Shopping for pearls can turn into a real adventure, almost like an old-fashion Pirates of the Caribbean treasure hunt, if you don’t have the proper information related to these wonderful natural gems. No matter if you are a gentleman wanting to buy a high-end black Tahitian pearl engagement ring for your future bride, or a classy lady looking for pearl choker for yourself, there are some tips, tricks and pieces of information you need to master before entering the jewelry shop.
1. The Real vs. Fake Pearls Test is Mandatory
It’s highly unlikely that Tiffany’s, Chanel or Mikimoto will sell you fake pearls, but if you stumble upon a “too good to be true” deal at a regular jewelry store, you should test the pearls. The easiest way is the “Tooth Test”: gently rub the pearl side-to-side on your front teeth. Real pearls are slightly rough and gritty and you will feel a bit of friction. Fake pearls are perfectly smooth. If the pearls are a bit cold to your skin and seem heavier than they look when holding in your hand, they are real.
2. Size Does Matter
There are many cultured pearl varieties out there and they come in different rarity levels, growth periods, provenance areas, water type, sizes, shapes, luster grades and colors. No matter their type, pearls are measured usually in millimeters and, if all other values are equal, the size wins: the larger the pearl, the greater value it bears. Keep in mind the following guidelines:
- Freshwater pearls range from 4 to 14mm;
- South Sea pearls range from 8 to 20mm;
- Akoya pearls range from 2 to 10mm;
- Tahitian pearls range from 9 to 14mm.
3. Not All Pearls are White
Pop culture has taught us that pearls are perfect white round spheres that eerily glow in thelight, turning every woman into a princess. While most pearls are white, some varieties come in a wide array of colors, hues and overtones. Pearl colors don’t generally affect the overall value of a pearl, but they do bring a dash of originality and novelty.
- Interesting nuances you will find are pink, yellow, cream, blue, green or black and everything in between;
- Interesting overtones are apricot, golden, lavender, peacock, aubergine and pistachio.
Depending on the pearl variety, each comes with its own palette of precious colors:
- Freshwater: white and lavender;
- South Sea: deep gold;
- Akoya: silver and white;
- Tahitian: aubergine and peacock.
4. Not all Pearls Are Round
The perfect, round, large pearl does exist, but it is incredibly rare. Although magnificent, they are hard to find and hard to afford. However, pearls come in different shapes, looking magnificent, fun, and easy to wear and elegantly to style. If you want truly exquisite pearl jewelry, look for the following shapes:
- Near-round – pearl variations to roundness;
- Oval –oblong, rounded and symmetrical;
- Button –flattened on one side and symmetrical;
- Drop – pear-shaped;
- Semi-baroque –slightly irregular, off-round shape;
- Baroque – irregular shapes;
- Circle –around the surface there are some grooves and ridges.
5. Find Your Match
Contrary to popular belief, pearls are not all identical in a string. To find your best match, look closely at a pearl string (under soft natural light). Make sure the jeweler didn’t place large pearls in a group on one side or he didn’t squeeze a small one in between two larger ones. A pearl necklace should look as if all pearls are the same size and shape from an average distance.
6. Be Careful Who You Trust
Before signing the check or filling in the shopping online form with your card details, make sure you are shopping from the right place. These are some basic rules for choosing a reliable pearl shop:
- The seller has to offer you valid answers to all your questions and know pearls inside out;
- Choose an online store with a solid reputation and good reviews;
- Choose a firm that offers you a serious warranty certificate and return policy (even a replace/maintenance guarantee);
- Pick a store which uses professional grading systems and can certify the pearls’ provenance and quality;
- Check prices before jumping at some “once in a lifetime opportunity” and visit various stores before making a purchase.
Pearls are a thing of beauty and you will hold on to them for the rest of your life. Use these tips, get well informed and find your perfect pearl jewelry!