•• p e a r l s
A pearl of great price would be a relevant parable to people living in the Roman period when
pearls were both rare and very popular. Appreciation of the pearl also extends to the Koran
(descriptions of Paradise). It's easy to understand why: the texture is smooth to touch, the
color deep and lustrous, the feel light yet substantial. Pearls are beautiful and against
our skin, they are magical.
Pearls are formed by mollusks, either saltwater oyster pearls
or freshwater pearl mussels. Cultured pearls form around a foreign object - usually a piece
of shell - introduced into the mantle that is gradually covered by layers of nacre. The
shape of a pearl largely depends on the shape of the introduced object. Natural pearls are
formed in the same way as cultured pearls (layers of nacre), though the process tends to
take longer, making naturally formed pearls more expensive and in general less uniform than
their cultured counterparts.
Common shapes for pearls include round, semi-round, potato (roundish), rice (elongated), baroque
(irregular) and keshi. Keshi or petal pearls are lovely irregularly shaped cup-like pearls that
technically are more akin to mother-of-pearl than pearl itself. They are a byproduct of seeding
the mollusk that results in nacre forming around a portion of the inserted object rather than the entire
object - a beautiful mistake, really.