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May we present our most famous designer? Mother nature

pearl necklace

The pearl is the world’s oldest jewel. Countless myths entwine themselves around its genesis. Some ancient cultures even believed that pearls were the tears of the gods. One reason for its perpetual fascination is surely the fact that a pearl is a jewel that nature gives us readymade, consummately beautiful. Once a pearl has matured inside its mollusc, it already possesses all the attributes to make it the perfect ornament for its feminine wearer. This nacreous treasure has always been particularly appealing to women. Prosperous ladies in ancient Rome also wore their pearls at night in the belief that doing so would bring them lovely dreams.

The ocean packages its jewels in pretty containers, too.

For many years, pearls were so rare that they were reserved exclusively for the wealthy and privileged. Not until the turn of the nineteenth century was the mystery of their genesis solved in the Far East, where the first successful attempts were made to cultivate pearls. The Japanese found a way to artificially initiate the natural process of mother-of-pearl formation. Both natural and cultured pearls result from a process inside the mollusc as it defends its soft tissue against a trespassing parasite or a deliberately implanted kernel by coating the intruder with layer upon layer of motherof- pearl crystal platelets (aragonite). For both kinds of pearls, this process takes several years and is vulnerable to many disruptive factors. The success of individual cultivators can be seen at Japanese pearl auctions, which are held twelve times each year in either Tokyo or Kobe.

Wempe is one of the few European jewellers permitted to bid biannually for the sea’s most beautiful jewels. Merchants stake their reputations on the fact that nothing but authentic cultured pearls are traded at these auctions. A simple “tooth test” can be applied to confirm the authenticity of pearl jewellery: real pearls feel rough and sandy against the teeth, butartificial pearls slide smoothly off them.

woman with pearl necklace, short
Please note that the pearls depicted here are cultured pearls.

Pearls and the art of seduction

Even before Dutch painter Jan Vermeer created an intriguing setting for a pearl earring in his famous painting “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, this type of ear jewellery had already become a symbol of seductive femininity. This classic piece continues to unobtrusively and naturally accentuate the beauty of the woman who wears it today. Nature never creates two absolutely identical pearls, so slight variations in shape and colour confirm the uniqueness of your pearls.

Quality criteria for cultured pearl

The pearls in a valuable necklace may all look alike at first glance, but their special appeal derives from the fact that each one is absolutely unique. To compare each one, the following five quality criteria for pearls are used:

The five quality criteria

  1. Lustre
    The thicker a pearl’s coating, the deeper its gleam and the higher its quality.
  2. Surface
    A valuable pearl is very smooth and free from markings associated with its growth.


  3. Shape
    The more spherical it is, the more valuable a pearl is.
  4. Colour
    Colour is a subjective criterion and a matter of taste, but it is important that colour goes well with the wearer’s skin type. If you are uncertain, we will gladly offer comprehensive advice at your nearest Wempe showroom.
  5. Size
    The value of a pearl is usually directly proportional to its size, but this only holds true if it satisfies all other quality criteria. If it does not, a smaller but more well-coated pearl can be more valuable than a larger, less perfect one.

Class, not mass: the Akoya pearl

The fine Akoya pearl is cultivated in saltwater nurseries, primarily in Japan. The scientific name of its mollusc is Pinctada martensii. Each mollusc may only be implanted with one kernel, which slowly becomes a cultured pearl. This growth process requires between nine and twenty-four months, during which time the pearl grows to a diameter of ten millimetres or, in exceptional cases, as much as eleven millimetres.

To appreciate their value, it is necessary to know that the cultivation of Akoya pearls is an extremely elaborate process. Only 80 pearls of good to very good quality - Wempe quality - result from every 1,000 implanted kernels.

woman with pearl necklace
Cleverly wrapped this endless strand of Akoya pearls can be worn in many different ways.
freshwater pearls comparison

Not quite round: the Chinese freshwater pearl

If you wonder why there are different prices for pearl necklaces that may seem identical at first glance, please consider the provenance of the pearls. Many people confuse the fine Akoya pearl with the common Chinese freshwater pearl. The latter is a product of the attempt to cultivate as many pearls as possible by implanting numerous bits of tissue into one large mollusc. Betweenten and twenty pearls can be grown inside one mollusc, but most of them are not exactly spherical, as round kernels were not implanted. This may not be immediately noticeable, but pearls cannot hide imperfections. Directly compare two strands by twisting them: the difference is surprising.

This is how silky shimmer feels: the South Sea pearl

Known throughout the world as “The Queen of Pearls”, the South Sea pearl fully deserves its regal nickname. Its mollusc, officially named Pinctada maxima, thrives in the warm waters of the South Sea, where it not only grows pearls of royal dimensions, but also “paints” its nacreous treasures in an unbelievably diverse array of colours. These silky, matte, shimmering beauties grow to a diameter of ten to twenty millimetres in 24 months or more. Many of their cultivation sites are located on the Australian coast and in Indonesia.

woman with necklace with one pearl
Double-strand necklace with a valuable South Sea pearl of perfect teardrop shape.

The loveliest side of the South Sea is also its darkest side: the Tahitian pearl

The dark version of the South Sea pearl is the Tahitian pearl. As its name states, this pearl is primarily cultivated in Tahiti, the Marquesas Islands and the Cook Islands. Between eighteen and twentyfour months transpire before this pearl attains a diameter of ten to twenty millimetres. Dark hues in an incredibly diverse array of colours are the special feature of this South Sea beauty, which is cultivated inside the Pinctada margaritifera mollusc. Its spectrum of colours ranges from dark and silvery grey to gold and champagne. Thanks to these diverse hues, Tahitian pearls offer an infinite number of combinations for jewellery creations.

Necklace and earrings with Tahitian pearl
Pendant and matching earrings with grey Tahitian pearls and brilliant-cut diamonds.
pearl necklace with colored gemstone
BY KIM necklace with a green tourmaline, brilliant-cut diamonds and Tahitian pearls in matching colours.

From classic to sensual: Find the necklace that suits you best.

  1. Collier de Chien
    Options begin with the collier de chien, which closely hugs the neck and usually consists of two, three or even more strands.
  2. Choker
    The choker is most classic in length: it is especially versatile and goes equally well with a sporty daytime outfit or an elegant evening ensemble.
  3. Matinée necklace
    A matinée necklace can be up to 60 centimetres long. Particularly well-suited to sporty women, this chic accessory enhances every business outfit.
  4. Opéra necklace
    An elegant opéra necklace can be up to 90 centimetres long. As a single or double strand, it is called the “Queen of Pearl Necklaces”.
  5. Sautoire
    And, by the way, Coco Chanel was not the only woman to succumb to the sensual appeal of the sautoire.
Graphic pearl necklace lengths and ways of wearing

The best care you can give your pearls is you yourself!

Nature gives us pearls that are already consummately perfect, but delicate pearls need appropriate care. Perfume, powder, hairspray, acids and cosmetics containing alcohol can all cause a pearl to appear dim and less lustrous. Store your pearls separately from other pieces of jewellery. The best way to preserve and enhance their lustre is to wear them directly on your skin. As the interplay between adjacent pearls gradually increases over time, you should have your necklace examined once each year. If necessary, we will restring your necklace with natural silk cord, individually knotting each pearl by hand. If you purchased your necklace at Wempe, we will perform this service free of charge for the first five years.

Please note that the pearls depicted here are cultured pearls.

We would be happy to assist you in the creation and fabrication of your very personal, custom-made jewellery item.


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