Above: Flame effect of
conch pearl. All conch pearls courtesy of Sunlion Jewelers, Key
What color is it?: Orange to red to yellow to anything
in between as you see above.
What is the story behind
this gemstone?: These
are very, very rare pearls. Unlike their Japanese akoya
cultured pearl counterparts, conch pearls are all
natural. And it takes about 10,000 Queen Conchs to find one conch
pearl. And only about 1 in 100 of those are gem quality as the
one you see above. They are known by the flame structure
that you see in the second photo. And they are very, very rare.
And one more note: Key West, Florida is known as the Conch
Republic. And if you go there be sure to pronounce the
name like "conk" and not "conch."
Not a bar in town will serve you if you don't say it right.
Can I wear it everyday?:
Yes, but with care.
They are like any other natural pearl you might own that is extremely
rare, very expensive, and would be impossible to replace with
one just like it if you wanted to. So use your own judgment.
Is it expensive?: Yes. Consider the numbers of Queen
Conchs that have to get made into conch chowder to get even one
gem quality pearl. Expect to pay dearly for a nice conch pearl
of any size. And if you ever find a matched set for earrings
they will be even more expensive.
Is it a birthstone?: No.
do I need to know before going shopping?:
First, don't expect
to find these pearls in the local Zales Jewelers in Racine, WI.
They probably won't know what you are talking about (unless you
turn them on to YourGemologist.com) There are only two places
that I can tell you to find conch pearls: Key West and the Caribbean.
And always look for the flame structure as outlined
above. This is classic and diagnostic for conch pearls
and will be the only gem on earth to show this effect.
Another look at conch pearl flame
structure up close
Source: Queen Conch living in Florida Straits,
Bahamian and Caribbean Seas.
Chemical: Concretion of conchiolin
Crystal System: None
Unusual Properties: Flame structure shown above
Look for the flame structure
as shown above. No imitations and no synthetics can touch this
feature. This flame structure should be diagnostic for conch
pearls to the experienced gemologist.