Pearl Jewelry

By Sharon Winters


Over 1,000 Pearl Necklaces, Bracelets and Earrings: 5-10mm.

Types of Pearls

  • Round

  • Square
    Biwa Type

Colors Available

    • Bridal White
    • Antique White
    • Lavender
    • Violet Blue
    • Natural Mauve
    • Natural Peach
    • Lime Green
    • Daffodil
    • Spruce
    • Raspberry
    • Grape
    • Electric Blue
    • Mixed Colors
    • Bubblegum Pink
    • Silver Peacock
    • Cobalt Blue
    • Avocado
    • Plum
    • Pastel
    • Mango

And More!

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Schedule of Shows for Pearl Fever

Sunday Dec. 3rd, 2017

Pearl Fever Show

Hilton Garden Inn
Scottsdale Old Town
7324 E. Indian School Road
Scottsdale Arizona 85251

I Named My Pet Oyster George

Twenty years ago I moved to Shanghai, China, where I lived for two years. Pearl jewelry was everywhere in China, and I soon caught Pearl Fever. This was the beginning of my company, Pearl Fever. I sold my first pearl necklaces to expats also living in Shanghai.

I attended Fudan University in Shanghai and studied Chinese, and because I could speak Mandarin, I was able to buy pearls directly from pearl farmers who also taught me how to string pearls. When I visited a pearl factory in Suzhou, China, to learn about the fifty-two steps of producing pearls, I was gifted a pet oyster. I named him George and kept him in my Shanghai apartment in a big bowl of water.

I wrote an award winning book about my adventures in China, Cutted Chicken in Shanghai, (see my website) and have continued to introduce people to beautiful pearl jewelry. If you catch Pearl Fever . . . I can help you.

Below is the story from my book of how I acquired a pet oyster and my visit to a pearl farm and factory. Jin is the name of the person who drove me around China. Taitai in Mandarin means Mrs., which is a polite way to address me in Chinese. Words in italics are translations of Mandarin into English:

On our previous trip to Suzhou, the manager of a pearl farm has invited Jin and me to stop by and see him the next time we are in Suzhou. Jin drives to a farm located off a dirt road, and after parking his car, we walk down a narrow path toward a tiny one-room mud-brick house. We see the manager who waves hello to us. Twelve-inch- wide rows of vegetables are planted on both sides of the footpath, and there are large ponds to the right and left of this path.

A restaurant owner is fishing in one of the ponds, and as we watch him, he catches fish after fish and puts them into buckets of water. These fish will soon find their way to aquariums in his restaurant.

Most of the ponds have different kinds of fish in various stages of growth. One of the ponds is for hairy crabs, and a high fence surrounds their pond to keep them from wandering off. A few crabs scuttle along the edge of the fence desperately looking for a way out.

The farthest and largest pond to our left is the oyster pond, which is spread out over an acre of land. Bamboo poles in neat rows mark the spot where a net of oysters can be found. Oysters live their whole lives in these nets, which only a strong man can lift. Nets must be frequently lifted to check for dead or diseased oysters.

To the right of the oyster pond is a one-room hut where a woman sits by the front door and shucks oysters. She throws oyster meat in one bucket and pearls in another. When the oyster meat bucket is full, she pours the contents into the oyster pond, and a troupe of minuscule shrimps engulfs the oyster meat.

About twenty feet from the hut is a small, sturdy brick house. I peek through the open window of this house and meet eye-to- eye with the biggest pig I have ever seen. Her snout is the size of a dinner plate. She is curious about me and sniffs the air. Jin yells, “Taitai, get away from there. She will have you for lunch.”

The manager of the pearl farm takes me out onto the pond in a flat-bottom boat. He rows up to a bamboo pole, pulls up a net of oysters, and takes out two. When we are back on dry land, the manager opens one oyster with a shucking knife and says, “This oyster is five years old. See the rings on his shell?” He hands me the five pearls from the oyster and gives me the other oyster and says, “Here, take this one home.”

The oyster’s shell is covered with a moss-like scum. I have never had a pet oyster before, and I say, “Thank you for the oyster. Will he die if he is not in water?”

“No, no. Put him in water when you get home.”

“OK. Thank you,” I say. “I am going to name him George.” His shell needs a good cleaning with a toothbrush.

The manager wants to show us the pearl factory, and Jin drives the three of us to a large two-story building. We go up to the second floor where there are ten long tables in arow. Pearl stringers sit at these tables where they sort, size, and slip the appropriate size pearls onto a temporary string. The largest pearls must be in the middle, and each completed strand of pearls is sixteen inches long. I look toward the stringers as I say, “Dajia hao.” “Hello everyone.”

The manager takes us to the drilling room where I try my hand at operating a pearl drilling machine. This requires the simultaneous operation of a foot pedal and a hand lever. The driller must know how to place a pearl between clamps so that the hole is drilled in the best spot. If a hole is drilled through a flaw, the value of the pearl goes up because the flaw is removed. The most demanding pearls to drill are tiny pearls. A sixteen-inch strand of four-millimeter pearls requires over one hundred pearls. Odd-shaped pearls, such as rice-shaped pearls and baroque pearls, are also difficult to drill because angles must be balanced between two concave-shaped clamps.

A pearl drilling machine has two drill bits that must be coordinated in order to keep the bits from meeting in the middle of a pearl at the same time. This is a mechanical dance that also requires the drill bits to be a certain length. If the bits are too long, metal will grind on metal, and if the drill bits are too short, the hole won’t go all the way through the pearl. Additionally, the metal drill bits are soft and must be frequently sharpened on a stone wheel that throws sparks as it whirls.

Behind me is a broom made of sticks for sweeping. A fine mix of metal and pearl dust powders the table after I have done my best to drill a few pearls. This experience has given me an appreciation for the labor-intensive process of producing pearls. The manager tells me that there are over sixty steps to produce one pearl necklace.

We walk to another section of the factory where the manager uses a seven-inch key to unlock an eight-inch- thick metal door that screeches as it opens. We step into a room that looks like it belongs on a science fiction movie set. Three-gallon glass jars are filled with large white pearls. These jars are set on metal shelves that go around the perimeter of this small room. Fluorescent lights hang overhead as motors buzz and bubbles fizzle up from surgical tubing that goes to the bottom of these jars.

This is a room where bleaching agents are used to create uniformly white pearls. The liquid in these jars is a top-secret bleaching agent discovered by a Japanese pearl producer and subsequently stolen by a Chinese man who is now in hiding. Unlike the harsh chemicals used in the past, this is a gentle bleaching agent.

Jin and I thank the manager for taking time from his busy day to show us around the pearl farm and factory and especially for giving George to me.

We arrive back in Shanghai late at night. Jin carries my paintings up to the apartment, and I carry five-year- old George upstairs and into the kitchen. I take out a shallow ceramic bowl and place it on the counter. Jin comes into the kitchen to help me with George and pours fresh drinking water into the bowl.

I hear Martin’s footsteps coming down the stairs. When he comes into the kitchen, he says, “What’s that?”

I carefully hold out my pet oyster and say, “Marty… this is George. He’s an oyster.” I look at George as I cradle him in both of my hands and say to him, “George . . . this is Marty. Don’t be afraid.”

Jin looks sad as he turns to Martin and says, “I am sorry.” I am elated with my new pet and say, “Marty, I need to borrow your toothbrush. George’s shell needs a good brushing to make him pretty.”

Frequently Asked Questions

Dirt in the string will grind away at the fibers making them weak. When the string looks frayed or gets visibly dirty have your pearls restrung.

Many jewelers prefer to restring on silk, which stretches and will rot if exposed to significant moisture. Pearls strung on a synthetic will not require frequent restringing because the thread does not easily stretch or rot.

Ask to have your pearls restrung using bead tips. Then, if your clasp breaks, only the clasp will need to be replaced.

At Pearl Fever we use bead tips so that you can have a different clasp put on without having to pay to have your pearls restrung.

  1. Should the string break, the knots will hold all but one pearl, and you will only be looking for one pearl instead of all of them.
  2. Knots show off the shape of the pearl.
  3. Knots also give the pearls some “swing” especially in opera and rope lengths.
  4. Knots keep pearls from rubbing against each other. Our pearls have knots in-between each pearl with a few exceptions such as rondel pearls and small pearls.
Do not store your pearls in a safe or vault of any kind or a plastic bag. A safe is too dry and the nacre (outer coating of the pearls) could crack. Plastic could also cause your pearls to crack by not allowing your pearls to “breathe.” In addition, plastic gives off a chemical that can ruin the luster of your pearls. Also, do not keep your pearls near a source of heat or sun, which could cause pearls to become brittle. Pearls are 2 to 4% moisture.

The softness of pearls requires that pearls be kept away from other jewelry to keep the nacre from being scratched. Jewelry boxes that allow pearls to come into contact with other jewelry (especially metal jewelry) are hazardous to pearls. Soft pearl bags are perfect for this purpose.

Our skin has oil and acids that help to keep our skin healthy. Pearls should be cleaned occasionally to keep them looking beautiful as they are exposed to our skin. You may clean your pearls with a soft, damp cloth by drawing your pearls through this dampened cloth twice. Check for any stickiness on the pearls and take extra care to wipe this off. When your pearls feel smooth and not sticky, they are clean and ready to be stored. There is no need to dry your pearls since a little moisture is good for them. Place your pearls into a soft fabric bag.

If your pearls are still sticky after using a damp soft cloth, then use a few drops of a shampoo for color treated hair in a cup of water and stir into a foam. Soak your pearls in this solution for ten minutes, and this should remove any excess body oils. Rinse your pearls and set them on a soft towel to dry in the open air of your home. An overnight drying should be good enough to put them back into their pearl bag by morning. Never wear or hang your pearls to dry as this stretches the string if the string is silk. All of our pearls are strung on a synthetic that does not easily rot or stretch.

Although pearls are a mineral composition, they are soft and need special care. Your pearls should never be cleaned in an ultrasonic cleaner, steamed, or cleaned with detergent, bleach, powdered cleansers, baking soda, or cleaners with ammonia. Never use any kind of abrasive on your pearls. To remove a particle of dirt you may use a soft damp cloth or your fingernail since fingernails are about the same degree of hardness as pearls.

Do not wear your pearls while applying perfume, hair sprays, lotions, or cosmetics or touch pearls after applying hand cream. Do not wash dishes, swim, shower or bath while wearing your pearls. Chlorine and soaps can harm your pearls.

The easiest way is to take a necklace or bracelet and gently rub two pearls together. There should be a gritty feeling. With faux or imitation pearls, the pearls will feel slick, like when rubbing plastic together. There are a few exceptions to this rule, as when there is a coating on the pearl such as blister pearls and peacock black, which uses a special solution in its dying process taking away most of the grittiness.
The process used to dye a pearl takes sixty days, and the dye will not come out. The color will last just as long as a pearl that is a natural color such as peach or mauve.
Inserting an irritant into a mollusk or oyster causes the animal to secrete nacre and to form a pearl—a cultured pearl. Nacre is the lustrous substance around an irritant that creates all pearls. Most of our pearls are freshwater cultured pearls—pearls from oysters that live in freshwater. Sea pearls come from oysters that live in seawater instead of fresh water. Sometimes sea pearls are called Cultured, Akoya, or Japanese Pearls. Akoya is a species of oyster.
Freshwater pearls are cultured with a piece of oyster meat, unlike sea pearls that have a manmade bead made of shell used in the culturing process. Therefore, the freshwater pearl is nacre all the way through and a sea pearl will have a shell bead in the middle of its pearl with a thin coating of nacre.

Most freshwater pearls are harvested only after several years of being in an oyster; some as many as eight years. Also, many pieces of meat are inserted with the hope of getting several usable pearls. On the other hand, the sea oyster will tolerate only one manmade shell bead. Shell beads are perfectly round unlike a piece of oyster meat, and so the sea pearl is perfectly round in most cases because the manmade bead is perfect.

While the freshwater oyster may take years to produce a pearl, the sea pearl may be produced in only three growing seasons, which may be as short as six months. And almost any size or shape culturing-bead may be inserted into the seawater oysters. Sea pearls are harvested after being in the oyster for six months to three years. The longer a pearl stays in its host, the thicker the nacre is on the pearl.

The shell bead in a sea pearl has a plastic look. With the freshwater oyster, the meat used to culture a pearl dissolves and, layer after layer and season after season, leaves nothing but nacre. When a freshwater pearl is cut in half each layer can be seen like the rings of a tree.

Pearls are graded by: luster, size, shape, color, flaws, and orient or pearl iridescence. One strand of pearls goes through 52 steps before being purchased by Pearl Fever. Because pearls are organic or nature made, no two pearls are the same and therefore, every strand of pearls is different.
The only natural black pearl is the Tahitian Black pearl. All other black pearls are dyed or irradiated. The smallest size Tahitian pearl is 9mm. The cost of one pearl can be anywhere from $80.00 to $500.00 or more depending on its perfection.