Gemstones & Pearls: News
Finishing Touch on Pearls
New advances in pearl culturing invite creative carving
A new product a carved cultured pearl is on
the market from Michael Randall of Gem Reflections, San Anselmo,
CA. Traditionally, pearls have been considered "finished"
as they emerge from a mollusk. Cultured pearls generally have
only a thin outer layer called nacre, making carving or faceting
impossible. This thin layer of nacre could flake or peel off
entirely, revealing the less-attractive rounded shell nucleus.
However, the Chinese freshwater cultured pearls now available
in quantity are almost all nacre. Cutters and carvers look at
these pearls with a special kind of creativity in mind. The pearls
are relatively inexpensive, making experimentation possible,
even with the finest qualities.
Because they are practically all nacre, carving or faceting
can grind away at these pearls' composition of conchiolin and
nacre, almost to the core. (Conchiolin is a substance the oyster
secretes that helps bind together the calcite and aragonite crystals
that form the nacreous layers of the pearl.)
"Since when have we been able to modify the shape of
a pearl on a three-dimensional basis to conform exactly to a
shape designed by man?" Randall asks. He showed the pictured
pearl at the Gemological Institute of America's International
Gemological Symposium in San Diego in June and says designers
immediately saw the potential. "They started drawing jewelry
designs immediately," he says. Randall says carved freshwater
pearls will be available in greater quantities at the Tucson
gem and mineral shows in February.
- Gem Reflections, San Anselmo CA; (800) 453-4367.
by Robert Weldon, G.G.
||This Chinese freshwater cultured pearl was carved
by Bart Curren of Seattle, WA.
Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.