A pearl is an ‘organic’ gem.  Pearls are formed when a grain of sand or ‘irritant’ is present in a mollusc.  A natural pearl is formed by chance when an irritant, which becomes the nucleus, accidentally embeds itself into an oyster or mussel; deposits of ‘nacre’, a pearly substance, are secreted, layer after layer, creating a pearl.  A ‘cultured’ pearl is formed in exactly the same manner, however the irritant is intentionally introduced by man into the host oyster for cultured saltwater pearls and mussel for freshwater pearls.

The higher cost of seawater cultured pearls when compared with freshwater cultured pearls, is partly based on higher production costs and risks, and high oyster mortality rates. Higher pricing of seawater pearls also reflects the fact that an oyster can produce only one or two pearls at a time, whereas a freshwater mussel can produce an  abundant crop. For many years, freshwater pearl farms only produced low quality ‘rice’ pearls, while seawater pearls, were more round and of better quality. However, many improvements during the last ten years in the cultivation and processing techniques of freshwater pearls have advanced the freshwater industry to produce pearls of excellent comparable quality. 

Few natural pearls are found today, making those that are, extremely rare with exceptionally high prices. Natural and cultured pearls can appear identical, only an x-ray will reveal the natural pearl which will have a thicker nacre.

There are many factors that govern the grading of Pearls; size, shape, surface, lustre and colour are some of the main features.

Natural South Seas Pearls


Pearls are measured in millimetres and seed pearls can measure a few millimetres while South Sea Pearls can reach 20 millimetres.  Generally, a larger pearl, where all other considerations are similar, will be more valuable than a smaller one.

Baroque Pearls


You may be surprised to learn that very few pearls are completely spherically round.  Pearls are divided into eight recognised shapes – round, drop, button, oval, semi-round, circle, baroque and semi-baroque (irregular).  Some of the more irregular shapes can be very interesting and unique, making beautiful necklaces.


As pearls are a product of nature, few are found without surface blemishes. Pearls with perfect surface are very hard to find.  The fewer the imperfections, the higher the value.


The ‘glow or shine’ of pearls is referred to as ‘lustre’ and emanates from deep within the nacre; some consider lustre the most important quality feature.  It is the radiant light that beams off the surface of the pearl.  High lustre pearls usually have a thick ‘nacre’ coating.  The iridescence that some pearls display is caused by the overlapping of successive layers of nacre.

Black Lip Oyster Shell With Black Pearl


Pearls come in a wide variety of colours.  Natural colours range from white, cream, pinks, lilac, silver and gold shades to purple and black.  It is acceptable that some pearls are dyed for fashionable purposes.  Colour is a personal choice.

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My wife and I purchased a lovely bespoke entwined engagement & wedding ring from Michael Platt, 28 years ago. We visited in February this year to enquire about an eternity ring. Jordan was inspirational and used diamonds from a family heirloom. The design full complemented and sits beautifully with the original rings. It was a very pleasurable experience and we are both delighted with the result. Fantastic to know they are still offering great service and bespoke design.

Robert Vose

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Brilliant personal service every step of the way. I wanted a diamond engagement ring and was able to easily discuss different stones and design options with Grace sending sketches back and forth. I decided on an emerald cut stone with a platinum ring. Communication was excellent and the ring delivered on time and discreetly to an agreed address. I proposed by Lake Windermere having hidden the ring in the sandwich tin. A beautiful ring - my partner loves it!

Alex Boyce

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I cannot recommend Michael Platt more highly to anyone looking for an engagement ring. I walked in knowing nothing about what was involved and was expertly guided through the design process by Jordan over a series of 4 visits. At no point did I feel pressurised to make a decision or spend more than felt comfortable and Jordan has created the most stunning ring that my fiancé is delighted with.

George Lenon
East London

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The service we have received here has been second to none. We first came to the shop a few years ago and had my engagement ring designed and created. It really is incredible what they do. The design was perfect to me and my style and the final product exceeded our expectations. So much so we finally came back recently and had both wedding rings made. Thanks again to the members of staff at Michael Platt you really are a fabulous bunch and make dreams come true!

Hannah Kennedy

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I have had several pieces designed by the lovely staff at Michael Platt in Wimbledon. The pieces have been much admired. My first visit was several years ago so when I wanted something designed and made with stones from other pieces of jewellery which were very sentimental I had absolutely no hesitation about bringing the project to the shop in Wimbledon. The staff are so helpful, warm, welcoming and informative. Great service and a delight to do business with. I have never been disappointed.

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New York

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