Pearl Jewellery - Its History and Timeless Appeal

Considered the world's oldest gem, pearls have been adored since before written history started. It is said they were first discovered by people foraging for food along the seashore.

Pearl fishing is said to have originated in the Arabian Gulf and Gulf of Mannar. The Australian pearl industry boomed in the mid-nineteenth century in Australia after compressed air diving suddenly gave access to the bountiful pearl oyster beds. Found just off the coast of north-western Australia, these pearl beds allowed Broome to become one of the most important pearling centres in the world.

Australian south sea pearls are highly desirable and are known for their impeccable beauty, quality, nacre, thickness, natural lustre and size. The beauty of an Australian South Sea pearl will last for generations.

How pearls are made

pearl stud earrings

A pearl is formed when a tiny irritant (piece of sand, shell, or a parasite) accidentally lodges in an oyster's soft inner body. This causes the oyster to secrete a crystalline substance called nacre, which forms layer after layer around the irritant, growing in size until a pearl is formed.

Cultured pearls

The world's first cultured pearl was created in 1893 after a tiny irritant was inserted into an oyster to encourage it to form a pearl. This procedure produced a pearl with identical properties to a natural pearl, revolutionising the pearling industry. 

Pearls and fashion

diamonds and pearls perth

In the 1920s, long simple strands of pearl necklaces were highly sought after, reflecting the fashion for streamlined, unfussy designs. These long necklaces, sautoirs, measured more than 30 inches long, featuring a tassel as a pendant.

Coco Chanel was rarely seen without strings of pearls worn around her neck declared, "A woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls". 

Also inextricably linked with pearls, Audrey Hepburn was rarely seen with a pearl necklace or a pair of pearl earrings accentuating her features.

Linneys' range of Australian South Sea and Tahitian pearls and diamond and pearl pieces provide sought-after jewellery items inspired by the West Australian lifestyle. 

Grading pearls

Australian south sea pearls

The quality of a pearl is determined by several criteria, including size, shape, colour, and lustre. There is no universal grading used for pearls however unlike diamonds, their imperfections are easily visible to the naked eye making grading and buying easier. For more information, read our Pearl Buyer's Guide.

From dramatic black Tahitian pearls with their iridescent shimmer to statement baroque pearls, we are seeing a resurgence of appreciation and interest in these miracles of the sea.

Caring for your Pearl Jewellery

Pearls are beautiful and delicate and require some attention to ensure their glow and lustre doesn't diminish. Here are Linneys top pearl jewellery care tips:

  1. Wipe pearls with a soft cloth after wearing them: this removes traces of perfumes, body creams, or perspiration which can build up and the nacre (outer layer), reducing lustre. 
  2. Keep pearl strand necklaces and bracelets lying flat: hanging may cause the silk string connecting the pearls to stretch. If Linneys pearl strands that are worn regularly, it is a good idea to have them checked by Linneys to assess whether they need re-stringing.
  3. Separate your pieces: the delicate nacre can be scratched by metals and other gemstones when stored side by side. Keep them safe in a soft case in your jewellery box. 
  4. Keep them in silk: In rare cases, airtight bags that are used to store pearls for many years without being opened can strip the pearls moisture, causing them to possibly crack. Instead of using an airtight bag, choose a soft cloth or pouch. 

Why choose Linneys for pearl jewellery?

Australian south sea pearls

With more than 40 years of experience, Linneys fine jewellers are renowned as masters in Australian pearl jewellery. Hand-selected for their natural beauty and individual character, each Linneys pearl is of genuine quality, carefully chosen for you.

Contact us today for more information regarding our pearls.