Once a pearl has been harvested it still has to go through several stages before it can be worn as a necklace or set into a piece of jewellery.
When a pearl is removed form the shell it has to be cleaned up, in much the same way as a newborn baby.
A mild bleaching process is used to clean the surface skin and remove any residues. They then undergo a light polishing using crushed walnut shell to “buff up” their inherent lustre.
From here they have to be sorted in sizes and qualities. Sieves are often used to sort for size but quality grading is done by hand and eye. This is a very labour intensive job as pearls can have many nuances of tone and finish.
The next stage is to bore a hole either part way or full through the pearl depending on the processors final intension for the batch; fully drilled for making into strands, or part drilled for setting into jewellery.
Poor quality, misaligned drilling will reduce the value of even a fine pearl, so care still has to be taken at this stage. A technician only has one chance to get it right.
This is with the exception of South sea pearls which are generally left undrilled until the after they are sold by lots.
Prior to the assembly of a strand, the pre-graded pearls must be divided into exact matching lots of sufficient quantity to complete rows of the standard length of 16 inches (41cms).
The exception being that of graduated rows where the pearls must be sorted from lots of different sizes.
To create a finished or temporarily finished necklace, the pearls have to be threaded by hand using silk thread. The secret here when finishing the necklace with a clasp is to maintain the correct tension allowing the Pearls to sit correctly when complete.
As well as adding length, removes the risk of losing all but one pearl should the row break.
Estimating the length and fall of a multi-row necklace is a skilled job as no two necks are the same.