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Natural pearls are formed when an irritant finds its way into an oyster or mussel without any human intervention. Cultured pearls are formed in much the same way, except that a specialist will inject the oyster with tiny seeds of glass, sand, or mother-of-pearl. To protect itself, the oyster begins to cover the irritant with a protective surface, called nacre. This nacre has a unique natural luster, and varying colors. The longer the pearl is in the oyster, the thicker the nacre.

In the jewelry industry today, "natural pearls" mean pearls that grow in oysters or mussels without human intervention. They are made of almost 100% nacre. "Cultured pearls" refer to pearls that are farmed in sea water from a marine oyster. Pearls farmed in fresh water are called either "freshwater pearls" or "cultured freshwater pearls" and come from a mussel that lives in fresh water.

Because natural pearls are rare and seldom evenly shaped, they are expensive. Cultured pearls are much the same as natural pearls, but can be produced in large numbers, so they are less expensive. The one drawback to pearls is that, because they are made of a natural, organic substance, they are relatively soft. This is why traditionally they are strung with a small knot between each pearl. This keeps the pearls from rubbing against each other. It also means that if the string breaks, you don't have very many loose pearls.

People have been manufacturing substitutes for real pearls for at least the last 500 years. Of all the types of imitation pearls, glass base pearls have the highest quality. They can also be easily made in uniform shapes and a variety of colors.

We tell you in the description of each piece of jewelry exactly what it is made of, and whether the pearls have been dyed or manufactured. We use mostly freshwater and glass pearls in our jewelry.

If you have a question about a particular piece of pearl jewelry on our site, please e-mail us at

Or you can mail us at:

The Bored Bard
147 Hall St.
Tiffin, OH 44883

Last updated December 2007