ARGENTIUM® STERLING SILVER
Argentium is a purer, stronger form of sterling silver that does not tarnish and is hypoallergenic.
Your hairpins will be individually stamped with a Flying Unicorn, the official marking stamp for Argentium Sterling Silver.
Argentium is composed of .935 silver content, making Argentium a purer form of sterling silver. Traditional sterling silver is composed of .925 silver content.
To learn more about this fine metal please visit: http://www.brilliance.com/blog/education/what-is-argentium-silver
The birth of a pearl is a miracle of nature. Unlike other gemstones or precious metals that must be mined from the earth, pearls are grown by live oysters far below the surface of the sea. Gemstones must be cut and polished to bring out their beauty, but pearls are eye-catching and shiny without such treatments. Pearls are born from oysters (or mussels) as a complete gemstone; with a shimmering iridescence, lustre and soft inner glow unlike any other gem on earth.
A pearl begins its life as a foreign object inside of an oyster's mantle (soft inner body) where it cannot be expelled. To ease this irritation, the oyster takes defensive action and begins secreting a hard, smooth crystalline substance, called nacre, around the irritant in order to protect itself. As long as the irritant remains, the oyster will continue to secrete layer upon layer of nacre. Over time the irritant will be completely encased in many layers of silky crystalline coatings of nacre resulting in the lovely and lustrous gem called a pearl.
How something so wondrous emerges from an oyster's way of protecting itself is one of nature's most amazing surprises. The nacre is not just a soothing substance, it is composed of microscopic crystals of calcium carbonate that align perfectly with one another. Light passing along the axis of one crystal is reflected and refracted by another to produce a rainbow of light and color.
TYPES OF PEARLS
The first thing to consider is the provenance, or origin, of the pearl. Different pearl varieties from different locations command different prices.
Japanese Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls are considered to be the highest quality and rarest oyster-made pearls, making them more valuable.
Freshwater pearls, made by certain types of mussels, also offer attractive pearls, at affordable prices.
Here are the major pearl varieties from most precious to least precious:
SOUTH SEA PEARLS
South Sea pearls are exceptional quality pearls. They are much larger than the average pearl and can range from 8mm up to jawbreaker-like 22mm sizes. The bulk of the production is between 10mm and 14mm.
These are the rarest and most extraordinary pearls due to their exceptional smoothness and roundness.
South Sea pearls are grown in the Jumbo Pinctada Maxima oyster in the warm waters off Australia, Philippines, Burma, Indonesia, and other areas of Southeast Asia.
This oyster is much larger than other oysters that produce Akoya and Freshwater pearls, so the pearl that it produces is much larger as well.
Because of the rarity and sensitivity of this type of oyster, cultivation of these pearls is much more difficult, making them more expensive.
Tahitian Pearls are named after the tropical islands of Tahiti and are farmed in Tahiti, the Cook Islands and other places in the South Pacific.
Tahitian pearls offer a dramatic touch. The natural black color of these pearls can range from metallic silver to black and often exhibit a kaleidoscope of bluish, purplish, or greenish overtones.
Tahitian pearls are larger than Akoya pearls because the oyster is larger. They range from 7mm to 20mm, with the bulk of production between 10mm to 14mm.
Tahitian cultured pearls are cultivated from the black-lipped variety of the Pinctada Margaritifera oyster which reaches a foot or more in diameter, and produces very large pearls.
This oyster is very sensitive to the pearl culturing process and the pearls are very costly to produce.
If you are looking for the classic set of pearls, look to Akoya pearls. They are round, white, lustrous, ladylike and demure. Akoya pearls are considered among the finest and most popular in the world.
Akoya pearls are named after the Japanese word for the relatively small Pinctada Fucata oyster that makes them.
Most Akoya pearls are cultured in the cold saltwater off the islands of Japan. About one out every five oysters produces pearls and only a fraction are gem quality. They range in size from 2mm to 10mm, with the bulk of production between 7mm and 9mm.
Akoya cultured pearls are very lustrous, almost always consistently round, perfectly matched, and nearly perfectly white. No other type of pearl can match the ball-bearing steely luster of a high quality Akoya.
Freshwater pearls make an excellent, affordable gift of nice quality round pearls typically measuring 8mm to 8.5mm.
Historically freshwater pearls originated from Japan around Biwa Lake (north of Kyoto). Today many quality freshwater pearls also originate from China.
Freshwater pearls are the product of an elaborate process in which a single resilient mussel can be harvested many times, yielding several pearls at a time.
Round Freshwater pearls can look very close to Akoya pearls at a lower price. However, there are a few tradeoffs. Freshwater pearls are generally harder to match and may not retain value as well as oyster-made saltwater varieties such as Japanese Akoya, Tahitian and South Seas Pearls.
PEARL GRADING & THE AAA-A PEARL GRADING SYSTEM
This system grades pearls on a scale from AAA to A, with AAA being the highest grade.
AAA: The highest-quality pearl, virtually flawless. The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 95% of the surface will be free from any type of defect.
AA: The surface will have a very high luster, and at least 75% of the surface will be free from any type of defect.
A: This is the lowest jewelry-grade pearl, with a lower luster and/or more than 25% of the surface showing defects.
The shape of the pearl is a major factor that goes into determining its quality, and therefore also its value. In general, round and near-round pearls are the most valuable, because of their rarity.
Nacre and is the substance from which the pearl is actually created. Pearl characteristics such as color and luster are actually characteristics of the nacre itself. In general, the thicker the nacre, the more valuable the pearl.
A pearl's luster is a measure of its brilliance and reflectivity. High-quality pearls are bright and shiny and you should be able to see your reflection in them. Lower-quality pearls have a more chalky or dull appearance.
The appearance of a pearl's surface is perhaps one of the most critical characteristics. The surface should be smooth and clean, without bumps, spots, discolorations, or other disfiguring characteristics. As noted, it should be shiny and reflective, rather than dull and chalky. Smoother pearls are more valuable.