Trying to find the best pearl necklace can be confusing — especially if you’re just jumping into the world of pearl jewelry. Between the types of pearls, seemingly arbitrary pearl grading scales, and prices that are all over the place, picking pearls gets complicated fast.
In this article, we’re going to demystify the world of pearl necklaces. We’ll start by reviewing 15 different necklace styles from our own brand — Pure Pearls. Then we'll explain:
The easiest way to break down your pearl necklace options is by pearl type. Each type of pearl naturally aligns with a specific price bracket and use case. Being aware of those patterns and picking one type of pearl makes shopping much easier. Below we’ll review a handful of necklaces from each of the major pearl types: Freshwater, Akoya, Tahitian, and South Sea pearls.
Most pearls are grown in oceanic saltwater, except one: cultured Freshwater pearls from China. Freshwater pearls are one of the two most common types of cultured pearls. And along with Akoyas — are what most people think of when they picture a classic string of white pearls.
Freshwater pearls are easy to grow and known for their durability, making them ideal for daily wear. They’re also affordable and have a soft, satiny-luster (reflection and shine) compared to Akoyas.
The Best Pearl Value:
This is one of our most popular pieces by far. The AAA quality rating is above average (as are all pearls you’ll find at Pure Pearls) while the pricepoint and clean, white Freshwater pearls make this necklace incredibly versatile. If you’re looking for an affordable value, you won’t find anything better.
A Step Up in Quality:
This necklace keeps the same pearl size and type while bumping up the quality from AAA to AAAA (also known as Elite or Gem-Quality freshwater pearls). These pearls will have slightly higher luster, better uniform shape, and slightly fewer blemishes with only a small step up in price.
Something More Colorful:
For something a bit more colorful that exudes playfulness and personality, try this colorful cultured pearl necklace. The colors and slightly larger, 8.0-8.5mm pearl size make this necklace perfect for casual outfits.
Try a Freshwater Pendant:
If you like a simple necklace or want to mix pearls and diamonds, try a Freshwater pendant. This piece is affordable, offers great value, and works for any occasion.
Don’t see the perfect Freshwater necklace for you? Check out our full selection for more options:
Akoyas are THE pearl most people think of when they picture luxury pearls with high shine. They’re generally a step up in price from a Freshwater and are valued for their intense, nearly metallic shine and practically perfect roundness.
An Ideal Entry Into the World of Akoyas
This necklace features Akoyas on the smaller side (6.0-6.5mm) that work for women with slim builds or who want a more subdued, luxurious aesthetic. The size and AA+ grade also make them a bit more affordable than high-end Akoya options.
Note: Most experts use different pearl grading scales for Freshwater and Akoya pearls, so an AA+ Akoya is not considered a lower grade than an AAA Freshwater. Learn more about grades a bit later in this article.
Classic Pearls with a Unique Design
This necklace features high-end AAA-quality pearls in a minimalist, chic design that works for all occasions.
The Classic Akoya Pearl Necklace
This necklace perfectly personifies what most people think when you say the words “pearl necklace.” It features high-end, AAA Akoyas, a choice of clasps and lengths, and arguably the most versatile size of pearls — 7.0-7.5mm. This necklace is worth a serious look if you want the gorgeous luster and shine from luxury-grade pearls, at an affordable price point.
Try an Akoya Pendant
If you want a simple necklace with the shine of an Akoya, try this pendant with a beautiful diamond-encrusted flame.
As you shop for pearl necklaces, you may see high-end Akoyas referred to as Hanadama pearls. “Hanadama'' is simply a term that refers to the absolute best Akoyas. To be a true Hanadama, a pearl should also come with a certificate of quality from the Pearl Science Laboratory in Tokyo Japan. A Handama necklace will typically run at least $1000-2000 and give you a strong metallic luster unmatched by other pearls.
Don’t see the perfect Akoya necklace for you? Check out our full selection for more options:Shop all Pure Pearls Akoya necklaces
Tahitian pearls feature deep, vibrant blacks with blue-green and purple highlights. They’re a great option if you’d like something unique and are willing to pay a bit more for high-end pearls.
The Baroque Tahitian Necklace
This necklace features “baroque” pearls that feature ridges around the surface of the pearl. These ridges are seen by some as imperfections, but others appreciate the unique decorative quality. Also, note the larger 8-10mm size for these pearls — this is normal for Tahitians, which typically take longer to create than other cultured pearls and are usually larger.
Stunning True Round Tahitians
This Tahitian pearl necklace is a unique twist on the traditional pearl necklace that features green and peacock overtones. The perfectly round shape adds refinement to the unique Tahitian look, making it better suited to formal occasions than a set of baroque pearls.
Mix Pearls and Spinel For an Exotic Twist
This necklace combines centerpiece pearls, beautiful spinel gemstones, and gold accents. The Tahitians in this necklace feature strong blues and greens so they stand out against the black of the spinel.
Try a Tahitian Pendant
For a more affordable take on a Tahitian necklace, try a pendant like this Tahitian-diamond matchup.
Don’t see the perfect Tahitian necklace for you? Check out our full selection for more options:Shop all Pure Pearls Tahitian necklaces
South Sea Pearls are some of the rarest and most beautiful pearls in the world. Their “nacre” (the substance that pearls are made of) builds up slowly over time until they produce a deep, gorgeous luster that practically glows. They’re also typically larger and more expensive than other pearls. But if you’re a pearl enthusiast or are willing to pay for the best of the best, you can’t beat a South Sea pearl necklace.
Classic Gold South Sea Pearls:
This necklace features South Sea pearls in their signature gold color — this color is completely natural doesn’t occur in any other kind of pearl. Also, notice the large 10-12mm diameter — a common size for this type of pearls. Similar to the Tahitian previously listed, this necklace features ridged, baroque pearls, which offers a unique look and brings the cost for this necklace to around $2000 (very accessible for a South Sea necklace).
White Pearls With Unmatched Glow and Presence:
South Sea pearls also come in white, while maintaining their unmistakable glow and presence. AAA pearls give this necklace a high shine to match the South Sea glow, while the relatively small (for South Sea Pearls) 8-10mm size makes these pearls versatile enough for a variety of settings.
South Sea Pearls On a Budget
For a casual, affordable aesthetic, try a simple, single-pearl necklace. You’ll still get the signature gold South Sea color, and you’d be surprised how much impact a single pearl of this caliber can have on an outfit.
Try a South Sea Pearl Pendant
If you want all the decadence of a South Sea pearl in a compact package, try a diamond-South Sea pendant. This example features fine jewelry work and diamonds in a setting fit for a radiant gold pearl.
Don’t see the perfect South Sea necklace for you? Check out our full selection for more options:Shop all Pure Pearls South Sea necklaces
Here are a few guidelines to help you decide which pearl necklace is best for your specific needs:
Generally, Freshwaters are the most affordable pearls and South Sea the most expensive. Of course, you can get a relatively inexpensive South Sea necklace if you stick with a pendant or single-pearl necklace, and fine Freshwater pearls can be high-end and truly stunning.
With that said, here are some general price ranges to keep in mind for a high-quality, average-size string of pearls of each type:
Within those ranges, the main factors that impact cost are pearl grade and size. A good rule of thumb is to expect a 30-50% increase in price with each millimeter size you go up.
Read our fullguide to pearl pricing to learn more.
Here are a few general guidelines to help you pick the perfect type of pearl:
If you want…
The color of pearl you want also affects which type of pearl will be best for you. Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls especially come in unique colors that you can’t get anywhere else. Freshwater pearls come in avariety of colors, from natural whites, pinks, and peach hues to dyed deep blacks.
If you want white pearls, you have three options: Freshwater, Akoyas, and South Sea. Akoyas have a distinct metallic luster, while the other two offer a bit of a softer shine. That’s not to say Freshwater and South Sea pearls look the same. South Sea pearls are created slowly and have many layers of nacre (the material that pearls are made of), which gives them a depth of luster and glow that can’t be matched by a Freshwater pearl.
Pearls also have various overtones, and your best match may vary based on your skin tone, the colors you wear, and simply your personal preference.
Learn more in ourguide to pearl colors.
The size of pearl you should pick depends primarily on two factors: Your personal preference and build. Typically we recommend smaller pearls for women with slight builds, and vice versa.
However, personal preference is the most important factor. Some prefer a larger pearl that will catch attention and serve as an outfit’s centerpiece, while others prefer their necklace to act as a supporting actor and fade into the background.
Generally, the most popular sizes range from 7.0mm to 9.5mm, though 7.0-7.5mm is possibly the most versatile size, with pearls over 8.0mm generally thought of as a premium option.
The most popular and versatile pearl necklace length is the 18-inch “Princess Length.” This is considered the “Modern Classic” length and should come to rest about 1.5 to 2.0-inches below the hollow of the throat – suitable for a wide variety of necklines and outfits.
Most pearl necklaces are available in a variety of lengths, from 16-inch chokers to 31-inch “Opera length” necklaces. Generally, 18-inch is the safest bet with 20-inch in second place.
Once you’ve selected a pearl type, size, color, and necklace length, you’ll be better equipped toshop from multiple vendors and find the perfect pearls.
Generally, your safest bet is to shop at a high-end luxury store like Mikimoto, or select online boutiques like Pure Pearls. But be careful online, especially on third-party sites like Amazon or eBay — these sites usually offer low prices, and low-quality pearls to match.
Read more in ourguide on where to buy pearls.
If you’re looking for a set of classic white pearls, you can’t go wrong withan 18-inch string of AAA-quality Akoyas. This kind of necklace will work with a gown, or something a bit more casual, and works for almost anyone.
But pearls also come in a variety of styles and colors unmatched by most gems. Try Freshwaters in a variety of colors for something affordable, or durable, or Tahitians and South Sea pearls for something high-end and unique.To learn more and browse a wide variety of pearl necklaces, visit Pure Pearls’ complete collection of natural pearls and pearl necklaces:Shop all Pure Pearls pearl necklaces.
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