South Sea pearls are jewels of the South Pacific, offering a look of exquisite glamour and radiance for the woman who wears them.
Gorgeous South Sea pearls, treasured for centuries, are the ultimate statement of luxury and glamour. These large, creamy white and golden pearls are cultured in the South Pacific and are treasured for their opulence in breathtaking strands and pearl jewelry.
Explorers have coveted natural South Sea pearls for thousands of years, so much so that by the 19th century, the oysters producing these voluminous pearls were nearly extinct. Shortly after people began culturing Akoya pearls in Japan, producers began trying to culture South Sea pearls in the South Pacific, finally becoming commercially successful in the 1950s.
Sources and production
South Sea pearls are cultured using a large, white-lipped oyster, hand-selected from the waters of the South Pacific. The oyster is about twice the size of the Akoya pearl oyster and produces much larger pearls.
These luxurious pearls are cultured in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Japan and Thailand. To culture South Sea pearls, one round shell bead is implanted into the tissue of a large, white-lipped pearl oyster. In reaction to this irritant, the oyster begins to produce nacre, the lustrous coating that creates the pearl.
The more time the pearls spend in the water, the more coats of nacre they develop, which creates their lustrous look. The bead remains within the pearl beneath the layers of nacre. On average, a South Sea pearl will require two to three years to develop. A South Sea pearl oyster can produce up to three or four pearls over the course of its life.
Color and surface
South Sea pearls emerge with white, blue-white, pink, cream, light yellow or deep gold surfaces.
South Sea pearls are beautiful and lustrous, and can produce a magnificent glow that turns heads and gives women who wear them a radiant look. However, because they’re cultivated in warmer waters, they don't always have quite the same reflective sheen as Akoya cultured pearls.
How close to blemish free a South Sea pearl is will determine its value. Some blemishes are natural and even desirable as proof of the pearl’s natural creation. Its overall smoothness and cleanliness factor into its price.
South Sea pearls are valued for their roundness, but they also come in baroque shapes — irregular or oblong shapes that can be beautiful and unique.
South Sea pearls grow very large, typically to sizes between 9mm and 20mm. The average size is about 12mm.
Use in Jewelry
South Sea pearls are often used in high-value fine jewelry, and are considered looks of luxury. White, cream or gold South Sea pearls are frequently sold in well-matched strands, often with accompanying diamonds. They may be used for pendants, rings and stud or drop earrings as well.
South Sea pearl care
Pearls are delicate. The nacre on the outside of pearls is soft, and though the layer of nacre is thick on South Sea pearls, it can still wear or chip away over time if you don’t treat the pearls with extreme care. Keep your pearls in a box with a soft lining and away from metal jewelry that can rub against them. Also be careful not to get makeup, hairspray or harsh soaps or chemicals on your pearl jewelry.