The History of Graduated Cultured Pearls

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Graduated cultured pearls have an interesting history. Since I am launching a graduated pearl necklace and graduated pearl earrings this week, I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss graduated pearls with you!

So, what are graduated cultured pearls? This is when a piece of jewelry featured cultured pearls in ascending or descending order based on size. Typically, we see graduated pearl necklaces where the biggest pearl is at the center of the necklace and the pearls get increasingly smaller as the necklace reaches back to the clasp. Here is a necklace of graduated cultured pearls that we used to create for The Pearl Girls:

Graduated Cultured Pearls

These are interesting necklaces to create and they are more labor intensive than most cultured pearl strands because they must be matched two by two up each side of the necklace. They are much more difficult to find these days although they used to be so popular! Why? What is the history of graduated pearl necklaces?

The typical strand of 7mm pearls in an 18″ necklace requires 58 – 60 pearls. Doesn’t sound like many, does it? Well, imagine how many pearls must be sorted through to create one necklace with 60 of the same exact pearls. Not only do these pearls have to be the same size, they also have to be the same color, with the same shades of overtones and overtones, they have to have the exact same surface quality, they must have the same shape. Their nacre quality needs to be the same. This really matters when you match a strand of pearls… the pearls must look the exact same or else the strand does not look good. An unmatched strand is also less valuable than a matched strand. So, how many pearls do you need to create one 18″ necklace. The estimate is 10,000 pearls!

This is how many pearls must be sorted through to create one matching necklace. So, if you are dealing with a boutique pearl farm that cultures, say, 100,000 pearls a year, well, you will not see too many pearls strands coming from that farm. There might be many gorgeous pearl but not very many matching pearl strands.It takes a lot of pearls to get one matching pearl necklace.

So, what do you do when you have a lot of gorgeous pearls with beautiful nacre, luster and similar coloring but a variety of sizes. Boom! The birth of the graduated strand.

Graduated pearl necklaces came from the need to create pearl strands from a variety of pearl sizes. A graduated pearl necklaces solves the need of finding 60 matching pearls.

This is why many of our grandmothers have graduated cultured pearl necklaces.When cultured pearl farms began, they were not producing as many pearls as they are today. It was difficult to create strands of same size pearls. Graduated pearl strands were created so pearl farms could create gorgeous strands with a variety of pearls.

Now that cultured pearl farms are larger and most are producing more pearls, it is easier to create matching strands. Even smaller pearl farms work with brokers to sell their pearls to larger companies.

I believe is still so beautiful to use the different size pearls as a play on beautiful pearl styling. Here is what we have been creating with our newest graduated pearl pieces. Check out the earrings here and the necklace here!



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