day treasure hunter who travels the world for gorgeous pearls and amazing adventures. I own a pearl jewelry and jewelry repair business, ThePearlGirls.com, with a cute retail store in Athens, GA. I also have a Pearl Travel business and travel blog at TheWorldofPearl.com.