Whether natural or cultured, pearls remain at the heart of jewelry design. Coco Chanel, Jackie O and Elizabeth Taylor: images of women with the most enviable style are conjured up in the mind when you imagine ropes of pearls elegantly draped over an outfit.

Natural pearls are a wonder. They are formed delicately without any human intervention. When a parasite comes into contact with a clam, mussel or oyster, the defensive reaction of the mollusc is to create a fluid to coat the infected area. This coating, called a nacre, is built up over layers and from this a pearl is created.

Looking at a pearl, you can see the iridescent layers that have built up from this process. These layers give the pearl a wonderful texture and contoured shape.

Cultured pearls are created by placing a parasite inside an oyster in the same way as what happens naturally in the sea. The mollusc forms the nacre layers in an act of defence which deposits a pearl.

Used in jewelry since the beginning of antiquity, pearls are timeless. Whether white, pink, grey or even gold, they combine elegance, tradition and perfection.

Pearls are a wonderful piece to buy on the secondary market as for centuries master craftsmen from history through to Art Nouveau to Art Deco have turned to pearls for inspiration.

Check out more from Catawiki here.

More on selling with Catawiki here.

Register here to get bidding on Catawiki.