From the 1800s, Australia was the primary source of the world’s largest, most voluptuous and most valuable natural pearl – the South Sea Pearl – product of the world’s largest pearl producing oyster, the Pinctada Maxima.
The Australians knew their pearls would be highly sought after should they successfully coax the sensitive Pinctada Maxima into yielding a cultured pearl. Their efforts led to Australia’s success in pioneering the South Sea cultured pearl. It is not surprising that today, one of those original pearlers, Paspaley, dominates the world production of the South Sea cultured pearl, having merged the original culturing projects in 1989.
South Sea cultured pearls range from 10 to 15 millimeters but larger examples can reach between 16 and 20 millimeters. Only cultured pearls from the Pinctada Maxima possess the beautiful transparency and color overtones known as “orient” with rainbow hues ranging from white pink to silver pink to dark gold.
Originally exclusive to Australia, South Sea cultured pearls are now only farmed in Indonesia, Burma, and the Philippines. However, the characteristics and quality of pearls from these regions can vary greatly. Australian oysters and ocean conditions are generally credited with producing the largest and finest quality pearls. Australian pearls can throw fancy colors including red gold which is extremely rare and highly regarded. Indonesia and Burma produce mainly white to yellow and also gold, while the Philippines produce mainly yellow and gold.
The Pinctada Maxima oyster is rare and will not survive outside the small area of its natural environment, making it extremely difficult to cultivate. Highly labor intensive, Pinctada Maxima farms are by necessity situated in remote locations. To protect the wild natural stocks of oysters in Australia, the government strictly enforces production quotas.
Not every Pinctada Maxima will produce a pearl and each oyster can grow only one pearl at a time. Good quality, 10 to 15 millimeter pearls usually take two years to grow. Larger pearls are generally found after the fourth to sixth year of the farming cycle.
What sets South Sea cultured pearls apart is the unique beauty of their nacre. As was natural South Sea pearls, it is the quality and thickness of nacre that gives the pearls incredible luster that will last for generations. In high quality pearls, nacre thickness tends to be at least 3 millimeters and in many cases will reach over 6 millimeters.
Quality and rarity are the defining factors in determining the value of the finest South Sea cultured pearls. Pearl luster and color are the primary influences on a pearl’s quality. These attributes are determined by the pearl nacre so, the finer the nacre the better luster and color and the more valuable the pearl.
The Paspaley Guarantee
Stellar Jewelry offers the most extensive inventory of high quality South Sea cultured pearls ever to appear in the U.S. Paspaley South Sea cultured pearls are renowned for the quality and richness of their natural nacre. As it is, the nacre that gives each pearl its extraordinary luster, Paspaley South Sea cultured pearls are unrivaled in their beauty. Paspaley guarantees that its pearls are of natural color and luster without artificial enhancements or treatments. Rest assured that these pearls are completely unaltered from the way they emerge from the shell at harvest.
A guarantee is included in every purchase of finished jewelry featuring Paspaley South Sea cultured pearls, Paspaley South Sea cultured pearl strands and loose Paspaley South Sea cultured pearls.