White lipped Pearls

Pearl foundation

History of Pearls

Pearls are an incredibly unique gemstones. While most precious gems are formed in the ground, surrounded by rocks, pearls are the gemstones created inside of a living creature. Pearls are therefore sometimes called bio minerals.

Pearls have been revered since approximately five thousand years ago in all over the world, for its natural glistening beauty placed onto oyster beds.

A Chinese philosopher, Confucius wrote in his book “Book of Documents” that fresh water pearls were presented as gifts to Chinese royalty as early as 2,206 BC (4,186 years ago). While in Europe, from ancient Rome, pearls are often quoted in bible verses. For instance, in the New Testament, the verse states as " Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls. When he found one very precious pearl, he went away and sold all he had and bought it” (From The New Testament, Matthew). Pearls have been known as the “Queen of Gems”, and pearls have been coveted for centuries in the form of jewellery.

Before cultured pearls were introduced, the only way of collecting pearls was through diving to retrieve the pearl oysters. Pearl jewellery therefore, was considered the ultimate status symbol for royalty and the ruling class for being the rarest gems.1

*Portraits of royalty and authorities with pearls

Today, pearls are named as five precious stones along with diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Pearls have long been worn by women, and in modern age, pearls are used not only in formal occasions but also worn with casual, everyday clothes, gaining popularity among women. The origin of the diversification of pearl jewellery generally dates back to the first half of the twentieth century, when Coco Chanel launched her collection incorporating imitation pearls. Coco Chanel was a sensational pioneer in teaming her pearls with casual daywear. 2

Definition of Pearls

“Imitation pearls” have grown popular lately and you might have often heard about them. Some faux pearls, such as cotton pearls, the difference can be seen at a glance when compared to genuine pearls (stated as "pearls" for convenience here). The differences between imitation pearls and pearls are their price, weight, texture, and the most notable difference is how they are manufactured. The definition of pearls determined by the pearl trading market is introduced here.

Pearls are defined as “metabolites produced by living oyster that can form nacre, and their visible components are the same as the mother of pearl which has bright and clear nacre inside the shell.” To qualify as pearls, first, pearls must be formed in a “living shell” with bright and clear pearlescent inside shells, like abalone, oysters, black lipped oysters and White lipped oysters. Second, the shining part of the inside shell called “nacre” must form layers around pearls covering the whole gem.

*Inside of black lipped oyster and black lipped pearls

How Nacre Works

Pearls are formed when nacre, the same component found on the external surface of a pearl and the internal lining of shells, forms layer upon layer of this coating. As a defense mechanism, nacre is used to coat the irritant and layers of nacre form around the nucleus. Therefore,  when the time of mother oyster spent underwater before the pearl was harvested becomes longer, the size of pearl grow bigger. There are several other factors affecting the size of pearl such as the size and vitality of the mother oyster that produced the pearl and the size of the nucleus, but generally speaking, larger pearls spent longer time in their shells before they were harvested.

Nacre is Composed Of “Calcium Carbonate” and “Protein”

Nacre is consisted of "crystallized calcium carbonate that account for 95% of the nacre" and ""calcareous proteins called “conchiolin”". The structure of nacre resembles a brick wall at the microscopic scale: Calcium carbonate platelets ('bricks') alternate with conchiolin layers ('mortar').

While the solid platelets serve as the load bearing and reinforcing part, energy can be dissipated into the soft polymer segments. Together, nacre is composed of layers of calcium carbonate platelets and conchiolin layers arranged in a continuous parallel lamina.

*Enlarged image of surface of black lipped pearl

*Reflection of light and nacre

Since conchiolin has a low penetration of light, pearls with many conchiolin have poor luster quality and weak reflections that are quite blurred.

Therefore, the high quality nacre must be composed with minimum amount of conchiolin to penetrate the light, and nacre plate should be packed with: even shaped, no lack, maximally large calcium carbonate crystals to reflect the lights desirably. Layers produced by high quality nacre reflect more lights from the inside, resulting more luster in pearls.

* The correlation between the thickness of nacre and pearl luster Cultured for approx. 6 months (left), approx. 24 months (right)

“Luster is the Most Important Characteristics for Pearls ”

Luster is the reflection and refraction of light as it passes through layers of aragonite. The intensity of a pearl's luster can be an indicator of nacre thickness. The special shine pearls possess is called “luster”. Luster does not simply refer to pearl’s shine. According to “Pearl Dictionary” supervised by renowned Hiroshi Komatsu, luster is defined as:

"The beauty of gemstones is defined subjectively, but generally speaking, the beauty is determined based on five optical effects: cut, shape, color, transparency, and luster. The gems listed in the five precious gems also share these effects. (Omitted) Gems like ruby and sapphire can produce beautiful optical effects such as asterism (star effect). High quality pearls have a strong “luster”. The term “luster” is different from the luster of mineral based gemstones, and refers to the color with brilliance, or interference color. This is due to the interference of light, which is created by the neat stacking of the nacre. This optical effect is probably the biggest reason why pearls are praised as beautiful gems. 』3

Black lipped pearls have a famous color called "peacock color" with a green rim and a red overtone. This is formed by the overlapping of colors, created by the pigments contained in one layer of nacre reflected with light and stacked in multiple layers. The pearl with this beautiful interference color-"luster" has a very high quality of nacre, which proves to be a durable, long-lasting and good quality pearl. This is why pearl dealers often say that “Luster is the Most Important Characteristics for Pearls”

*Famous “peacock color” of black lipped pearl

*Black lipped pearl with high luster

*Black lipped pearl with hazy luster

*Black lipped pearl with blurred luster

Pearl Grading

Pearls are graded on six criteria: Luster, nacre thickness, Surface, Flaws(Blemish), Shape and Color. The final grade is given after all six criteria have been evaluated.

LUSTER - Luster measures the rate of reflection on a pearl’s surface, and the amount of light reflected on the pearls. Luster is sometimes referred to the most important value factor when grading pearls. The overtone color and body color should look different when pearls with superior luster are held horizontally at eye level. Nacre thickness - Nacre quality refers to indentations in the nacre. For beautiful, thick layers of nacre requires dedication of pearl experts and great underwater environment. More nacre layers result in better grades. SURFACE - Pearls that feature clean surfaces without inclusions like chalky spots and wrinkles will be much more highly valued than pearls with multiple blemishes. Pearls with nacreous layer like mirrer like quality receive better grades. FLAWS(BLEMISH) - Pin-pricks are sometimes referred as pearl’s dimple. Since pearls are a product of nature however, there will always be some form of blemish such as pin holes, scratches and dents. Almost all pearls have some sort of blemish and pearls with less blemishes will be much more highly valued than pearls with multiple blemishes. SHAPE - Pearls come in multiple shapes and they each have names. As people say “Pearls are round”, some pearls come in round shape, others come in the shape of rain drop, button, Keshi, or smooth. Lately, flat pearls called flake and unevenly shaped pearls called baroque are gaining popularity. COLOR - Color of pearls depends on the color of mother oyster. Akoya pearls tend to have yellow and pale peach color and black lipped pearls have countless, multiple colors.

Pearl Processing

Pearl treatments can be roughly divided into two types: “treatments for enhancing pearl’s natural beauty(1)” and “treatments to add and create pearl’s beauty artificially(2)”

The first enhancing treatment(1) is often referred to as makeup for pearls, 1. " Pre-processing ", mainly performed in the subsequent process with the intention of facilitating the penetration of the solvent. 2. “Drilling”, For Akoya pearls, holes are drilled in the pearl for easier solvent soaking. 3. "Stain removal" , to remove impurities that have entered between the nucleus and the nacre. 4. “Bleaching”, in order to remove the color pigment found in pearl protein. 5. “Minute dyeing”, gentle dye is used with alcohol to bring out the original color of the pearl.

The second type of pearl treatment(2) is sometimes referred to as plastic surgery for pearls. This treatment uses the same processing technique of 1 to 4 above, and in addition, coloring treatments that change the color of pearls by chemical reactions such as strong dyes or silver nitrate, or coatings that protect pearls from sweat or acid, or increase the surface texture of pearls are conducted.

Most Akoya pearls currently on the market are chemically treated to enhance their natural beauty. (According to the Fisheries Agency's “Special Issue on Pearls-Fisheries” (issued in 1958), the percentage of Akoya pearls that can be used without processing is about 15%.)

Philosophy of Seibido Pearl

Seibido Pearl consider beautiful pearls to be "pearls with multiple high quality, fine and transparent nacre layers." We consider “luster” and “Nacre thickness” as our biggest value factors.

High luster is a sign of good pearls. High quality pearls do not fade or become hazy even after many years. Rather strangely, at Seibido Pearl, we have witnessed pearls with higher quality tend to gain more lustrous over time.

In addition, Seibido Pearl only offers unprocessed black lipped and White lipped pearls. Pearls have all-natural colors and have not been subjected to any chemical treatment such as toning, dyeing or even any types of pre-treatment. If processed, the delicate structure of the pearl becomes unstable, and external stimuli may cause unexpected changes in quality. We believe that high-quality pearls are naturally full of brilliant vitality and shines beautifully without being processed.

Pearls grow older with customers, and pearls should maintain the same quality as they were first harvested.

As a company passing down the story of pearls to customers, it is our mission to guarantee the quality of pearls until they reach our customers, and we have been proudly building trust with customers.

[1]『真珠』白井祥平著 海洋企画
[2] [3] 『真珠辞典 真珠、その知られざる小宇宙』小松博監修 白子修男発行 繊研新聞社

White lipped pearls

White lipped pearls are formed by white lipped oysters, and its scientific name is Pinctada maxima. As the scientific name maxima suggests, white lipped oysters are by far the largest of the pearl oysters, with a shell diameter of about 30 cm and weighing 4.5 to 5.5 kg. When the oyster is opened, shells look like a large butterfly spreading its wings, and the beautiful silvery white pearl nacre inside the shell also makes this oyster truly the “the king of pearl oyster”.1

Gold Lipped oysters and Silver Lipped oysters

White lipped pearl oysters are classified into two types: “gold lipped oysters”, with the gold coloring along the margins of the interior of the shell, and “silver lipped oysters “, with the silver coloring along the margins.

*Gold lipped oysters

*Silver lipped oysters

The “gold-lipped oyster” produces shades of yellow, champagne, gold and other warm-based hues and silver-lipped oysters typically produce the whites and silver White lipped pearls.

*Golden White lipped pearls

*White White lipped pearls

The main producing areas of White lipped pearls are Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Myanmar and Japan in Okinawa and Amami Oshima, etc.. In Australia, silver lipped oysters are mainly cultivated, and white and silver White lipped pearls are formed. In Indonesia, Philippines and Myanmar mainly cultivate gold lipped oysters that produce yellow, champagne and gold White lipped pearls. White lipped pearls from Myanmar are especially famous for their nacre thickness and color depth.

White lipped pearl Sizes

The size of White lipped pearl is typically about 8 to 20 mm in diameter, and the pearl size correlates with the size of the mother oyster.
Another size effecting factor other than the size of the mother oyster, is that the nacre layer of White lipped pearl is thicker than Akoya pearls and black lipped pearls.

<Thickness of One Layer of Nacre>
Akoya Pearl: 0.2 ㎛ – 0.4 ㎛ (micrometers)
White lipped pearl: 0.4㎛ to 0.6 ㎛
For example, even in the case that Akoya pearl oysters and White lipped pearl oysters are cultured under water for the same period of time, (even if the same number of nacre layers are formed), the entire nacre layer is thicker for White lipped pearls than Akoya pearls, resulting the size of the White lipped pearl to be bigger.

Other factor that makes White lipped pearls grow large is the long length of cultivation period. In Myanmar, White lipped pearls remain under water for three years.

<Main production areas with pearl sizes and cultivation period>
Australia: Size 13-14mmup cultivation period about 2 years
Indonesia: Size 9-10mmup cultivation period about 1 year
Philippines: Size 11-12mmup (6-7mm) Cultivation period about 1.5 years
Myanmar: Size about 12-13mm Cultivation period about 3 years
Japan (Okinawa / Amami Oshima): Size 9 -10mm Cultivation period about 3 years

Colors of White lipped pearls

There are many colors of White lipped pearls white to gold and everything in between.
The white White lipped pearls have a unique transparency that is different from the white Akoya pearls. White lipped pearls have gray or blue interference color and white Akoya pearls has warm interference color. The white White lipped pearls contains cool interference color compared to other pearls. Since most white White lipped pearls are larger than 10mm in size, if you are looking for a white pearl that is larger than 10mm, we recommend white White lipped pearls.

*From left, naturally colored white White lipped pearls (16mm &13mm), cream Akoya pearl, Pink Akoya pearl

Yellow, champagne and gold White lipped pearls come in multiple colors from pale yellow to vivid gold, but most White lipped pearls harvested has pale color, such as cream or pale yellow. White lipped pearls with deep golden hue are rare and have a very high trading value. The highest quality White lipped pearls are deep golden with green and orange overtones.

* White lipped pearl with orange interference color

* White lipped pearl with green interference color

* “Color Symphony”, collection by Seibido Pearl with multiple colors of natural White lipped pearls

Golden White lipped pearls

Today, cultured pearls are human creations formed by inserting the epithelial cells of the mantle (collected from an additional oyster of the same species into the host oyster) and nucleus into a pearl oyster. By inserting the mantle cut from the specific area, colors of cultivated pearls are somewhat controllable (For instance, black lipped pearls with red or green interference color can be harvested under human control).

The mantle that produces a deep gold pearls inside of South Sea oysters must be cut from an incredibly narrow area, and the lobe must be cut from the exact desirable area, not even off a few microns, for the host oyster to grow a deep gold color White lipped pearl. Some White lipped pearl farmers have worked with continuous effort to produce a fairly stable amount of gold colored White lipped pearls.

Seibido Pearl pursues the beauty of naturally formed golden color pearls, and handles only gold colored White lipped pearls that meet the strict standards of Seibido Pearl as the brand “SEIBIDO GOLDEN” . Less than 0.1% of pearls qualify as our SEIBIDO GOLDEN pearls out of White lipped pearl harvest.. Enjoy the pearls with quality of the highest degree of selection.

[1] 『真珠』 白井祥平著 海洋企画

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