Golden South Sea pearls are produced by the rare gold-lipped Pinctada maxima oyster. This largest pearl-producing oyster grows up to a foot in diameter at maturity, and can be nucleated with a much larger bead than other saltwater pearl oysters. Golden South Sea pearls can be found in the range of 8 to 20mm, with a median size of 12mm. They have thick nacre layers, acquired through 2 to 3 years of cultivation. The color palette ranges from light champagne to intense 24K golden hues. The deeper golden color is the most coveted and valuable color of all South Sea pearls.
Golden South Sea Pearls
The gold-lipped Pinctada maxima oysters only flourish in tropical and semi-tropical regions called the South Seas where temperatures range from 27 to 31 degrees Celsius. They are mostly farmed in the Philippines, most notably around the islands of Palawan. There you will find farms responsible for majority of the world’s golden pearl production. The Golden South Sea pearl is officially the national gem of the Philippines. Indonesia and Australia also cultivate the gold-lipped shell, but to a much lesser degree.
Aerial view of a section of Palawan Islands in the Philippines.
Golden South Sea pearls are the rarest and the most extraordinary of pearls. Their size and scarcity make these natural-colored gems a true marvel to behold. Pearl shapes range from round, oval, drop, button, and circle to free-from baroque. The baroque shapes are often used in artistic jewelry settings that still allow their natural beauty to be showcased. As all pearls go, the main reason there is a variety of shapes is because they are gems of nature. While cultivating inside the oyster, shells move with the ocean tides and are subject to environmental changes. They are routinely pulled up from their nets for cleaning. All these movement and handling affect how the nacre is being distributed and can take asymmetrical shapes. Farming south sea pearls is a very challenging endeavor thus prices these pearls command can be higher.
Chinese folklore has it that golden pearls bring wealth and prosperity to their owners. They are sometimes depicted inside a dragon’s mouth or clutched at their claws. Metaphorically, the dragon is supposed to bring good fortune to its possessors.