Learn About Jewelry

Natural Pearls

Pearls are technically not considered precious gemstones because they are made of organic material. However, they have been prized for centuries as “the queen of gems and the gem of queens.” Natural pearls are calcium carbonate secretions that form within mollusks without human intervention. They are very rare, and are now found primarily in antique and estate jewelry. While natural pearls are identical in appearance to cultured pearls, the process by which they are formed is different, and therefore can be analyzed by gemological x-ray, with natural pearls showing a pattern like tree rings. Natural pearls come in various shapes and colors, and are judged on the merits of color, luster, size, and shape, with perfectly round pearls being the rarest.

Evidence of the pearl’s long history as the first known gem can be found in the fragment of pearl jewelry unearthed in the ancient city of Mehrgarh, in modern-day Pakistan, dating back over 9,000 years. Pearls were used in the ancient cultures of Egypt, China, Persia, and India. They were also prized in Europe as the jewelry of royals and nobles. Vermeer painted several paintings with pearls, the most famous being “Girl with the Pearl Earring,” and many of Cranach’s paintings feature exquisite pearl jewelry. Pearls adorn countless historical portraits, such as those of Queen Elizabeth I, Mary, Queen of Scots, Diane de Poitiers, and Marie Antoinette, as well as those of the Maharajas and Maharanis of India. Indeed, the highest price ever paid for pearls was in 2007, when the Baroda Pearls, formerly belonging to the Maharaja of Baroda and consisting of a double strand of 68 pearls, along with a matching brooch, earrings and ring, sold at auction for over 7 million dollars.

Conch shells also produce pearls, though unlike the lustrous nacre most people are familiar with, conch shell pearls come in vibrant peach or coral shades, with a delicate, flame-like pattern. There is no method for culturing conch pearls, so they are perhaps the rarest of all, as only one in 10,000 Queen conch mollusks produces a pearl.


Sometimes a change in fashion, sentiment, finances or family circumstance may prompt you to reconsider your attachment to a piece of jewelry.

At Roy Herzl Inc., we would be honored to evaluate your item or collection of jewelry.

We are interested in all kinds of precious jewelry, particularly diamonds of a carat or more. Please do not hesitate to contact us to make an appointment.

Next: The Four C’s of Diamonds
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