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Last updated on August 11, 2021
Pearl jewelry is a classic type of jewelry, perfect for a gift to mark a special occasion or as a gift to yourself for a stylish accessory or as a gift for the bride. Pearls are beautiful, exotic and elegant, but not all pearls are created equal. Price points vary widely, as does quality so before buying pearl jewelry, make sure you know these things!
In This Post:
What Are Pearls?
Pearls are created by mollusks (most famously, oysters) when they encounter an irritant inside their shell. The mollusk will secrete a substance called nacre to coat the irritant and protect the mollusk from harm. As the layers of nacre form, they create a pearl.
There are two main types of pearl: natural and cultured. Both are made by mollusks, but natural pearls occur naturally in the wild and are incredibly rare and expensive. Cultured pearls are made by mollusks in farms and are the result of irritants being inserted delicately by hand. Most pearls sold today are cultured pearls.
Of cultured pearls, there are saltwater pearls and freshwater pearls. Saltwater pearls take more time to farm and are therefore more expensive. There are many different varieties of cultured pearls including Akoya, Handama, Tahitian, and South Sea. These varieties are characterized by color, shape, size, luster and price.
Pearls come in a variety of shapes: round, oval, pear, semi-round, button, baroque, drop, and circle. Pearls are most commonly white and black, but they can also be other colors including green and pink.
Why Buy Pearl Jewelry?
Pearls have always been prized for their beauty and rarity. They are the only gemstone that is created by a fluke of nature—a tiny grain of sand—as opposed to a naturally occurring rock in the earth. Because they are not rocks that can be mined, cut and polished, pearls are the most delicate of the gemstones and must be treated with utmost care.
Before pearl cultivation was invented, pearls were incredibly rare and therefore very valuable. In ancient Rome, Julius Caesar passed a law declaring that pearls were only to be worn by the ruling classes. In ancient China, pearl jewelry was given as gifts dating back to 2300 BCE and was said to symbolize the purity of the wearer.
Pearls were popularized in the 1920’s century by Coco Chanel, who wore strings upon strings of pearls and mixed them with formal and casual attire. Since then, pearls have become a staple of every wardrobe and can be worn with almost any outfit to add finish and elegance! Pearls are a gift of choice for birthdays and anniversaries and are the birthstone for those born in June.
What Kind of Pearls Should I Get?
Making the choice to purchase pearl jewelry is a big decision. There are so many options—saltwater or fresh, white or black or even pink, and many different sizes and shapes—it’s important to know where to start.
It all comes down to the look of the pearls, your budget, and personal choice. First, choose a style. A string of pearls in necklace form is the most classic choice and can be found at most price points. Other options include a pearl bracelet, a solitaire pearl necklace, and pearl earrings.
The classic look for pearls is white and it is the most common color to be produced. There are many other colors, however, such as champagne, silver, black, pink, green, orange, chocolate, blue and lavender. These colors occur naturally, but the look can also be achieved by dyeing cultured pearls. Some colors, such as pink, are unable to be cultured and can only be found naturally in the endangered queen conch snail. As a result, almost all pink pearls on the market are dyed during the culturing process.
In giving gifts, it is important to note that pearls are delicate, and need to be treated very gently. If you need help learning how to care for your natural pearl jewelry this guide is a good place to start. A pearl bracelet might be beautiful, but it is far more likely to be damaged than a pair of earrings. Evaluate the occasion and the preferences of the wearer carefully before selecting your pearl gift.
How to Evaluate Pearl Jewelry
Most important to the quality of pearls is the level of luster: how shiny or reflective the pearl is. The more reflective, the more beautiful the pearl is, and often times, the more expensive.
Next, look at the surface quality. It might have imperfections or blemishes which will detract from the luster and overall look of the pearl. A perfect surface without blemishes means a high-quality pearl.
When you are determining the quality of the pearl, take note of the pearl’s shape. The most popular shape is round, so pearls that are perfectly round tend to be worth more than those that are oval, pear or other shapes. However, a round pearl does not automatically mean a better pearl! This comes down to personal choice, and many shapes such as pear or baroque pearls can be stunning in jewelry.
Lastly, consider the size of the pearl. This is especially important if you are choosing a classic style like a stud, string necklace or solitaire necklace. Make sure you know the look you are going for and keep in mind the preferences of the wearer. Generally, the larger the pearl, the more expensive it will be.
As you are evaluating pearl jewelry, remember it all comes down to personal taste. Check out the following links to find the best quality pearls at any price point!
Where to Get Pearl Jewelry
The Pearl Source is the most trusted and recognized leader for online pearl jewelry. Operating since 1991, our cultured pearls make both a remarkable gift and jewelry box staple for the modern woman.
The world's leading diamond jeweler online also sells pearls without the in-store markup!
For affordable choices in various settings and colors, check out Crown Jewelers online!
Fred Meyer Jewelers offers tons of options in many different shapes and sizes, as well as a handy guide to the care and keeping of your pear jewelry!
Lizzy James offers lots of options in many different settings and even customizable, they also take AfterPay and Klarna!
Not just for discount electronics and convenient grocery delivery, Amazon offers an amazing selection of pearl jewelry at all price points.
Offering classy and elegant pearl jewelry for a variety of looks, from casual to bridal, Reeds Jewelers offers their full catalogue online for easy browsing and the best deals around.