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Pearl Types
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Despite all the work involved in assembling mabe pearls, they are relatively inexpensive for their large size. This is partly because several can be grown in one oyster and because they are grown in oysters that have rejected a whole nucleus or that are judged unsuitable for producing whole pearls. Also, any type of half pearl will cost far less than if it were whole, no matter what type of oyster it is grown in.

Most large mabe assembled pearls come from the silver-lip or black-lip oysters, but technically the term "mabe" should only refer to pearls cultivated in mabe oysters (Pteria penguin). The true mabe-oyster pearls are known for having a better luster, color and iridescence than pearls cultured in other oysters and are, consequently, more valuable. Most of those harvested are '/z or 3/a blister pearls. If a salesperson claims that the jewelry you are buying is made with a mabe-oyster pearl, have him or her write this on the receipt. It's helpful for insurance and appraisal purposes. Information on the cultur­ing of mabe oysters can be found in a write-up by Morimitsu Muramatsu in Pearls of the World.

"Mabe Blister Pearls":  An informal term used by some Pearls" dealers to designate mabe pearls with a rim, making them resemble a fried egg. The term "blister mabe" is also used. Technically, though, all assem­bled mabe pearls originate as blister pearls and after they are assembled, they are mabe pearls with a rim.

"Rainbow pearls":  A trade name for pearls from the Western winged (rainbow-lipped) pearl oyster (Pteria sterna), which is noted for its high luster and rainbow-like colors. This oyster ranges naturally off the eastern Pacific Coast from California to Peru. Some are cultivated as mabe and whole pearls near Guaymas, Mexico.

"Rainbow pearls, "  which are generically called "black pearls, " are found in a variety of colors: lavender, pink, red, blue, green, purple, silver, gold, black and brown with varying shades and combinations. It's not unusual to see three or four color variations on one pearl. Whole cultured rainbow pearls range from 7 to about 12 mm in diameter and have a good nacre thickness. Their natural counterparts are found in sizes from seed to 30-carat pearls and range in price from $100 per carat to $2000 per carat wholesale. Cultured rainbow pearls cost less, with mabes being the least expensive.

Seed Pearls:  Small, natural pearls which measure about two millimeters or less. They usually weigh less than 0.06 carat.
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