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How to Buy Pearls?

Buying pearls can be a daunting and difficult task for the uninitiated but with a little bit of research, you'll be able to choose the best pearls based on the quality, style, and color to make the task more interesting and enjoyable. The goal of this page is to be a simple primer for those new to shopping for pearl jewelry.

Step 1: What are Cultured Pearls?

All pearls sold on the retail market are "cultured pearls" unless otherwise labeled as natural pearls. Many jewelers and consumers mistakenly label Freshwater pearls as "cultured pearls". but this is misleading since Akoya, Freshwater, Tahitian and South Sea pearls are all "cultured pearls". To avoid confusion knowledgeable dealers and consumers will refer to pearls by their correct pearl type.

Step 2: What Type Suits Your Style and Budget?

Decide what type of pearl suits your style and budget. A strand of pearls can range from $35 - $35,000+, so understanding the different types of pearls will help you narrow down your choice.

Size Range
5mm - 11mm
9mm - 18mm
2mm - 18mm
9mm - 16mm
Color
The classic white pearl, with overtones of rose, silver and cream. Akoya pearls may also be treated to achieve a black body color.
Ranging from silky silver to deep golden tones. Dark golden South Sea pearls are considered the most rare and valuable.
Freshwater pearls have the widest range of natural colors, ranging from white to pink to lavender as well as a myriad of dyed options.
The only pearls to achieve a natural black body color, however they can range from dark greens to light silver in color.
Shape
Perfectly Round
Round, near round, and baroque.
Round, near round, button, and baroque.
Round, near round, and baroque.
Price Range
$61 - $3,000
$399 - $30,000
$69 - $1,500
$120 - $10,000
Step 3: Choose the Right Color.

Never before has such a wide range of pearl colors been available. White is the classic, versatile color choice and many believe that a woman's first pearl necklace should always be a white strand. "Black" pearls are not actually black but dark shades of gray, greens and blues and give an exotic look that works especially well with darker skin tones. Pink, peach and lavender shades are fun and flirty, perfect for spring and summer wear but when color matched correctly - an outfit can look incredibly sophisticated as well.

Step 4: Understanding the Value Factors.

When dealing with cultured pearls there are several factors that will determine the overall value of a pearl.

Pearl Shapes
When dealing with cultured pearls there are several factors that will determine the overall value of a pearl. The biggest factor is shape. Round pearls almost always command the highest price, but many love the uniqueness of baroque and off-round pearls as well.
Pearl Surface
The surface of a pearl is another important factor to consider; the cleaner the pearl's surface the better. A pearl is a natural gemstone so there will always be some form of imperfection, but as long as they are minor, it won't be noticeable when worn.
Pearl Luster
Related to surface is luster; a poor surface will negatively impact the luster of a pearl. High luster is what all pearl buyers are looking for; a high quality pearl with high luster will be almost mirror-like in appearance. A pearl's luster is what makes a pearl "pop" and stand out.
Pearl Size
Last but possibly most important is size, and in the case of pearls, size matters. Traditionally a women will "earn the right" to wear larger pearls as she matures. A good rule of thumb is to choose pearls 7mm and larger for adult women and keep anything smaller reserved for young girls and teenagers.
Pearl Buying Tips:

Only purchase from a company with a solid return policy. Pearl always look great in a photograph or showroom but may appear different in natural lighting, so it's important to be able to exchange or return your pearls if necessary.

Purchase from a retailer that specializes in pearls. 99% of all jewelers are uneducated, misinformed or simply ignorant when it comes to cultured pearls, many don't understand the product they are selling.

Don't get hung up on brand names. Tiffany's and Mikimoto both are known for high quality goods, by no means do they have a monopoly on high quality pearls. Savings of thousands of dollars can be had if you do your research.

A simple method to check if a pearl is real or imitation is the "Tooth Test". Gently slide the pearl across the front of your teeth; if it feels smooth then it's a fake, as real pearls feel gritty.

“Compare our pearls head-to-head against ANY luxury brand. You will not find better quality and price. I guarantee it.”

Kevin Canning
Founder - Pearls of Joy

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