The Complete Pearl Guide

Table of Contents

  1. Pearl Consumer Information
  2. Pearl References in Antique Gemological Books

Pearl Consumer Information

As provided and validated by various gemmological organizations, laboratories and the "World Jewelry Confederation CIBJO"


Most collectible are perfectly round pearls and exceptional natural pearls such as melo melo, conch and horse conch pearls with perfect shape and intense colors .


Color: bleaching, deying. Tinting: a treatment which causes a subtle change in colour and/or appearance
Luster: oiling, waxing. Lustre enhancement: Any treatment or process applied to enhance the lustre of a natural or cultured pearl
Luster: working: significantly remove layers of nacreous or non-nacreous material from a pearl, usually to remove blemishes and/or to reshape a pearl, especially blister pearls
Other: filling, irradiation


White, grey, orange, black, brown
Pearl Types:
Natural pearls form accidentally in the interior of molluscs without interference from man. Most pearls for sale at present are cultured but auctions often still sell jewelry with natural pearls
Special types: Melo melo, Conch, Horse
Cultured: with human intervention which should only stimulate the mollusc to produce a pearl formation and the substance formed should only be that normally produced by the mollusc
Freshwater pearls are mostly cultured and in particular China is a large supplier of them


A perfectly round cultured pearl is worth the highest value. However, a beautiful symmetrical drop shape is also highly valued.
Shape is divided into the following:
round, semi-round,
oval, drop,
semi-baroque, baroque

Pearl References in Antique Gemological Books

The Most Important Literature on Pearls

George Frederick Kunz: the Book of the Pearl covers all topics on Pearls, from creation, farming, artificial, cultured etc. Still the major standard work of Pearls.
The second MUST READ on Pearls is Edwin Streeter who manned, sailed a vessel himself to dive for pearls. Catelle also wrote a classic on Pearls.
Other works dedicating a chapter on Pearls written by famous gemologists of the time: Oliver Farrington on Pearls and Louis Feuchtwanger treatise on Pearls.

19th Century Best Practices

Drilling, boring, imitation Pearls and more
How to valuate Pearls
Method of computing value of Pearls in Madras
Overview Pearl Values 1750-1900

Pearls – References before 1700

Greek Philosospher (pupil of Aristotle) Theophrastus on Pearls and modern commentary
10th century Persian Scientist Al-Biruni on Pearls
Albertus Magnus
Tavernier’s Pearls (Moguls, French Emperor and Pearl origins)
First systematic work (Nicols) on Pearls (1652)
Chapuzeau (1600’s) on Pearls

Pearl Farming | Fishing | Divin

Ceylon Pearl Fisheries More on Ceylon Pearl Fishing
Persian Gulf and Red Sea Pearls
American Pearls (sweetwater and salt)
Sweetwater Pearls

Famous and Exclusive Pearls

Tavernier’s sale of the largest pearls in the world to the emperor and George Frederick Kunz discussion on Tavernier Pearls
List of Famous Pearls and their weight
Famous Pearls in Chronological Order:

The Servilia Pearl
Cleopatra’s Pearls and more on Cleopatra’s Pearls
Lollia Paulina Pearls
Pliny and Sassanian Pearl
Peroz Pearl

1500 — 1800
The Gresham Pearl
Tarequi and Oviedo Pearl
Temple of Talomeco
La Peregrina also called La Pelegrina (read this 10 page story by Orpen), Kunz on Peregrina
and not to be confused with La Pellegrina, Kunz on Pellegrina
Tarequi and Oviedo Pearl
Temple of Talomeco
Charles the Bold
Charles II Pearl
Pearls of Mary Stuart
Queen Elizabeth Pearls and Gresham Pearl
Rudolph II Pearls
Charles I Pearl
Youssoupoff Pearl also called La Reine des Perls
The Shall Pearls
The Aurungzeb Pearl
Conway Pearl
Arabian Pearl

Later than 1800
Shah of Persia’s Pearls
Pearls of the Gaikwar of Baroda
The Hope Pearl, Kunz on Hope Pearl
Russian Pearl
Paris Pearls
Peking Summer Palace in 1860
Gogibus Pearl and La Regente
Moscow Pearl
Van Buren Pearls
Tiffany Queen Pearl and Bapst Pearls
The “Southen Cross”
Morgan-Tiffany Collection and Count Batthyani’s Pearl
Crown Jewels of France
Imperial Austrian Schatzkammer
Important Auction Pearl Sales
More famous Pearls

Pearl Mythology, Medicine and Talismans

Pearls as Celestial Dew, Oyster Eggs… what else?

Further Pearl Reading

History of the Pearl in Antiquity (C. King)
Shakespeare and Pearls, reflecting its great popularity in the 16th and 17th century

“Freshwater Pearls” in Antique Pearl Necklaces

Where do they come from ?
Mississippi. Read George Frederick Kunz’s overview.
Catelle writes about the value and appreciation of Freshwater Pearls in the 19th century