With their ethereal beauty and rarity, pearls have long held significant value across many cultures. The number of natural pearls collected each year is so low that the gems pull in very high prices. However, cultured equivalents are just as beautiful and are available to fit any budget. You’ll need to understand how pearl quality is determined — and how to find pearls that suit you personally — before buying. Then you’ll find the pearl bracelets, necklaces, or earrings that are best for you.
Consider Style and Color
Today’s pearl market offers pieces in any size, shape, or color you can imagine. While that means there’s something for everyone, for modern and classic tastes, finding the right pearl jewelry can get overwhelming. To start, think about your skin tone and wardrobe to start narrowing down pieces that will work well for your personal style.
You can find pearls in all colors, and the many treatments out there mean that it’s easier today to match pearls in color. That said, over time, some treatments can fade with wear. The traditional white pearl continues to be the most popular choice — and the most expensive.
Freshwater pearls, South Sea pearls, and Akoya pearls all can have a white body color, while Tahitian black pearls have a body color coming in gray to black. White pearls with a green tint are generally thought to be undesirable as they look unflattering against many skin tones. You can find strands in colors like blue, pink, or gold, but this is not as common. If you find a colored strand
with pearls that match perfectly, it likely has dyed pearls.
Shape and Size
The shape of a pearl also has a big effect on how much a piece of jewelry costs. If you want pearls that are perfectly round, your jewelry is sure to demand top price. These perfect pearls are the most sought-after kind. You can find pearl necklaces constructed from oval or off-round pearls that still look like a traditional necklace while costing less. Baroque shapes come with an even greater discount. Today, these unique pearls are growing in popularity.
It’s also important to consider size when picking jewelry that suits you. Larger sized pearls are more expensive, and, traditionally, older women wear these larger pearls with younger customers leaning toward more delicate pieces.
Luster is an important factor for all gemstones. Luster is the word to describe how the surface of a gemstone looks as it reflects light. Look for pearls with high luster when you’re buying jewelry. Luster is a significant factor when figuring out the quality and cost of a pearl. You’ll want pearls that are reflective and not dull.
You’ll also want to be sure the pearls you pick look good on you! You want a pearl that complements your skin tone. Take the strand and place it next to the inside of your forearm to see how it looks when you hold it against your skin. That will help you select a compatible tone.
Natural or Cultured?
Pearls have been prized for centuries, and for most of this time, divers have gathered pearls from beds of oysters under the sea. These natural beds of oysters that produce pearls are very rare today, and most of today’s market of pearls comes from cultured saltwater or freshwater pearls. This is the biggest factor that determines price, with natural pearls fetching the highest prices.
Cultured freshwater pearls make up the bulk of pearl jewelry available now. Cultured river or freshwater pearls are very popular, and they also offer affordable choices.
Think of cultured pearls, either saltwater or freshwater, as the equivalent of synthetic gemstones. Make sure you get a laboratory report that has an x-ray of the pearls if you’re thinking about buying a piece of jewelry with natural pearls.
A piece with natural pearls can demand a price in the millions as compared to a similar strand of cultured pearls, which you can get for a few hundred dollars. Natural pearls can be off-round, and they’ll come in different hues, even in the same piece. If you’re going for a cultured strand of pearls, you should look for more symmetrical, well-matched pearls.
Care and Treatment
Finally, make sure you know how best to care for your purchase. When you buy pearls, make sure you ask about any treatments your particular pearls have. This is key to learning how the treatments impact how you should care for your pearls.
You should ask for recommendations for storing and cleaning your pearls, too. Whether you’re coming home with pearl earrings, a necklace, or a bracelet, you want to know how to keep the pearls beautiful for years to come.
No matter what kind of pearl jewelry you’re looking for, it’s essential to understand how to determine the quality of a pearl. That way, you can find great pearls that also fit your personal style.