Two diners sit down to have a nice dinner of oysters in a fancy restaurant, and one of them feels something hard in their mouth. At first, they are worried that it’s a broken tooth. But as they pull it out, fear turns into awe and amazement. It’s a pearl!
We have all heard this news. But regardless of how newscasters have made this event seem, the chances of this happening are about one in a million. Edible oysters to produce a good quality pearl of average size and round shape is very rare. So, if you want to know how to find a pearl in an oyster, ordering oysters for dinner is not a good plan.
Here’s what you can do instead.
How To Find A Pearl In An Oyster?
The easiest way is to purchase oysters from companies that sell mollusks that have a mother-of-pearl lining. These oysters are the ones that typically produce pearls. Some companies will even go as far as to guarantee that you will find at least one pearl in their box of oysters. You can have them directly shipped to your home, where you can open them yourselves.
To open an oyster to check for pearls, you need an oyster knife. Stick the knife in between the two halves and apply pressure to separate them. Once you pry the shell open, you will be able to see the interior silver lining of the mother-of-pearl. Now with your fingers, press on the fleshy part of the oyster; pearls are hidden in the oyster flesh. If you feel a round, solid pearl, press hard on it, and it will emerge out of the flesh. Rub the pearl with a towel soaked in salt water, and you are good to go.
You can get special scales to measure the diameter of the pearl. This way of finding pearls requires the least effort. But if you are an adventurous person then consider finding a guided tour to hunt for oysters. Some of these tours are arranged by pearl culturing businesses, and they let you dive into their farm to find oysters for a very short time. Other guided tour services will take you out to hunt for natural pearls. Finding natural pearls is nowhere near as easy as cultured ones.
You can also invest in getting a mussel-diving permit and visit states that produce pearls. In the US, Tennessee and San Angelo are the best locations for freshwater pearls, while Hawaii is top destination for saltwater pearls. The regulations for mussel-diving permit keeps changing every year. You can check the updated information on the websites dedicated to mussel permits. Each state has a different one.
How Can You Tell The Difference Between Real And Fake Pearls?
The most accurate way to make sure that the pearls you have on hand is real, is to rub two together and see if they form a powder. In case of falsies, no such powder will be produced. But doing this will degrade your pearls. So, it’s better to test other things first.
Real pearls are heavier than most fake pearls. If you have a necklace of faux pearls than you can use them as a reference to test the pearls you want to know about. Real pearls also are hardly ever perfectly round, it is also harder for two real pearls to match fully. On the other hand, a necklace of faux pearls will have all identical ones. If your necklace features pearls with different overtones, iridescence, and luster, they are likely real.
Real pearls are also rough and gritty. Pulling them through your teeth can help you feel the texture of those pearls better. If it feels perfectly smooth, the pearls are likely fake. Real pearls are also colder and feature cleaner drill holes. Necklaces made out of real pearls have knots in between two pearls to protect each one from rubbing against the other. Larger real pearls are very expensive. Sometimes, the price is all you need to know to distinguish between real and fake pearls.
What Are The Odds Of Finding A Pearl In An Oyster?
The odds of finding a pearl in an oyster is very slim. The estimated probability of finding a natural pearl in an oyster is 1 in 10,000. Most of the time, this pearl won’t meet the gemstone quality. The odds of the oyster you find to have a gemstone graded pearl is 1 in 1,000,000.
We should all take a momet to appreciate the rarity of a natural pearl of good shape and size. An average pearl is typically worth between $200 to $400. But really the value can go up to thousands of dollars. It all depends on the quality of the pearl.
Do Real Pearls Yellow Over Time?
It is natural for a pearl to become yellow as it ages, whether it is cultured or natural. This happens because real pearls dry out and become duller, losing their luster. Imitation pearls don’t dry out like that. You won’t spot them becoming yellow with age, but they can get chipped, and their coat may come off from wear.
There are some natural pearls that are yellow, to begin with. Yellow pearls aren’t anywhere near as common as white ones, but they are still present in great numbers.
How Do You Know If There Is A Pearl In An Oyster?
There isn’t any way by which you can ensure that an oyster has a pearl just by looking at it from the outside. There are no external signs. You have to crack open the oyster into halves to see if there are pearls inside the flesh of the oyster. However, you are likely to find pearls in a mature oyster that has grown fully.
It takes three years for an oyster to become an adult. When an oyster is 1.5-2 years old, it can have a pearl inside. So, they can be harvested after that time period has been reached to check for pearls.
How Rare Is It To Find A Black Pearl In An Oyster?
One out of every 10,000 pearls is black in color. So, these beauties are very rare. Black-lipped oysters are the species of pearls that commonly produce black pearls. Traditionally, most of these pearls came from Tahiti, and even today the world’s largest supplier of black pearls is Tahiti. That is why, they are called Tahitian black pearls. However, these days Kiribati and Cook island have begun to source black pearls as well.
Black pearls are typically rounder and bigger than other pearls. They come in variable luster and overtones. Their rareness makes them more expensive than other pearls. Sometimes, when an oyster that usually produces lighter-colored pearls can develop a black tinge on its nacre. In that case, it, too, can produce a black pearl. However, such a pearl is exquisitely rare.
How Long Does It Take For An Oyster To Make A Pearl?
Pearls begin formation after an irritant enters the body of a mollusk. As a defense mechanism, layers of nacre accumulate around the intrusive particle. This process can be excruciatingly slow, especially for farmers who culture pearls. Smaller pearls can be done growing in 6 months. However, bigger pearls can take as long as seven years. Having such a long waiting period is partly why larger pearls are valued higher. These pearls are also rarer.
Japanese Akoya and Tahitian black pearls can be harvested after 24 months. Whereas South Sea Pearls take longer, which is about 30 months. The Chinese Freshwater pearls take the longest time to develop. They can be harvested after 7 years after a foreign matter enters the oyster artificially or naturally.
Are Second-Hand Pearls Worth Anything?
If there is no historical value in a string of second-hand pearls, then you can safely assume that its value will recede to almost nothing. There is no market for second-hand pearls currently.
The only case that we can think of when a worn pearl’s value will not only be retained but increased is if it were worn by an iconic celebrity. For example, Jackie Kennedy owned a triple strand of glass pearls that she seemed to wear a lot. In 1996, it was sold for $200,000. An identical necklace modeled after her pearls will cost you only $100.
Considering the fact that most of us aren’t celebrities, we will be better of using our pearls in a different piece of jewelry with an edgier, modern design instead of trying to pawn it or sell it on eBay. Gifting your pearls to someone you love and who will appreciate them is also a better option than selling.
Do Real Pearls Dissolve?
Now, if you have heard the story where Queen Cleopatra dissolves her pearl in vinegar and drinks it while having dinner with her lover, Marc Antony, to demonstrate how much wealth she possessed, it is understandable this question popped in your head.
Yes, real pearls dissolve in vinegar. Pearl consists of calcium carbonate, and it reacts with Acetic acid to form calcium acetate, water and carbon dioxide. To dissolve a pearl that weighs 1 gram this way takes 24 to 36 hours. A 5% solution of acetic acid that forms a standard white vinegar is enough. In fact, using a heavier concentration will actually stop the pearl from dissolving.
If you crush the pearl beforehand while also boiling the vinegar, the process can be sped up to under 10 minutes. Queen Cleopatra was a woman of science. It is possible she crushed her pearl and used hot boiling vinegar to prove her point. Whether the story is fact or fiction, pearls can dissolve in vinegar if given a day or more.