Here is a list of pearl terms that will help you better understand this site and the discussions within the community forum. It is compiled from multiple sources and we believe it to be one of the most comprehensive lists available.
baby pearl: Also called “indicator pearl.” South Sea pearl from Indonesia grown for a short period to produce a pearl sac. The nacre is typically very thin and the quality low.
baroque: A pearl shape; irregular and not symmetrical.
Basra pearl: Named after the town of Basra in Iraq. Name given by Indian dealers to freshly harvested natural pearls from this area.
baten: Historical Persian quality factor describing a button pearl.
baythawee: Historical Persian quality factor describing an oval pearl.
bead-and-tissue-cultured pearl: A freshwater or saltwater cultured pearl whose growth is started by implanting a shell bead nucleus and a donor-mollusk mantle-tissue piece in the mantle, gonad, or other body part of a host mollusk.
bead-cultured pearl: A freshwater or saltwater cultured pearl whose growth is started by implanting a shell bead nucleus in an existing pearl sac from which a first-generation cultured pearl was removed.
bell pearl: Historical term used to describe a natural, pear-shaped pearl.
Big Pink Pearl: Listed in Guinness Book of World Records as largest natural abalone pearl from the Haliotis rufescens, weighing 469.13 carats.
Bironite: Trade name for a non-organic nucleus composed of dolomite.
bivalve: A mollusk from the class Bivalvia having a two-part shell attached by a hinge.
Biwa pearl: Pearl grown in Hyriopsis schlegeli freshwater mussel in Lake Biwa, Japan. Term is often incorrectly used to describe freshwater pearls in general.
Biwako pearl: The name first given to a Biwa pearl.
black-lipped mollusk: Pinctada margaritifera and Pinctada margaritifera cumingi mollusk.
black pearl: A pearl of naturally dark colors produced by the Pinctada margaritifera, Pinctada margaritifera cumingi, Pinctada mazatlanica and Pteria sterna mollusks.
bleaching: A common whitening treatment applied to most cultured akoya and freshwater pearls, and occasionally applied to cultured South Sea and Tahitian pearls.
blinking: An optical phenomenon created by light reflecting from mother-of-pearl remnants on the shell bead within a cultured pearl. Blinking often proves a cultured pearl is bead-nucleated and often indicates a thin nacre coating.
blister pearl: Pearl attached to the shell of the host mollusk. These can occur naturally when a pearl sac bonds with the upper mantle or by human intervention when a hemispherical nucleus is attached to the inner shell by a grafting technician.
blue pearl: Name given to a cultured mabe pearl grown in the Haliotis iris abalone shell.
bodycolor: The aspect of a pearl’s color that is caused by pigment as opposed to light interference.
Bourgignon pearls: Imitation pearls popular in 18th and 19th century France.
brailing: Technique of using a row of hooks to drag the bottoms of southeastern US rivers to collect mussels.
Brewster’s theory: Developed in 1814 by Sir David Brewster, it attributed the iridescent colors of mother-of-pearl to light diffraction from the surface structure.
Broome pearl: Australian cultured South Sea pearl of the 1960s, exhibited a silver hue.
bu: Historical Japanese linear measure still used today to designate the diameter of a bead nucleus. One bu equals 3.03 mm.
Buddha pearl: The first cultured blister pearl produced by the Chinese by implanting a Buddha-shaped nucleus between the mantle and shell of freshwater mussels in the late 1200s.
buffing: A post-harvest method of removing organic residue from pearls and polishing their surface.
buoys: Used to float lines from which mollusks are hung in net panels or other holding devices.
Burmese pearl: Historic term given to a natural Pinctada maxima pearl with a golden or yellow hue.
burnt gold: Also called burnt orange. The most desirable color of gold South Sea pearls; they exhibit a deep gold to dark orange or reddish bodycolor.
button pearl: A dome shape pearl with a flat side. Button shapes are classified as high or low depending on the height of the dome.
byssus: Structure composed of thread-like tissue that bivalve mollusks use to anchor themselves to a solid external surface.