Natural Crystal

Natural Crystal

Bridal jewellery sets traditionally contain pearls, but there are several types:

 * real/natural/wild,

 * cultivated/cultured/farmed and

 * crystal/glass

This article gives a brief introduction to each type and outlines the pros and cons of the most popular choices.

Real Pearls

Real, wild or natural pearls are hard, rounded objects produced within a living, shelled mollusc. The finest quality pearls are highly valued as “organic” gemstones.

Almost any shelled mollusc is able to produce a “pearl”. However, the “pearls” produced are often undesirable because they lack the lustre (soft pearly sheen) and iridescence (colour changes with the angle of viewing) we normally associate with pearls.

Desirable pearls are composed of layers of nacre and are produced by saltwater pearl oysters and freshwater pearl mussels. These clams both have a nacre shell lining.

How are Natural Pearls Made?

When a pearl is formed in the wild it is because an irritant e.g. a parasite or other organic particle gets inside the shell. The natural defence mechanisms of the mollusc cover the invader in order to seal it off and protect itself. These protective layers are made of nacre and it takes many years to build a pearl as each millimetre of nacre takes about three years.

Difference between Freshwater and Saltwater Pearls

The difference is in the species of creature that created the pearl.

Freshwater mussels (Unionidae) live in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water.

Saltwater pearl oysters (Pteriidae) live in the tropical oceans and are usually cultivated in protected lagoons in

* Akoya,

* South Sea and

* Tahiti and other Pacific Islands.

 And these places give their names to the pearl produced there.

How are Cultured/Cultivated/Farmed Pearls Made?

When a pearl is farmed or cultivated, the irritant is introduced on purpose, and it tends to be much larger to begin with- typically a mother of pearl bead is used and then the mollusc deposit a few layers of nacre over a period of several months.

How are Crystal Pearls Made?

Crystal pearls are manufactured, usually with a crystal core and then a special pearl coating designed to mimic the soft sheen of a natural pearl.

Pearl Shapes

The classic pearl shape is perfectly round and spherical or oval. Baroque pearls have an irregular shape as do blister pearls.

Keishi pearls resemble bumpy flakes, these are formed when the mollusc ejects the pearl bead nucleus but continues to make a pearl. Other shapes include sticks, coins and crosses.

Pearl Colours

In natural pearls, colour is dependant on the species of mollusc and the environmental conditions when forming the pearl. The most famous coloured pearls come from the saltwater pearl oysters e.g. Tahitian black pearls or white-rose Akoya pearls.

Cultured/Cultivated/Farmed pearls are usually dyed, in most cases once they have been drilled and strung, and a multitude of colours are available.

Crystal pearls, being manufactured, come in all different colours and finishes.

Which is Best for Bridal Jewellery?

Bridal jewellery sets with pearls are the classic choice, and as with anything, deciding which pearl option to go for depends on your requirements and personal preference.

Natural pearls are now so rare, that they are incredibly expensive.

Most affordable jewellery designs these days use cultivated, freshwater pearls and crystal pearls. Cultivated freshwater pearls are reasonably priced and they still have the beautiful lustre and iridescence of a natural pearl. They’re widely available and even within this single category there is enormous choice in quality. I have seen low-quality pearls with surface imperfections and hardly any iridescence at all through to near-flawless pearls having the very even lustre of a high quality natural pearl.

Although crystal pearls do not have the iridescent quality, the better ones have a very attractive lustre finish and have the advantage of being absolutely flawless with a pleasing weight and are very hard-wearing. This is an important property to consider since natural or cultivated pearls can be damaged by a number of things: heat, alcohol (in perfumes), creams, detergents, even perspiration.  

Copyright TM Gillman. For more free tips on bridal jewellery go to

Natural Crystal
Natural Crystal
Natural Crystal

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