Like every month my copy of the Contrast newspaper of the Duplex Group arrived, and I thought it was interesting to share this article about Cultured pearls, the fashion of the 20th century.
Where, as you can see, he clarifies and explains in a simple way all this curious process about the cultivation of Japanese pearls and its relationship with fashion.
Cultured pearls, the fashion of the 20th century
As Christian Dior once said, “with a black pullover and a necklace with ten strands of pearls, Coco Chanel revolutionized fashion.”
So it was. And not only the fashion of clothing, for our benefit it also revolutionized fashion in jewelry, until that moment almost exclusive patrimony of the aristocracy and large family events, and since then much more popular, although there are two world wars in between. it could reach its full popularity until the middle of the century. Fashion with the color black, sometimes with white trim, and cultured pearls, is the image that does not come to mind when we remember Coco Chanel.
Until the beginning of the last century, pearls were a luxury available to few, not even all those belonging to the small group that used to wear jewels. It is in 1920 when pearls grown in Japan by our friends acquaintances last month hatch the western market. Europe and North America enthusiastically welcome these marvelous spheres with a dazzling pearlescent sheen and which had hitherto been banned from them. At the end of the decade, Coco Chanel, wearing them personally, introduced them to the world of fashion.
Two decades had already passed since that patent registration mess we talked about. Two decades of research and various experiments to get to grow pearls in large quantities, so that the oysters do not die in the process, to get cultured pearls of greater diameter and with a better orientation, in short, to reach the market with a material of quality.
It is time for someone to tell me “a lot of fashion, a lot of fashion but … How are pearls grown?”
I will tell you the process briefly and simply.
In Japan, the entire study was done around an oyster there called akoya and hence the name these pearls received, akoya cultured pearls. Adult specimens of this oyster were prepared and a small operation was carried out in the laboratory. After carefully opening the valves, a small incision is made in the stomach cavity and in that place the nucleus of nacre is placed, spherical in shape, and next to it a small portion, about a square millimeter, of the epithelium (skin that separates the mollusk from the shell) of the oyster, so that as an irritant a pearl sac is created around this nucleus and secretes concentric layers of mother-of-pearl formed by micro crystals of aragonite and an organic substance called conchiolin. After introducing the nucleus, the oysters are placed in a kind of cages that will allow to control the cultivation, the external cleaning of the oysters and the control of diseases or the possible death of any of them. These cages are then placed in the sea hanging from buoys in an area of calm, clean waters and are a medium temperature. For approximately two years, with all the control, cleaning and care processes to which the oysters are subjected in the cultivation farms, the layers of mother-of-pearl are covering the nucleus and forming what will later be the protagonist of our jewel, the cultivated pearl.