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Why Pearls and Shell Cameos Provide a Natural Touch

Most jewellery is the product of something dug up from the ground, either metal or stone, but pearls and shells show the sea has much to offer too.


All About Pearls


Wouldn’t it be nice to find real pearls from edible oysters? That would be the day when eating edible oysters would bring in not only food for the table but also pearl for jewelry. However, such thing is next to impossible considering that pearls do not grow in edible oysters.


Pearls are produced by mollusks including oysters, mussels and clams. However, mussels and clams rarely produce pearls while oysters commonly produce pearls no matter if they are in freshwater or in the sea.


The idea that pearls are produced from sand intruding into the shell of an oyster is false. Sand is an inorganic material while pearls are formed by organic materials that are caught inside the oyster. As a defense mechanism, the oyster wraps the organic material with a substance called nacre, resulting to what is known as mother of pearl.

Most people believe that pearls should have an imperfect form since they are products of nature. However, there are those that are formed perfectly and these are considered very valuable pearls. Unlike the common belief that pearls are usually white, pearls come in various colors like black, green, red and even blue. Different-colored pearls can be found all over the world but only the South Pacific has produced black pearls.


Not all pearls are natural


Instead of waiting for the natural occurrence of pearls, there are people who culture pearls in the same manner that they are naturally formed. However, the organic irritants are intentionally inserted through a crack in the oyster’s shell. Natural pearls are however more expensive than cultured pearls because of their rarity.


Among the kinds of pearls are cultured pearls either in saltwater or freshwater; South Sea pearls that are produced by the silver lipped oysters are rare pearls that are cultured in Australia and are usually very large; South Sea pearls produced by golden lipped oysters and are cultured in Indonesia and Tahitian pearls or black pearls that are produced by black lipped oysters and are cultured in Cook Islands or in the French Polynesia.


So how can one determine if a pearl is real or an imitation? Real pearls tend to feel sandy when rubbed along the edge of the front teeth while imitation pearls fell smooth.


Aside from the kinds of oyster from which pearls are produced, the quality of pearls is determined according to their luster or shine. Thick nacres that have been left in the water longer are generally shinier. The shape of a pearl is also important and the rounder the pearl, the better. The larger the pearl, the rarer they are and the more expensive.

Pearls are generally used as pieces of jewelry but they are also used in making cosmetics. Powdered pearl that is made from shells and pearls of not so good quality is said to produce paler skin with a natural glow. Pearl cosmetics are actually being exported by many countries including China to the Unites States.


All About Cameos


Cameos are not always natural, although shell and coral are the most common

materials used in them. But even so, there is something about a cameo that it truly captivating. Be it the attention to fine detail, the elegance of the portraits, there is simply nothing quite as beautiful as a cameo, and they never go out of style.


Cameos can be made from variety of materials, such as abalone, wood, bone, coral, ivory, agate, glass, plastic, various shell types, and layered hard stone which comes in a variety of colours.

Moulded cameos are usually made of glass. They usually consist of either one or two colours. Often the colours are swirled together. Glass cameos are usually quite shiny.

Moulded cameos are also moulded from plastic. The Wedgwood style cameos were made from plastic. Plastic makes a terrific imitation shell cameo. Older cameos were often made with celluloid using two colours. Occasionally, but not very often, natural materials are moulded. One way to tell if a cameo is moulded is to look for a roundness in the detail and a lack of sharp and precise lines. To identify glass cameos look for the presence of mold marks and ridges or dimples on the back.


Shell cameos


Shell cameos are carved from a single piece of shell. Shell is soft, so it is very easy to carve. Shell cameos are usually two colours. Shell cameos have a thin concave back, with the exception of abalone and mother of pearl which are usually flat on the back and somewhat thicker. Coral Cameos are usually a single colour, and also have a flat back.


Alternatives to shells


Agate cameos are carved with the same technique that shell cameos are carved. Agate has one main advantage, because the carver is able to see the layers of color from the side and knows that these layers will basically be flat. Stone is much harder to carve. A good hard stone cameo is often under carved at the junction where the portrait meets the flat plaque. At a quick glance stone often looks like an applied cameo, however upon closer examination one can determine it to be stone.


Amber Cameos are rather new to the marketplace. Amber cameos are carved from natural amber with the reverse intaglios being hand carved.


Practice will make it easier to tell molded cameos from carved cameos: Usually natural materials are carved, while glass and plastic materials are normally molded but could be carved though not very likely. Moulded cameos can be two colours by the simple device of pouring one colour into the mold in a thin layer and then following with a thicker layer of another colour.


Cameos and value


If you are buying for value distinguishing the type of cameo could be very important. However, if you are buying because you simply "love" the piece, then determining the type of cameo and the value are not nearly as important. We suggest if you are purchasing a cameo because you want to add it to your jewellery wardrobe then choose what your heart falls for, just be certain you are not overpaying for what you are getting.


So, whether you are going for pearls or cameos, you can look wonderfully stylish while enjoying a great natural item of jewellery.


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