Purchasing South Sea cultured pearls are a real investment. At present, they are the largest and rarest pearls in the fine jewelry market.
Natural South Sea pearls were first discovered in the 1880's inside large oysters off the northwest coast of Australia. Within fifty years, the oysters had become severely depleted. Today, with the development of new culturing methods, oyster populations have been nursed back to health. Australia currently leads in the production of South Sea pearls, while Indonesia and the Philipines contribute strongly to the remaining portion.
- Size range: 9mm to 12mm (or 0.35 in to 0.79 in)
- Average size: 12mm to 13mm (or 0.5 in)
- Growth time: 20 - 24 months
- Oyster: Pinctada Maxima (Gold and Silver Lipped oysters)
- Color range: White to golden
To value a South Sea pearl first begin by considering its fundamental qualities, such as luster, shape or roundness, surface cleanliness and, if your jewelry piece includes more than one pearl, whether it has been matched appropriately. Also note that a South Sea pearls luster is very warm, seeming to emanate from within.
The distinctive qualities of a South Sea pearl include its relatively large size and warm white to golden coloring. Every pearl has a widely available size which, once surpassed, causes the value of the pearl to increase dramatically. For a South Sea pearl, this is in the 12mm-13mm range. Pearls can be as large as 20mm, but this is very rare.
The color of a South Sea pearl varies between white and gold. Different skin, hair and eye color combinations will favor one color over another. When selecting color, hold both by your face and look in the mirror to see which color is suitable for you. Look for deep color saturation if purchasing golden South Sea pearls as they are of comparatively higher value than those of a lighter tone.
It is very rare however to find a South Sea pearl strand that is outstanding in all of the above qualities.