Sea Shell Pearls...What, Exactly, ARE They?

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To set the record straight, folks, I am not "hyping" "sea shell pearls", but am advising buyers of the differences in what's available out there. After you read this guide, and reach the "comments" section, you will know why I am making this stipulation. There are some groovy and real-looking artificial pearls available that are known as "Sea Shell Pearls"...and then there are sellers who call anything they want to hawk to the unwary buyer by that name, so please do not automatically believe everything a seller tells you unless you are an experienced buyer.

With the whole world going crazy over pearls, eBay buyers need to know what are REAL vs. what are MAN-MADE Pearls.

Pearls have been one of the most sought-after natural gems in the world for more than 40 centuries!  They have been prized for more than 4,000 years as the gemstone of kings, pharaohs, emperors and gods.

As the only gemstone created inside of a living creature, these stunning little goodies are the preferred gemstone for  many.

"Pearls are formed within oysters or mollusks when a foreign substance (most often a parasite - not a grain of sand) invades the shell of the mollusk, entering the soft mantle tissue, and picking up epithelial cells. In response to the irritation, the epithelial cells form into a sac (known as a pearl sac) which secretes a crystalline substance called nacre, the same substance which makes up the interior of the oyster's shell, which builds up in layers around the irritant, forming the pearl."

When a mollusk creates a pearl in nature, the resulting pearl is most often odd-shaped, because the irritant is seldom round, in the first place.  Natural round pearls were so rare, they commanded astronomically high prices!  

When folks started implanting ROUND irritants into oysters, it was far easier to come up with some pretty nice round pearls.   So some very smart dude invented the CULTURED PEARL industry,  and bingo!  Everyone could afford pearls!

Freshwater mussels and salt water oysters are used in pearl culture, and both come up with some gorgeous gem-quality pearls.   The larger the oyster, the larger the resulting pearl. 

In Spain, in the late 1800's, man-made pearls were created to accommodate the desires of less-than-fabulously-wealthy folks, and the resultant gems were beautiful, large-sized, perfectly ROUND pearls that rivaled natural pearls in their beauty.

At first, these pearls were made of  pulverized fish scales and oil, which simulated the pearly sheen of oyster pearls, but later, crushed mother of pearl from oyster, abalone, and conch shells became more popular as the medium for man-made pearls, since the resulting pearls more closely approximated natural nacre.

Today, the most sought-after pearls are the large, gorgeous South Sea Pearl and the Tahitian Black Pearl.  The Akoya is a close third.  However, due to the expensive nature of the large, perfectly round South Sea white and gold, and Tahitian Black Pearls, enterprising sellers have been slyly offering man-made Sea Shell Pearls, calling them "South Sea Pearls" or "Tahitian".Sea Shell Pearls

So...what exactly are "sea shell pearls"?

Okay...while Tahitian and South Seas Pearls come from oysters, the gorgeous, inexpensive "Sea Shell Pearls" are man made marvels that look like stunning, gorgeous larger pearls.

Man made Sea Shell Pearls are created by repeatedly dipping a round matrix bead into a glowing, brilliantly colored solution of binders and crushed mother of pearl. They are polished and dipped, again and again, until they reach the size desired. They are very heavy, often much heavier than real pearls. how do you tell them apart?

Well, the EASIEST way is the price, because even wholesalers can't get Tahitian or South Sea Pearls for the ultra-reasonable amounts these man-made Sea Shell Pearls are being sold online for.   However,  smarter sellers are charging higher prices, figuring to fool the buyer into thinking they are getting some $10,000 pearls for only $100.

Real Tahitian Black Pearls are expensive... price tag is a cool $14,900.

Another way to tell if the pearls are real or man-made is the color.  Natural pearls don't come in electric blue, vivid pink, or apple green.  Pearls can be dyed, of course, but no one in their right bleepin' mind would think of dying a string of pearls worth thousands of bucks!  Real pearls come in the color of the nacre that the oyster or mussel produces...usually white, dark silver, teal/peacock, light silver, gold, grey, or white with overtones of blue, pink, or silver.  

Tahitian Black pearls come from the black-lipped oyster, ( Pinctada margaritifera) in the islands of French Polynesia. The oyster itself is quite large -- sometimes over 12 inches across and weighing as much as 10 pounds -- which often results in much larger-than-average pearls. The pearls are unique because of their natural dark colors.

South Sea pearls come from the oyster called Pinctada Maxima.  There are two varieties of Pinctada maxima: the silver-lipped and the gold-lipped. The two are distinguished by the coloration of the outer edge of the interior.  Hence, the lovely silver and gold coloring of the pearls.  These oysters grow up to 12 inches in diameter, and can be nucleated with a much larger bead than other saltwater oysters such as the Akoya.  Hence, the huge size of South Sea Pearls!

Even at wholesale pricing, REAL South Sea and Tahitian Black Pearls are w-a-a-a-y more than what people are selling the man-made sea shell pearls for on eBay.  But that's great for those of us without beaucoup bucks.  Keep in mind that for those of us who can't possibly afford to drop close to $10,000 on one necklace, Sea Shell Pearls can be a real god-send.  Just have the pearls professionally knotted, get yourself a nice 14 k solid gold clasp, and you have a beautiful piece of costume jewelry that will go with any outfit, without making you feel like you have to take an armed bodyguard along wherever you go.

So just don't really believe you're buying real Tahitian or South Sea Pearls for that amazing low price of just $9.99!

Have fun shopping for pearls...just don't get ripped off thinking you're getting something fabulous for under $20.
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