Here are some classically encountered FAQs on jewellery and pearls.
Why is gold so expensive?
It’s all to do with rarity and to some extent, the demand for it across the world at a given time.
Gold has certain unique characteristics including the fact that it doesn’t tarnish. That means it’s in huge demand for jewellery, the medical profession, science and technology – to name just a few.
To give some indication of scarcity, all (or virtually all) of the gold ever mined in human history is still in existence, having been endlessly re-cycled. There’s a fair chance that if you have a modern gold necklace that some of the gold in it was mined by the Romans 2,000 years ago!
Now if you gathered every scrap of gold ever mined over thousands of years together in one place, it would only cover a tennis court and go up about 10m (30 feet) tall.
It’s not a lot! So, that’s why it’s so expensive per gram / ounce.
What are natural versus synthetic pearls?
This is something that regularly causes confusion due to some imprecise use of terminology.
Pearls can be formed by a natural process in a mollusc, which occurred by chance or they can be formed naturally in a mollusc by a process that is initiated by humans. In both cases, the mollusc produces a covering over a piece of grit or other irritation, in order to protect itself.
The resulting mass is called a pearl.
The correct term for a randomly occurring pearl is usually considered to be “natural pearl“. The term for a pearl created by human intervention is “cultivated pearl“.
An estimated 99% of true pearls in the world today are cultivated.
By contrast, “pearl-like” masses are created today via a wide variety of industrial and scientific processes that do not involve molluscs at all. These may be any one of numerous different artificial materials.
While some of them may be very attractive, they should be described as “synthetic pearls” and most experts wouldn’t consider them to be pearls any more than a synthetic diamond would be regarded by a jeweller as a diamond.
A top-class provider of pearl jewellery will always be happy to clarify further.
Can you use pearls in gold or silver jewellery?
Due to the high cost of pearls (excluding synthetics) they are perhaps more commonly found in gold as opposed to silver fittings. On some older pieces the reverse might be true because at times in the past, silver was more valuable than gold!
Why don’t I see 24k gold jewellery?
Actually, there may be special cases where you can but typically pure gold (i.e. 24K) is too soft and malleable to be of practical use in jewellery. A metal that is a little harder wearing is usually advisable and that’s why pure gold is taken down in purity terms by mixing it with other harder metals to create a more durable end product.
18 karat gold is often called “750 grade”, meaning 750 parts per 1000 are pure gold. To put it another way, 75% of the item is pure gold.
As the carat or grade level diminishes, the purity does likewise. Typically the lower the karat of gold, the lower the cost of the item will be if all other things are equal.