White and Golden South Sea
White and Golden South Sea Pearls
The finest White South Sea cultured pearls, Pinctada maxima, come from the tranquil waters of Australia and the elusive Golden South Seas, the rarest of all, are farmed mainly in The Philippines and Indonesia. As pearls have many differing value factors such as size, colour, shape, lustre and surface quality combined to produce a unique gem, grading pearls is difficult. Although it is possible to grade each value factor individually, most purveyors of this gem rely on a simple letter-grade system. The grading assigned will rarely be absolute, varying from one dealer to the next but the grades should give the consumer a practical basis from which to judge the quality of the pearls.
South Sea pearls are generally much larger than other pearl types and have a unique lustre quality. These factors make South Seas both distinctive and valuable. All things being equal, South Sea pearls have a higher value and command higher prices than all other types of pearls. As with other saltwater mollusks, the Pinctada maxima is bead-nucleated. However, the growth period is approximately 3 to 6 years, unlike Akoya pearls which develop in less than half that time and sometimes in as little as 8 months. Being a delicate organism, this genus of oyster is particularly susceptible to disease and stress which is one reason why the culturing area for South Sea pearls is quite limited.
Pearl Size, Shape and Natural Colour
South Sea pearls can be found in the range of 8mm to 20mm with the average being 13mm. Although extremely rare, some have been found between 20mm and 30mm. Only 10% to 30% of each harvest will be round or near-round, so those strands are truly a rare commodity. Silver-lipped oysters generally produce pearls in the white, silver, aqua and blue family of overtones. Gold-lipped oysters develop the cream, champagne, vanilla and deeper golden varieties. Since the natural colours of South Sea pearls are so rich and beautiful, after harvesting, they are merely washed and buffed to remove any residue and to bring out their natural glow.
Pinctada Maxima in Australia
The majority of White South Sea pearls are cultured along the northwest coast of Australia. Although the majority of Pinctada maxima in Australia are collected in the wild and then introduced with hatchery-bred oysters to supplement the breeding program, in other areas the opposite is true. In both cases, wild oysters are mixed with the hatchery stock to keep the supply healthy and plentiful and all sources are closely monitored by government organisations to guarantee their wellbeing.
The larger size of South Sea pearls, the limited culturing area and extended growth period all combine to make the South Sea pearl the rarest of all pearl types. The lustre of South Sea pearls, whether white or golden, is deep and velvety, rich and luxurious. Only a small percentage of South Sea pearls are spherical and, as such, full strands of matched pearls are rare. Golden South Sea cultured pearl necklaces are considered by many to be the most rare and most valuable pearls in the world. Unlike any other type of pearl in the world, baroque South Sea cultured pearls have their own allure and exotic beauty.