“This prince possesses the most beautiful pearl in the world, not by reason of its size, for it only weighs 12 1/16 carats, nor on account of its perfect roundness; but because it is so clear and transparent that you can almost see the light through it.” –Jean Baptiste Tavernier, 1675 Natural pearls are first mentioned (2450 BC) by the Sumerians, as coming by ship from the mythical land of Dilmun, a country usually identified by scholars as the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. Though known for millennia as the Queen of Gems, and once ranked above diamond as the most sought after of all gems, natural pearls are rarely seen in even the finest jewelry stores today. The introduction of cultured pearls in the early 1920s eviscerated the natural pearl market and the stock market crash of 1929 completed the gem’s precipitous fall. According to author and pearl expert Elisabeth Strack, the price of natural pearls dropped eighty-five percent in one day in 1930 when banks refused to accept pearls as collateral for loans to pearl dealers. The gem has never fully recovered. [caption id="attachment_7355" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The Baroda Pearl Necklace (natural pearls with diamond clasp) by Cartier; Private Collection; (add.info.: made from selected pearls from a necklace owned by the Indian Maharajas of Baroda; mounted in platinum with the clasp signed Cartier;); Photo ¬© Christie's Images; French, in copyright[/caption] The market for natural pearls continued at a much reduced pace into the 1950s, after which these ancient symbols of luxury were all but forgotten, and although price lists such as The GemGuide continued to list natural pearl prices, there were few buyers and virtually no market outside the Middle East and India through the end of 20th Century. Few were interested in natural pearls and dealers who understood them had either gone bankrupt, retired or died. This situation is historically unique in the gem market. The Comeback Kid Beginning on the cusp of the new century, the natural pearl commenced a spectacular comeback, fueled, as is often the case, by a highly publicized auction sale. In November 1999, Christie’s Geneva sold a single-strand natural pearl necklace, formerly the property of Marie-Antoinette, and later ...
“This prince possesses the most beautiful pearl in the world, not by reason of its size, for it only weighs 12 1/16 carats, nor on account of its perfect roundness; but because it is so clear and transparent that you can almost see the light through it.” –Jean Baptiste Tavernier, 1675 Natural pearls are first mentioned (2450 BC) by the Sumerians, as coming by ship from the mythical land of Dilmun, a country usually identified by scholars as the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. Though known for millennia as the Queen of Gems, and once ranked above diamond as the most sought after of all gems, natural pearls are rarely seen in even the finest jewelry stores today. The introduction of cultured pearls in the early 1920s eviscerated the natural pearl market and the stock market crash of 1929 completed the gem’s precipitous fall. According to author and pearl expert Elisabeth Strack, the price of natural pearls dropped eighty-five percent in one day in 1930 when banks refused to accept pearls as collateral for loans to pearl dealers. The gem has never fully recovered. [caption id="attachment_7355" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The Baroda Pearl Necklace (natural pearls with diamond clasp) by Cartier; Private Collection; (add.info.: made from selected pearls from a necklace owned by the Indian Maharajas of Baroda; mounted in platinum with the clasp signed Cartier;); Photo ¬© Christie's Images; French, in copyright[/caption] The market for natural pearls continued at a much reduced pace into the 1950s, after which these ancient symbols of luxury were all but forgotten, and although price lists such as The GemGuide continued to list natural pearl prices, there were few buyers and virtually no market outside the Middle East and India through the end of 20th Century. Few were interested in natural pearls and dealers who understood them had either gone bankrupt, retired or died. This situation is historically unique in the gem market. The Comeback Kid Beginning on the cusp of the new century, the natural pearl commenced a spectacular comeback, fueled, as is often the case, by a highly publicized auction sale. In November 1999, Christie’s Geneva sold a single-strand natural pearl necklace, formerly the property of Marie-Antoinette, and later ...

The Making of a Pearl—Natural Nacreous Pearl

Posted on November 1, 2016 by Excerpt from the 2nd edition of Secrets of The Gem Trade, The Connoisseur’s Guide to Precious Gemstones by Richard W. Wise, GG (GIA)

“This prince possesses the most beautiful pearl in the world, not by reason of its size, for it only weighs 12 1/16 carats, nor on account of its perfect roundness; but because it is so clear and transparent that you can almost see the light through it.” –Jean Baptiste Tavernier, 1675 Natural pearls are first mentioned (2450 BC) by the Sumerians, as coming by ship from the mythical land of Dilmun, a country usually identified by scholars as the Persian Gulf island of Bahrain. Though known for millennia as the Queen of Gems, and once ranked above diamond as the most sought after of all gems, natural pearls are rarely seen in even the finest jewelry stores today. The introduction of cultured pearls in the early 1920s eviscerated the natural pearl market and the stock market crash of 1929 completed the gem’s precipitous fall. According to author and pearl expert Elisabeth Strack, the price of natural pearls dropped eighty-five percent in one day in 1930 when banks refused to accept pearls as collateral for loans to pearl dealers. The gem has never fully recovered. [caption id="attachment_7355" align="aligncenter" width="584"] The Baroda Pearl Necklace (natural pearls with diamond clasp) by Cartier; Private Collection; (add.info.: made from selected pearls from a necklace owned by the Indian Maharajas of Baroda; mounted in platinum with the clasp signed Cartier;); Photo ¬© Christie's Images; French, in copyright[/caption] The market for natural pearls continued at a much reduced pace into the 1950s, after which these ancient symbols of luxury were all but forgotten, and although price lists such as The GemGuide continued to list natural pearl prices, there were few buyers and virtually no market outside the Middle East and India through the end of 20th Century. Few were interested in natural pearls and dealers who understood them had either gone bankrupt, retired or died. This situation is historically unique in the gem market. The Comeback Kid Beginning on the cusp of the new century, the natural pearl commenced a spectacular comeback, fueled, as is often the case, by a highly publicized auction sale. In November 1999, Christie’s Geneva sold a single-strand natural pearl necklace, formerly the property of Marie-Antoinette, and later ...

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