Where to get started when buying pearls

It doesn’t get more classic than a strand of pearls. Pearl rings, necklaces, earrings – fashion trends may change over time, but they’re always in style in some way. 

But when you have a jewelry staple you can wear forever, buying a set of pearls is a big decision. You want to make sure you’re getting the best quality and best look for your money. 

Here’s where to start:

How is it sized?

Pearls are measured by Millimeter for single pearls and a millimeter range for a strand of pearls. For example, a uniform strand would be a .5mm difference like 6-6.5mm. A graduated strand would be a larger range, 3-12mm.

How are they formed?

Pearls are formed when a foreign object enters the shell and the mollusk (like a clam or an oyster) encases it with Nacre to protect itself. Nacre is what determines the pearls quality, how uniform it is, how little blemishes it has, how good the luster is.

Natural vs. Cultured

When you’re looking at pearls, you’ll hear the words natural vs. cultured a lot. Pearls are the only gemstone that comes from a living creature, and that makes them even more unique. A natural pearl occurs naturally in the wild, whereas a cultured pearl often comes from pearl farmers who are able to intercede in the pearl formation.

Almost all of the pearls you find in stores now are cultured.

Pearl types:

There are 4 main types: Akoya Peals, Freshwater Peals, Tahitian Pearls and South Sea Pearls. The differences are subtle, but they all make their own unique statement.

Akoya Pearls

These are as classic as classic gets. With their perfectly round shape, intense luster and consistent color, these are the pearls you think about when you’re going for your first strand.  

Akoya are saltwater pearls that originated in Japan. They can come from 3.5 to 9.5mm generally, with the most common sizes being 5-7mm.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls offer a lot more option and variety than other types. They can be formed in all types of sizes and colors, ranging from white to gray to pastels. These are often used in custom fashion jewelry.

Freshwater pearls are made from mollusks in freshwater lakes, rivers and ponds, which can hold up to 50 pearls at a time as opposed to the 2-5 pearls found in a saltwater mollusk. Unlike saltwater pearls, all freshwater pearls are cultured, and they typically range from 2mm to 10mm on average.

Tahitian Pearls

If you’re going for a bit of drama, Tahitian pearls are the way to go. They are the only pearls in the world that are naturally dark in color – from black to metallic silver to graphite. Formed in the tropical lagoons in the French Polynesian islands, these pearls have a satin-like luster and are some of the larger types you’ll find, ranging from 8-15mm.

South Sea Pearls:

If you want to feel like you’re dripping in luxury, the South Sea Pearls range from creamy white to deep golden in color – the most valuable color for South Sea Pearls. These pearls have a thick nacre and they’re often just as perfectly circular as saltwater pearls. They take 2-4 years to produce and are easily the most valuable pearls on the market.

Still don’t know what’s right for you? Talk with a sales representative about what exactly you’re looking for – from style to color to price – and we’ll find the perfect options for you.