South Sea Pearls
South Sea pearls are regarded as the crème de la crème of sea pearls and are famous for their large size, striking colours and stunning lustre.
South Sea pearls are cultured in the Pinctada maxima saltwater oyster, of which there are two types: the silver-lipped and the gold-lipped oyster. It is generally the colour of the oyster lip that determines the natural colour of the pearl produced. Silver-lipped oysters typically produce the whites and creamy South Sea pearls and the gold-lipped oyster produces shades of gold, champagne, pink and other warm-based hues.
The oysters are native to the warm, tropical waters of the South Seas which lie between the northern coast of Australia and the southern coast of China. The oysters are primarily harvested in Northern Australia, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines.
Each oyster can be nucleated one at a time and typically when the oyster is half developed (from 4.7 inches to 6.7 inches in size, or about 24 months old). Although the South Sea oyster will only handle one nucleus at a time, this oyster (like the Tahitian pearl producing Pinctada margaritifera) can be nucleated up to three times over the course of its life.
What makes South Sea pearls so special?
South Sea pearls typically start at 8-9mm in size and can be cultivated as large as 21mm with their average size approx 10-15mm. South Sea pearl nacre is unusually thick (approx. 2-6mm thick).
South Sea pearls have a unique, satiny lustre that is derived from the rapidly deposited nacre and as a result of the warm waters of the South Seas. Their colours are subtle but are rare in other pearl types.
The Australian White South Sea pearls are acknowledged as possessing the finest qualities with the brightest natural white and silver colours; however, the most coveted Golden South Sea pearls feature a deep gold colour similar to 24karat gold and are extremely rare.