Where To Buy Pearls
Shopping for pearls already isn’t easy considering how little is known about these niche gems; now compound that with the nearly endless choices of vendors that sell fine (and not so fine!) pearls, and you’re probably ready to give up before even starting!
Not to worry – I’m going to give you a honest break down of where to buy real pearls.
The way I look at it, here’s the top 5 places to buy real pearls:
- Brick and Mortar Jewelry Stores (Zales, Kay’s, etc)
- Big Box Retailers (Blue Nile, Overstock, etc)
- Luxury Retailers (Mikimoto, Tiffany’s, et al)
- Online Pearl Specialist (PurePearls.com) – *Top Pick
Buying Pearls on eBay
This is EASILY one of the riskiest propositions on the internet. eBay is a well-known auction site with thousands of pearl listings from all over the world. And thousands of counterfeit pearl listings, too.
Total search time to find these listings: 1 min (that includes the screen grab)
- IF you are a pearl expert in cultured pearls and know what to look for, deals can occasionally be found.
- eBay is also well-known for hosting tons of anonymous overseas vendors hawking cheap pearls (usually dyed Freshwater) masquerading as Tahitians pearls, South Seas pearls or Akoya pearls.
- Getting a refund is a pain. The process of getting your money back from an overseas vendor that sold you a cheap imitation strand is going to cost lots of time and probably money (return shipping to China isn’t cheap!).
- There are ZERO guarantees that the pearls in the listing’s picture are the ones you are going to receive. There’s no assurance you’ll even buy real pearls.
- Reviews are often fake. So, it’s hard to know what’s real or not.
Still convinced you might find a great deal on eBay? Read this article by the independent authority on pearls – Pearl-Guide.com.
Read: Is eBay fraud eroding the value of pearls?
*hint – the answer is yes.
Buying Pearls in a Traditional Jewelry Store
The time-honored and traditional route, buying pearls from a family-owned jewelry store is a MUCH safer bet than risking your wallet on eBay. Family run jewelry stores have people that genuinely love and care about their industry and their customers, so it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll get ripped off.
That said, the B&M jewelry stores’ bread and butter is … Diamond Bridal Jewelry Sales. They’ll maybe sell 1-5 pearl items in a year. This means a few things:
- The pearls will have a HUGE overhead – think 300-500% mark-up.
- The selection will be small, especially compared with a specialty vendor.
- The background knowledge on pearls will be limited. These jewelers know their diamonds and precious gemstones backwards and forwards – it’s what they do every day. Pearls? Not so much.
The same issues with the larger “Big Box” franchise jewelry stores exist as well (aka Zales, Kay’s, etc.); the selection will probably be slightly larger, but still not great.
The high mark-ups are about the same, and you lose out on the long time personal relationship that you would normally build with a jeweler that’s invested in your satisfaction and happiness with their services.
Do you see any pearls in that display case? Me, neither.
Big Box Retail Online
Think Blue Nile, Overstock – those guys. Online “big box” retailers will be able to offer more selection than the 1-5 pearl jewelry items you’ll find in a jewelry store. But, they still won’t be able to offer the thorough selection of pearl types, grades, colors and designs that a specialty boutique that deals in pearls on the daily will.
In addition, there are a few other “Cons” to consider before buying pearls from one of the “big guys”:
- All the jewelry is pre-fabricated; there is no chance for customization in terms of length, color, overtone, clasp, etc.
- The pearl jewelry is all stored on pallets in warehouses.Your items will be plucked from storage and sent to you pretty much without anyone actually seeing or touching the gems. That’s not a very pretty picture to think about, is it?
- Customer service sales staff that will have limited knowledge about their pearls; they’ll be able to tell you exactly what’s written on the “tech specs” on their site and not much else.
- Higher mark-ups for mid-range commercial quality jewelry is the norm; you’ll still end up spending more and getting less.
Buying Pearls From Luxury Retailers
You’ve heard about these world-famous Jewelry Houses: Mikimoto, Tiffany, Bulgari … their brands are emblazoned into our imaginations and culture as “the best of the best” when it comes to fine jewelry.
Will you find very fine pearls at those stores? Undoubtedly.
You’ll also get a screamingly high $5,000 - $30,000 price tag to go with them.
Some other things you should know about shopping for pearl jewelry at a luxury brand name store:
- These brands do not culture their own pearls. Not even Mikimoto does that anymore. They purchase their pearls from the same auctions and processing houses that Pure Pearls does.
- The mountings are still just fine Sterling Silver, 14K and 18K Gold. There’s no “magic dust” that makes this jewelry extra-super-special or of particularly exceptional value except for the branding.
- All of the jewelry is pre-fabricated in these stores as well, offering little to no opportunities to customize your pearls in terms of length, overtone, gold color, etc. You are limited to what they have under the glass.
Buying Pearls Online (PurePearls.com)
I think you landed on this page because you’re a pretty savvy shopper, right? You know that the best deals can be found online, and you’re looking around for The Best Place to buy pearls.
Pure Pearls offers:
- Unparalleled emphasis on Pearl Education. We are the #1 ranked site on Google specializing in pearl education – go ahead, just ask Google!
- We are Stone. Cold. Pearl. Experts. When it comes to fine cultured pearls, you’ll never ask a question here and have the answer be “I don’t know”. With over 15 years of experience spent dealing with each variety of pearl on a daily basis, there are few people on the planet with our level of experience and knowledge.
- Unbeatable selection. We offer a wide range of fine cultured pearl jewelry in every pearl type: Japanese Akoya, Freshwater pearls from China, exotic black Tahitian pearls from French Polynesia, and the Queen of Gems: White and Golden South Sea pearls from Australia and the Philippines.
- If you don’t see the jewelry that you’re looking for, we can make it for you. We are specialists when it comes to custom-design jewelry, and work closely with our own goldsmith to build the pearl jewelry of your dreams.
- Free Shipping, Free Returns and our Pure Pearls Promise: 90-Day Return and Exchanges. This is one of the longest grace periods found anywhere online!
- Real people. Real Pearls. At Pure, you’ll get the family-owned jewelry store customer service, but with all the cost-saving benefits of shopping online.
At the end of the day, we know that PurePearls.com is the absolute BEST place to buy pearls. In fact I guarantee it.
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About the Author
|I’ve been with Pure Pearls for well over 10 years and am incredibly passionate about what I do! My 15 year career in the jewelry industry spans working in the precious colored gemstone wholesale sector, as well as stints in diamond bridal jewelry manufacturing division. I earned my GIA Pearls certificate in 2004.
I’ve written extensively about pearls for many online trade publications including Jewellery Net Asia, the CPAA (Cultured Pearl Association of America), and of course, Pearl-Guide.com on all things pearl-related.
Feel free to email me with any questions or issues – I am always happy to help!