The world of pearls comes with its very own highly specific language, so here’s a quick guide to understanding some of the technical terms used.
- Bivalve: Used in the pearl industry to describe either a mussel (freshwater) or an oyster (saltwater).
- Baroque: An asymmetrical pearl shape that is non-spherical and imperfect. Baroque pearls can range from slight aberrations to being highly irregular in shape.
- Keshi: The Japanese word for poppy, Keshi pearls are a unique byproduct of the culturing process. A Keshi pearl is typically defined as a “seedless” pearl, meaning that there is no nucleus.
- Maeshori: The Japanese word for a pre-treatment process that is extensively used for Akoya pearls, where surface impurities are removed and luster is enhanced.
- MOP (Mother-of-Pearl): The host shell of a pearl, which is typically used for craftwork and ornaments.
- Mabe: The Japanese term for a pearl that is hemispherical, usually grown on the inside of the shell mantle.
- Nucleus: The minute spherical ball (usually made of organic shell matter) that is implanted by the pearl farmer in order to create a cultured pearl.
- Luster: The amount of light reflected by a pearl. The higher the luster, the greater the pearl shines back. When paired with a clean surface, the optical effect of luster is further enhanced and a sharp mirror-like appearance is visible.
- Nacre: The “pearly substance” naturally produced by a bivalve. Nacre is a liquid crystal structure that slowly coats the nucleus layer-by-layer to create a pearl.
- Cultured Pearl: Any pearl that is created intentionally by man, typically through a pearl farmer’s intentional intervention.
- Hatchery: A section of the pearl farm dedicated to breeding oysters, typically on-shore. The hatchery is critical to sustainably managing oyster populations.
- Collar: Typically a necklace of 16 inches that is worn tight around the neck. It is sometimes referred to as a choker.
- Classic: Necklace of 18 inches or more.
- Double: Typically a necklace of 32-36 inches, which can be worn without a clasp.
- Rope: Necklace of 48 inches or more.