Lois Berger, G.G., NJA, appraiser for Fuller & Associates in McLean, Va., made the discovery at the Tucson gem shows while buying a strand of Chinese freshwater cultured faceted button pearls. There it was, a broken pearl in the middle of the strand, half of it missing, the other half still strung and revealing the proof of what Berger and two gem authors, Fred Ward, and Antoinette Matlins, have predicted-pearl-nucleated pearls!
”I couldn’t believe it,” says Berger. ”I wanted to buy the strand just for the broken pearl. It’s proof that they’re pearl-nucleating pearls.” Berger showed the pearl to a small number of show-goers and pearl suppliers, and only one supplier thought her find might not be a pearl-nucleated pearl. ”Looks like a pearl inside a pearl to me,” says Berger.
What does all this mean for Chinese freshwater pearls? Maybe not much, says Ward. The Chinese are using anything that works to nucleate pearls. Using older pearls just speeds along the process. Berger’s broken example, however, may indicate that pearl-nucleated pearls are not as durable as mantle-tissue-nucleated pearls. The question is, who can tell? In the most recent study of Chinese freshwater cultured pearl nucleation, GIA and AGTA labs X-rayed over 40,000 pearls and found none to be pearl-nucleated.