The Pearl Buyer's Guide: 8 Questions to Ask When Buying Pearls


ARE THESE PEARLS NATURAL, CULTURED, OR IMITATION?

Pure Pearls carries only genuine cultured pearls.  Fine cultured pearls are the most popular pearls today and what you see when you go to any retail jewelry shop.

Natural pearls are extremely rare due to overfishing and pollution, thus a pearl diver may dive a lifetime and only end up with a handful of pearls, in which most will probably not be very pretty.

The difference between a natural pearl and a cultured pearl is that natural pearls are a product of nature and cultured pearls are a product of nature helped along by science. A nucleus is implanted into the mollusk to stimulate nacre production and over a few years nacre builds up layer by layer ultimately creating the pearl. The nacre is the key determiner in the pearls luster. Although the pearls are cultured, this doesn’t mean they are all beautiful. In fact, many are not, especially for the larger pearls which are in the mollusk for a longer period of time and susceptible to more adverse conditions. This is why larger round cultured pearls are so round. Natural pearls and cultured pearls are produced in rivers, lakes, and bays by mollusks.

Imitation pearls, also known as “faux”, “simulated,” and “semi-cultured” are not produced in a mollusk or anything living for that matter. Many are glass, plastic, or shell beads dipped in ground fish scales and lacquered with pearlescence. It is easy to notice the difference when placing them side by side with a cultured pearl. Cultured pearls have an inner glow but imitation pearls only have a surface shine. You can also use the “tooth test” to spot an imitation pearl. If you run the pearl along the edge of your upper teeth, the genuine cultured pearl will have a gritty feel but the fake pearl will not. If you do a comparison on cultured pearls and fake pearls, the difference is very apparent. This does not work with false teeth, however.

To learn more about how to spot genuine cultured pearls or man-made synthetics, visit:  Real or Fake? How To Tell If Your Pearls are Genuine.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I EXPECT TO SPEND ON PEARLS?

Considering pearls do not go out of style and can be worn with any style, we believe you should not compromise the quality of your pearl purchase! We believe you should purchase the best quality pearls you can afford within your budget. You need not spend a fortune on fine quality pearl jewelry.

Depending on the pearl type and jewelry style, fine pearl jewelry can range from just under $100.00 to $50,000.00 and even higher for very rare, large necklaces, with an average pricing range of $100.00 to $5,000.00.

IS THERE A GRADING SYSTEM FOR OVERALL QUALITY?

There is not an industry-wide grading system for pearls. For comparative purposes, many pearl companies use the A, AA, AAA system to grade cultured pearls on overall quality. Pure Pearls only offers pearls considered of the finest quality at other retail stores.

To learn more about the A-AAA Pearl Grading Scale, we HIGHLY recommend reading our Pearl Grading Guides (we offer one for each pearl type), which are consistently ranked as #1 sources of pearl education information by Google.

WHAT IS THE SHAPE OF THE PEARLS?

Totally, perfectly Round-shape pearls are the "Gold Standard" and have been for centuries. We offer perfectly round Japanese Akoya pearls, perfectly round South Sea pearls and perfectly round Tahitian pearls.

Our Gem Quality, Elite Collection Freshwater pearls come extremely close to true-round shapes and are improving their shapes with every subsequent harvest.

Other pearl shapes include:

  • Off-Rounds
  • Near Rounds
  • Button-Shapes
  • Smooth Tear-Drops
  • Baroque shapes - Baroque pearls can be symmetrical or asymmetrical.

DO THESE PEARLS EXHIBIT GOOD LUSTER OR HAVE “ORIENT”?

Luster  is the glow that emanates from within the pearl as a result of light reflection. The higher the pearls reflective qualities, the more intense the luster.

Pure Pearls offer pearls with high to exceptionally high luster with orient. Luster can range from poor, fair, medium, high, very high, or exceptionally high.

Orient  is the result of the nacre layers aligning perfectly on top of one another which creates a prismatic effect.

HOW DOES THE CLEANLINESS OF THE SURFACE RANK?

Cultured pearls are a product of nature, thus they all have some imperfections, just as any other product of nature does. Our pearls are free of large blemishes and imperfections. There is no universal grading system for cleanliness of the pearls complexion, but generally, descriptions include “exceptional,” “very good,” “average,” and so forth. Other terms may include “eye-clean,” “slight imperfections, or “imperfect.” Imperfect pearls mean they have a high degree of flaws; thus, they are “poor.”

We recommend browsing our Pearl Grading Guide  for an in-depth breakdown of pearl inclusions and features plenty of real pearl blemishing images for each pearl type, giving you a fantastic idea of what these marks and growth characteristics look like in real life.

WHAT ARE THE SIZE OF THE PEARLS?

Size is a key determining factor in the price of pearls. Pearls get their size from the thickness of nacre and the size of the implant nucleus. The thicker the nacre, the more luminous the pearl. Beware the size of the nucleus because if the implant is large, the nacre will not be as thick, resulting in cracking and discoloration. Pure Pearls does not consider pearls with thin nacre acceptable and only offers high quality pearls with thick nacre. Nacre thickness can be confirmed by an expert.

To learn more about pearl sizes, please read:  The Ultimate Guide to Pearl Sizes

HOW WELL MATCHED ARE THE PEARLS?

Pearls that are not well matched are very noticeable and do not look appealing. Pure Pearls takes extra care to match the pearls in each piece of jewelry.