Pearls 101- A Journey Through The World Of Pearls

"The Pearl is the Queen of the Gems and the Gem of Queens"- Grace Kelly

Considered a symbol of beauty and purity, pearls are considered both classic and contemporary.

Despite their long-standing popularity, there is so much that people do not know about pearls, how to choose the right one, and why they possess their unique qualities. Join us on a journey that will transport you through the world of pearls.

In this special edition of Leskes Journals, we will discuss the different kinds of pearls, their origins, shapes, and what makes them so special. 

South Sea Broome Pearls

The tropical ocean in Australia's northwest has a special treasure—South Sea pearls. These golden and white gems are gathered in the tropical waters near Broome. They grow to the largest size worldwide and are the rarest pearls on the market. This is largely because they take the longest to cultivate, ranging from 2 to 4 years. They are also vulnerable to diseases, so they need to be kept in their native habitat, which means you cannot just grow them anywhere. 

The South Sea pearl's lustre is a testament to its unique environment, which is exceptionally clean and abundant in plankton. The plankton, a favourite food of the Pinctada maxima, plays a significant role in the pearl's high lustre, making it a prized possession for pearl traders and enthusiasts.

South Sea pearls exhibit a stunning array of colours, ranging from white and cream to champagne, gold, and black. While white and cream pearls are more common, golden and black pearls are the rarest and most valuable, making them a coveted choice for those seeking a touch of luxury.

South Sea pearls command a high price due to their scarcity and the time it takes to cultivate them. Only 10-30% of all harvested South Sea pearls end up being round or near round in shape. The rest are baroque or drop-shaped, which is probably why you won't come across a string of South Sea pearls very often. 

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are formed in freshwater environments (essentially water that is not salty). They are the most commonly produced type of pearls and come in a variety of unique colours and shapes, making them a popular addition to your jewellery collection.

Over 90% of freshwater pearls are baroque pearls, meaning that they have an irregular shape. Freshwater pearls are typically smaller and more uniquely shaped than saltwater pearls.

Keshi Pearls

These pearls are named after the Japanese word for "poppy seed," Keshi. These pearls are generally small in size and irregular in shape. They are a bit of an accident in the sense that they are a byproduct of the pearl creation process. These pearls are created by chance when the oyster rejects the implanted nucleus but retains the mantle tissue that was originally implanted for the creation of the pearl sack. The oyster continues to secret nacre, which then forms the Keshi pearl. They have an incredible lustre and shimmer, come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, and are a fun addition to any wardrobe. 

Ming and Edison Pearls

These gorgeous pearls are created through bead nucleating freshwater pearls, which create large pearls up to 15mm, with a much rounder and smoother shape than other varieties, as well as a stunning metallic lustre. They are also great value for money as you can create large pieces without breaking the bank.

The name Ming pearl is applied to a better quality of this type of bead nucleated pearl, while the Edison belongs to one particular pearl farmer.

Akoya Pearls

These are saltwater pearls that come from the Akoya oyster. These are the most abundant type of saltwater pearl and are considered to be the classic pearls used for necklaces and other pearl jewellery. They come in perfectly round shapes, with mirror-like lustre, and in neutral colours. Unlike freshwater pearls, Akoya pearl oysters rarely produce more than two pearls at a time. The oysters are bead nucleated with a bead composed of mother of pearl and a small piece of mantle tissue. This bead becomes the nucleus of the pearl, which is why Akoya pearls are more often perfectly round. This round shape, combined with the higher lustre and relative rarity compared to freshwater pearls, is what gives Akoya pearls a higher perceived value. 

Caring for your pearls

  1.  Wear them. Pearls were born in the water and benefit immensely from absorbing the oils your skin naturally secretes. Put them on, show them off. They will thank you. 
  2. Clean them by gently wiping them with a soft cloth before putting them away. 
  3. Give them their space. Pearls are delicate and can be easily scratched. To protect their pristine surface, store them separately from other jewelry.
  4. Pearls need moisture so do not store them in an airtight package or plastic bag. If the environment is too dry, pearls can crack. 
  5. Do not swim, shower, or do dishes in your pearls. Exposing them to chlorine, bleach, vinegar, ammonia, hairspray, perfume and cosmetics as they can damage the pearl surface
  6. Take off your pearls if you are exercising. 
  7. Do not leave your pearls hung on a hook for storage for too long, as this places unnecessary strain on the silk and will stretch out the necklace. 
  8. Restring your pearls, preferably with silk, every few years. 


Nacre (pronounced NAY-CER) is the coating created by the mollusc on the irritant or bead that creates a pearl. Since nacre determines lustre, nacre quality is a critical factor when determining a pearl's value. Generally speaking, the thicker the nacre, the more valuable the pearl

What is lustre in pearls?

A pearl's luster is the result of multiple layers, also called the nacre (NAY ker), that the oyster or mollusk secreted to make the pearl. The thicker the nacre, the more luster a pearl has. You will notice the luster as the deep sheen that reflects light on the surface of the pearl.


June is the month of the pearl. In addition to its classic beauty, pearls have long been considered to symbolise loyalty, purity and clarity, making this birthstone a perfect gift for a friend or relative. 

When was the first pearl found?

The First Pearl Dates Back Over 7,500 Years Ago

In 2012, French researchers found what is considered to be the oldest pearl. It was discovered in a gravesite in the United Arab Emirates and named Umm al Quwain, after the specific region of the country in which it was found. Using carbon dating, scientists determined that the gemstone was more than 7,500 years old.