JP - the Edisons were large. very round and had quite a reasonable colour - multi coloured and they were retailing them for 4,000$ . As they were in the window and I had only briefly stopped to look at them I wasn't able to check them out very carefully. I'd been more interested in his Tahitians and their prices.
In April I saw a strand of sea shell "pearls" being sold as freshwaters at a very good jeweler I have bought things from in the past. They looked like a fairly large Tahitian strand in a range of greens. It was actually an attractive strand. The price was about $250.
The owner wasn't there that day so I explained to his two female sales assistants, whom I've chatted with before, what the beads were made of and how they could tell that they were not genuine pearls. We looked at the coating with a loupe and compared it with the genuine nacre of my own pearls. I urged them to discuss it with the owner, since reputation is everything, and they said they would, but were perturbed at having been given misinformation by the vendor who had come to the store with her wares. Caveat emptor applies to jewelers as well....
I'll be very interested to see if the shell "pearls" are still in the case next time we take a drive and stop in there.
Pearl Dreams, could you explain the coating in more detail on the shell pearls , and what the beads are made of. I would like to be educated. Do the manufacture them with a few blemishes? I thinking this would be Majorica pearls?
Frost me, no, they are not the same thing. (I own a number of Majorica necklaces.)
Majorica imitation pearls (note, this is a brand name, as opposed to Mallorca, Majorca, Joia de Majorca and other competing brands) are made with an opalescent glass bead inside. This bead is dipped many times (up to 40) into the type of lacquer traditionally used to make imitation pearls. I know they derive substances from fish scales, for example. I understand they polish between coats. The final coat has something that makes it appear as through there is orient.
There is strict quality control with Majorica-- you won't find defects in the pearls. They are very durable and I have not found them to discolor over time. Of course they can be damaged by exposure to the usual offenders (perfume, hair spray etc.) but they are more resistant than genuine nacre is. All in all they are excellent imitations.
Shell pearls may have a shell bead inside (which may be ground-up reconstituted shell material) and the coating is made from ground-up mother of pearl, which is iridescent. This is how they justify representing the pearls as "mother of pearl" when, in fact, it is just a coating. The shell pearls I've seen are on the larger side, to imitate SSP and Tahitians.
I think imitations have their place but the seller has to be very clear with customers about what they are.