How to buy pearls
A pearl buying guide
Pearls have long been established as a symbol of elegance, innocence and romance, bearing a breathtaking and dreamlike quality. Wearing them as jewelry gives pearl earrings, bracelets, rings and necklaces an heirloom feature, bound to spruce up any outfit and fit any occasion.
>> Consider who will wear the pearls
Whether you are looking for a gift for someone else or shopping for yourself, you will have various types of pearls to choose from. One of the most favored benefits is that you can choose the colors and styles, such as pearl heart pendants, most suited to the recipient. This factor makes it easier to choose jewelry for special events, such as engagements, weddings and anniversaries.
Another consideration is whether you will wear it regularly or only for special occasions. Whatever the occasion, you can confidently shop for pearls knowing that you will find one or several to add some glamour and significance to any outfit.
>> Consider the type of pearl
There are two main types of cultured pearls: freshwater and saltwater. Both types are special and beautiful in their own way, and offer many jewelry options. Saltwater Akoya pearls:
Akoya pearls are considered to be the original cultured pearl. Farmed off the coast of Japan and China, Akoya pearls are naturally round and unblemished, and measure 2 to 10 mm in diameter, with an average of 6 to 7 mm. They are the most durable of all types of pearls. Freshwater pearls:
Freshwater pearls are cultivated in lakes and rivers. They measure 2 to 13 mm, with an average of 6 to 7 mm. Some jewelers dye them in different colors, with black pearls having a rainbow-like quality, a unique freshwater pearl feature. These pearls have the same beauty as saltwater pearls, and are often more affordable. South Sea pearls:
South Sea pearls are cultivated in the waters between Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines and China, and are considered the largest of the world's cultured pearls. South Sea pearls are white, cream or gold and measure 10 to 20 mm in diameter with an average of 13 mm. Tahitian pearls:
Tahitian pearls are cultivated all over French Polynesia, and are black with peacock green hues. Tahitian pearls measure 6 to 16 mm in diameter.
>> Consider the features
When deciding how to buy a pearl necklace, there are several styles to consider:
If you prefer a layered look, the best pearls to buy will have a Bib or Collar design. This Bib design offers a necklace consisting of varying lengths from 10" to 13", allowing it to elegantly rest around your neck or on your chest. Collar and choker pearl necklaces are preferable if you are wearing something dressy or if you're attending a special event.
For another classic look, consider the Princess design. When it comes to pearl uses, the Princess necklace is seen as a versatile piece of jewelry because you can wear it with just about any outfit. This necklace style measures 17" to 19."
You can wear the Matinee or Opera designs for formal and semi-formal wear as they pair well with both suits and dresses. The Matinee length ranges between 20" to 24." The Opera necklace, ranges from 30" to 36", and falls slightly below the bust line and can be doubled over for a layered look or knotted for less formal and daytime wear. If you are wearing dark colors, consider these two pearl designs. The multiple-strand design will be most flattering on a bare neck with a minimalist gown.
The Rope necklace is the longest of all necklace designs and measures 36" and more. It is also customarily versatile and can be doubled or knotted to decrease its length. This design is mostly associated with the flapper trend of the 1920s -1930s, and would make a great accessory for any costume parties you attend.
Due to their incredible versatility and countless styling possibilities, you can rest assured that your pearl jewelry sets will complement your whole wardrobe.
>> Consider the quality
A pearl's luster is, perhaps, its most important feature and should be your primary consideration when determining how to buy pearls. Luster refers to the sharpness and clarity of reflections on the pearl's exterior. The more reflective a pearl's surface is, the better its quality.
Like all gems, pearls also come with marks or scratches. Pearls with the fewest possible blemishes are considered to be higher end pearls. You should also consider the nacre quality of the gem. Nacre refers to the mother-of-pearl nucleus that makes up the pearl. A thick nacre means that the pearl is of high quality.
>> Consider matching
Other considerations when figuring out how to buy pearls is finding a set that offers consistency in color, size, shape and finish. Well-matched pearl designs will have a more attractive appearance and will flatter your skin tone and outfit.
>> Consider the pearl grades
Pearl grading considers the shape, luster, surface quality, nacre thickness and similarity of pearls and designates a grade within the following categories: AAA, AA, A and B. To assess a pearl's grade, place your piece of jewelry on a light cloth in natural daylight. You will notice that AAA pearls are perfectly matched and have a high luster, AA have a medium to high luster, A pearls have a low to medium luster and B have a low luster.
>> Consider the pearl style
There are several design styles to consider when determining how to buy a pearls. You will find many pearls available, with larger designs preferred for necklaces, pendants, brooches and rings and smaller pearls for cuff links, bracelets and earrings. The two main pearl styles are uniform and graduated. A graduated pearl style is made up of pearls which reduce in size from the center whereas pearls bearing the uniform style are all of the same size.
>> Consider care and maintenance
When considering how to buy pearls, bear in mind that taking care of them will increase their durability and help you achieve your best look no matter the occasion. For best results:
- Avoid exposure to chemicals; Let your pearls be the last thing you put on before you leave the house and the first thing you take off when you arrive home.
- Use a slightly damp, lint-free soft polishing cloth to restore the shiny appearance.
- Store them in a cloth bag and place them in a compartment just for pearls.
>> Comparison chart
Below is a comparison chart of pearl grades to help you determine which pearl is good to buy.
|AAA ||AA ||A ||B |
|Perfectly round ||Graceful shape ||Fairly even ||Uneven |
|High ||Medium - high ||Low - medium ||Low |
|>95% ||>75% || || |
|over 0.5 ||0.35 - 0.5 ||0.25 - 0.35 ||0.25 |
|Excellent ||Good ||Fairly similar ||Low |