(In this story there may be some words which you don't know. Please look at the end of this note - it has all the vocabulary).
Yesterday afternoon we visited the biggest shop of the Tenerife Pearl chain (near the little town of Armeñime, Tenerife, Canary Islands), and it was an utterly fascinating experience.
We saw pearls from all over the world. We saw amazingly beautiful necklaces, earrings and rings, with prices ranging from 20 to 20,000 euros. And we had a free "all-about-pearls-in-forty-minutes" lecture, which was no less fascinating than the pearls themselves.
Now, take a look at these questions and try to answer:
1) Where do the best pearls come from?
2) What is the difference between these three kinds of pearls: a natural pearl (i.e. found in the sea), a cultivated pearl and an artificial pearl?
3) How much do different kinds of pearls cost?
4) And, of course a practical question: how to tell a real pearl from an artificial one?
Okay, here are the answers.
The best pearls come from Australia (the biggest ones - up to 21 mm), Tahiti and French Polynesia (the most exotic colours, including black) and Japan (the shiniest). Freshwater pearls are less hard and deep in colour, but they have a bigger variety of colours. They are all sea pearls. You can also get freshwater pearls. They are much cheaper than sea pearls, but just as beautiful.
A natural pearl is a pearl which you get like this: you dive, find a shell, open it and - voila! a pearl. Such pearls can cost several million dollars (yes!) a piece.
A cultivated pearl is exactly the same as a natural pearl. Technically, it is also perfectly natural. These pearls are grown inside thousands and thousands of oysters who live in special cages. To grow a pearl you need to open the pearl oyster slightly (for no more than 20 seconds, or the oyster will die!), and insert a tiny grain of sand. This grain later becomes the pearl. One such pearl costs from several cents to several hundred euros, depending on the size and quality.
An artificial pearl is just a glass ball covered in nacre. Such pearls may look nice, but an experienced eye will tell the difference immediately. Artificial pearls are very cheap: you can make a big necklace costing just ten euros.
You can tell the difference between a real and artificial pearl by 1) looking at them closely, 2) touching them and 3) rubbing the pearls against each other.
1) If you look at the pearls, even the best ones have small flaws. Artificial ones look perfect.
2) If you touch a necklace of real pearls, it's as cold as stone. Artificial pearls are warmer.
3) If you rub real pearls against each other, you can feel that they are a little rough. If you rub artificial pearls against each other, they will rub perfectly smoothly, as if there is oil on them.
The day before visiting the Tenerife Pearl shop, we had gone to a famous pearl shop Majorica (you can find these shops in Moscow, too) and bought a necklace as a gift for our friend. The necklace wasn't cheap and looked really beautiful. The shop assistant had told us those pearls were natural. After the visit to Tenerife Pearl, the first thing I did when I came back to my hotel room, was inspecting the necklace and figuring out if it was fake or real. The pearls were warm to touch, perfectly round and they rubbed against each other very smoothly. The Majorica necklace was made of fake pearls. 130 euros down the drain.
PS - On my Facebook page I've posted the photos of real and artificial pearls, which we bought in Tenerife. You may look here: http://facebook.com/brejestovski
pearls - жемчужины
utterly fascinating - absolutely amazing
necklace - ожерелье
earrings - серьги
cultivated - выращенный
artificial - искусственный
shiniest - самые блестящие (от shiny)
dive - нырять
shell - раковина
oyster - устрица; здесь - раковина
cage - клетка
slightly - легко
insert - вставить
grain of sand - песчинка
depending on - в зависимости от
nacre /neike/- перламутр
experienced - опытный
tell the difference - отличить
immediately - немедленно
look closely - пристально смотреть
rubbing the pearls against each other - потерев жемчужины друг об друга
flaws /flo:z/- недостатки
rough /raf/ - шероховатый
smoothly - гладко
as if - как будто
gift - подарок
shop assistant - продавец
figure out - определить
fake - подделка
down the drain - коту под хвост (буквально: вниз в канализацию)