A cultured pearl is a pearl that has grown under the influence of human intervention. Unlike precious stones or metals that are extracted from the earth, pearls are created by oysters in the depths of the sea. Precious stones must be polished before they show their beauty. Pearls, however, do not need such treatments to reveal their charm.
A Natural Pearl begins its life when a foreign object, such as a parasite or a particle of sand, accidentally lodges in the soft body of the oyster. Later on, in an effort to alleviate this discomfort, the body of the oyster initiates a defensive action. To protect itself, the oyster begins to secrete a substance and at the same time surrounds the irritating object. This substance is called nacre.
While the foreign object remains inside the body of the oyster, it still continues to segregate layer after layer of nacre around the object. After several years, the irritating object is completely enclosed with this silky crystalline layer. The result is the precious and brilliant gem called pearl.
Due to the scarcity of natural pearls, cultured pearls have become quite popular. By inserting a foreign object into a mollusk, pearl growers can induce the creation of a pearl. Today, almost all pearls which are used in jewelry are cultured pearls.
It is important to point out that cultured pearls are not synthetic pearls. The only difference between cultured pearls and natural pearls is that cultured pearls are grown in oyster farms by a human that induces the creation.
Cultured pearls can be distinguished from natural pearls by using x-rays, which reveal the inner part of the pearl.