Oriental pearls is the descriptive name for pearls that displays a trait called orient. What is Orient? I like to think of it as the rainbow. You know how white light is not really white, it actually covers a spectrum of colors. Well, some pearls reflect that spectrum through a rainbow iridescence on their surface. Orient makes for some very gorgeous pearls!
Here is why: The nacre that pearls are made of is a thin layer upon layer upon layer of pearl material and a protein that holds it all together. When light travels through these layers, the light is split like a prism and colors are displayed. So, why doesn’t this happen with all pearls? The same way that light does not refract when it travels through all glass. Remember a prism is designed to separate light into a spectrum of colors. Sometimes the crystalline structure of the pearl acts like a prism, bending light into different directions.
Pearls are made up of nacre so first and foremost the quality of nacre will determine whether a pearl has the rainbow iridescence we call orient. This is not a matter of good nacre or bad nacre but merely of how the internal structure interacts with light.
What else? The orient of pearls is also affected by the type of pearl. Have you ever heard of keshi pearls? (See my post What is A Keshi Pearl?). They are specific types of pearls and due to the way they are formed they are known for their Orient. What else? Coin Pearls and Star Pearls are known for their Orient. So, just by knowing the type of pearl, we can anticipate the presence of orient. Alot of this has to do with the shape of specific types of pearls. More importantly, pearls with an uneven surface texture are more likely to show orient.
The viewing angle influences the orient of pearls as does the surroundings. Pearls can be reflective of their surroundings. We once photographed pearls on a blue background then attempted to crop the pearl images to use in another medium. Although we had not noticed it before, the pearls had reflected a blue hue so we could not use the images without misrepresenting our pearls! The same goes for orient. Sometimes this rainbow iridescence is a reflection of a pearls surroundings.
I am personally partial to the orient in our coin pearl Oriental Pearl Earrings. I dare say it gives the earrings an edgier look, at least more so than traditional round pearls.
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.