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A Guide to the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines on Selling Pearls

Pearl -- This is acceptable only for natural pearls or pearls that have been formed by the invasion of tiny organisms in a mollusk without human intervention. Very few natural pearls are still produced, though they are often found in estate jewelry.

Cultured pearl -- Acceptable for almost all saltwater and freshwater pearls. Shell beads are inserted as nuclei and cause mollusks to secrete nacre, which forms in layers over the beads. The nacre is a fraction of a millimeter thick; the rest is simply a mother-of-pearl bead.

Imitation pearl -- Refers to a manufactured product that simulates a pearl or cultured pearl. The product can be called an artificial pearl, imitation pearl or simulated pearl. Terms that are not acceptable: pearl, natural pearl, cultured pearl, cultivated pearl, cultured-like, premature cultured pearl, organic (unless distinguished from a natural or cultured pearl), real pearl, genuine pearl, precious pearl, faux pearl, fashion pearl or synthetic pearl.

Seed pearl -- Refers to a pearl, natural, cultured or imitation, measuring 2 millimeters or less. Use "cultured" and "imitation" as appropriate. If the pearl is cultured, the word "cultured" must be used with the geographical description.

Places of origin -- The terms Oriental (from the Persian Gulf), Biwa (from the freshwater lakes and rivers of Japan), South Sea (from mollusks in Australia and the South Pacific islands) and Tahitian (from French Polynesia and the Cook Islands) may be used in the names of pearls and cultured pearls only if the pearls come from these areas. For example, "Biwa" was used inappropriately for similar types of pearls that came from China.

Pearl Glossary

Akoya -- a Japanese oyster for producing seawater cultured pearls.

Baroque -- an irregularly shaped cultured pearl. Can be further classified as semi baroque or fishtail baroque (or heavy), depending on the degree of formation.

Black-lip -- name for the oysters that produce Tahitian Black Group of pearls among South Sea Pearls.

Choker -- 14-or 16-inch necklace of which the pearls are nearly uniform in size.

Cultured -- formation of pearl has started by inserting living mantle tissue into a mother oyster or mussel, with or without a bead.

Keshi -- naturally formed small pearl found in oysters or mollusks suitable for producing cultured pearls; also called "poppy" or "seed" pearl.

Mabe -- a type of host oyster inhabiting the Japanese coast and Southeast Asia for producing "half pearl" or hemispherical pearls.

Matinee -- 22-inch long uniform pearl necklace.

Mother-of-pearl -- inside of shell of certain oysters and mollusks.

Opera -- 30-inch long uniform pearl necklace

South Sea pearl -- a collective name for the pearls which are produced by families of large oysters, pinctada maxima and pinctada margaritifera.


IN THE NAME OF THE PEARL Watch your language when selling pearls or you may trip on FTC guidelines

Dyed or Irradiated Cultured Pearls