This means that you must know something about the gemstones you handle, especially expensive ones. Owners of expensive jewelry will not entrust their property to people who don’t have the knowledge to value it.
Years ago, the only way to develop this knowledge was through the Gemological Institute of America and by studying trade publications. Now, with the internet, much of this information is on-line and much of it is presented in various formats, including video.
A wonderful new site for Black Tahitian pearls debuted just the other day. Tahitian Pearls claims to be “The Ultimate Tahitian Pearl Guide” and it makes good on its claim. The site offers information on the history, farming, colors and grading of Tahitian pearls. And, it offers a rich series of videos taking the viewer inside black pearl farming.
Here are some takeaways, although I urge you to visit the site yourself. (The link to the site is above.)
- Despite the name, Tahitian pearls are not cultivated in Tahiti, but rather throughout the French Polynesian waters in various atolls and islands in the South Pacific.
- 90% of all black South Seas pearls originate in the French Polynesia. Other areas of cultivation are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Mexico and Micronesia.
- Spats (young oysters) take 18-24 months to mature to the point where they can be cultivated. Once cultivated, it takes another 16-24 months for pearl growth. The success rate is about 70%. Failure results from the oyster rejecting the bead and mantle tissue and from mortality.
- The black-lipped shell is used for ornamental purposes and the farmers are developing markets for their use in bone replacement treatment and dental applications, although these markets are still quite young.
- The oyster is re-used up to about three generations. Second and third generation pearls are larger, but don’t have the same quality as first generation pearls.
- The pearls are tumbled and polished gently to restore luster. Otherwise no treatments are used.
- Pearls farms are less regulated than Australian pearl farms (which produce white South Seas pearls). Farmers compete on price which results in a trade off between quality and quantity.
In the two-volume “Professional Pearl and Bead Stringing” course, I included a video on the development of freshwater pearls. These are so prevalent on the market today that undoubtedly you will use them in your designs and I included the video for the same reasons that I suggest you visit this site.
Learning how to manufacture jewelry is a reflection of a passion for jewelry. Learning about various gemstones can help you market yourself as a professional. But that’s not the real goal. Developing an understanding of the various gemstones you’ll handle is a pleasure in itself.
Enjoy the Tahitian-Pearls site. It’s worth a visit.