I'd like to know somethings about seed pearls. I read they were both natural and cultured. I can't imagine going to the trouble to culture them, but for that matter I can't imagine drilling and stringing them. Do seed pearls have the same characteristics that larger pearls from the same bivalve have? For example: color, shapes, luster? I have seen some little half pearls. Are these blister seed pearls? Are seed pearls as widely used today as in antique jewelry?
Cultured round seed pearls are typically keshi pearls without nucleus that grow from scattered tissue in the process of nucleating pearl plated beads of the akoya type. They are virtually indistinguishable (there may or may not be some green radiofluorescence) from naturals and are used exactly like natural seed pearls. Blister seed pearls are not used. The little half pearls one frequently sees as rim adornments in cameos and such are typically whole seed pearls that were either button-shaped to begin with or have been cut in half. Seed pearls of both the natural and the keshi variety are typically drilled and strung in India were wages are so low that this is at all economically feasible. The prices for natural and keshi seed pearls are on a par. The characteristics of the seed keshis are the same as that of the host mussel. There is one proviso, though, and that is that seed keshis are typically not treated (bleached, dyed, poished, oiled) or otherwise mikimoused.
Last edited by Zeide Erskine; 08-02-2006 at 02:45 AM.
Yes, seed pearls do have the same characteristics of larger pearls.
Currently, I own strands of oval seed pearls (2.5mm x1.5mm and 2mm x 1mm, in white and peach. The peach seed pearls even have orient!
The smallest seed pearl strand I've seen is about 1mm (or smaller), white color. They're sold at about 10 strands intertwined. You can hardly see the pearls so you have to look very, very closely to see - "oh, they're pearls!". At half a meter away, they look like thread. That's how small they are.
The driller and the stringer must be very patient men.
Yes, I have been able to see what I think Zeide describes as water and orient in some very small, very old seed pearls. I'm looking at them under a 10X loop. (It is very hot here and there's not much else to do.)
Several are indeed almost clear and one has that look of an opal because it has so much orient. Some of these have even been drilled and strung on wire. I can't imagine the patience and nerves required to be that steady. I also bought an inexpensive old necklace on eBay just to play with. I have cut one of the larger seed pearls open and under the loop I can see the onion-like pattern. One side shattered except for a shell of nacre. The other side was a perfect little half onion. I also tried the salt slussy bath on a few bigger ones. They do look better. It is so much easier to grasp the concepts when I can actually see them. Seed pearls seem to be an inexpensive way to do this. The only thing I have not been able to do is the peering-down-the-drill-hole. I think they are just too small to see any difference from edge to middle. Today I'm going to try the hot-water-removes-glue experiment.
I'll get a life when things cool off.