the history of the south sea pearl - Hamra Jewelers

the history of the south sea pearl

A pearl necklace is one of the most elegant pieces of jewelry a woman can own. It’s a classic, timeless accessory. Of the many varieties of pearls in the world, the South Sea pearl is one of the rarest and loveliest.


We adore pearls at Hamra Jewelers and take pride in our collection of beautiful pearl necklaces and pearl jewelry. These gorgeous little orbs are sure to make anyone’s pulse quicken at the sight of them. If you want to find out why the South Sea pearl is so highly valued and sought after, here’s a brief history about the small splendors hanging around necks across the world.


what are south sea pearls?

South Sea pearls are cultured pearls of exceptional beauty. They can be found with whitish, almost silver color, rose’ overtones and sometimes creamy. They come from the white-lipped variety of the pinctada maxima oyster. The oysters that produce Akoya and Freshwater pearls are much smaller than the pinctada maxima oyster. These larger oysters are rarer and are sensitive to deal with. This makes cultivating their pearls a difficult process, which enhances their value.


South Sea pearls are mostly found near Indonesia and Australia. Because these oysters are harder to find, strict fishing quotas have been placed to keep these species from being depleted. Pearl divers typically have to search up to 80 meters below the surface to find mature White lipped oysters.


Once the oysters have been safely harvested, the pearl farms have to nucleate them. Nucleating is a process in which an incision is made in the soft tissue of the oyster, which is called mantle, and then inserting a bead or a piece of sand which acts as an irritant inside lip. This makes the oyster protect itself by excreting nacre. Layers of nacre encircle the irritant which forms a pearl.


South Sea pearls develop over a two to three year period. The longer it takes for the pearl to develop, the larger it will become. Since it takes so long to develop, there is an increase in the chance that they’ll develop flaws during their maturation process. This is one of the reasons why South Sea pearls are so rare and in demand. The more spherical and clean the pearl is, the more valuable they become. Pearls can develop lines and ridges which are called circle' and can be misshapen which are referred to as baroque.


a brief history

The pinctada maxima oyster was first discovered by divers off the coast of Australia in the 1880’s. A pearl industry began to boom, with the small town of Broome becoming its center. Broome was such an essential part of the pearl trade at this time that South Sea pearls were originally called “Broome pearls”.


In 1906, the Englishman William Saville-Kent successfully cultivated a pinctada maxima pearl. The South Sea pearl industry didn’t really take off until the middle of the century, though. Strict laws were put in place after their oyster resources depleted and that kept Australia’s pearling industry in limbo for decades. Once the laws changed, South Sea pearls quickly spread across the world. This was also thanks to the discovery of sources for the pearls that were found in Burma and The Philippines.