4 Things You Should Know About Buying Pearls

White pearls necklace on blackBuying Pearl Jewelry: Advice from the Experts

A lovely pearl necklace lends an air of effortless elegance to any ensemble. These living gems – long considered a symbol of innocence, virtue and purity — cast a flattering light to the complexion, and have been prized for centuries for their lustrous sheen and beauty. Over the years, many cultures have considered pearls to be the most treasured and valuable of gems. Pearls have adorned the necklines of royalty in Europe and Hollywood, worn by the likes of Princess Grace of Monaco, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe.

Fast forward to modern day and our obsession with these iridescent organic gems has only amplified with the increased selection of exquisite pearl necklaces, earrings and rings. Most people know that natural pearls are slowly formed when an irritant works its way inside an oyster or mussel, which then deposits a ‘nacre’ coating around the granule. Over time, these concentric micro-thin layers of calcium carbonate form a shimmering, translucent pearl.

An estimated 99 percent of pearls sold today are cultured on pearl farms, as natural pearls are very rare (and accordingly quite expensive). Cultured pearls – both fresh and saltwater varieties – come in amazing varieties, and may differ in color, shape, size and thickness. Some are characterized by a metallic gray gleam, while others have cream, gold and green undertones.

Tips for Buying Pearl Jewelry

When it comes to shopping for pearl earring or a pearl necklace, having a good understanding of how cultured pearls are valued is essential to making an informed decision. With more than 20 years in the fine jewelry industry, F. Silverman offers some guidelines on how to judge quality when selecting pearls.

Importance of Luster

One of the most important qualities in pearl jewelry is its luster, or the way that light reflects and refracts off the translucent layers, providing a soft but perceptible glow. Thin pearls and faux pearls only have a surface shine, and do not seem to emanate light from within. The highest quality pearls have a metallic luster that yields a very clear mirror-like image when looking closely. Given the variety of natural hues, hold the pearl jewelry against your skin to see if the coloring complements your complexion.  Keep in mind that pearls harvested in Tahiti may have different tones than South Sea pearls or those farmed in Akoya, Japan. Colors may range from cream, white, pink, yellow, to black, grey, silver and peacock green. South Sea pearls (grown in the Pinctada maxima pearl oyster) are the largest and most sought after cultured pearls – and generally considered the most valuable.

Thickness Matters

According to the Cultured Pearl Information Center in New York, you should steer clear of pearls that have a nacre of less than .3 millimeters (roughly the same as four stacked $1 bills), which are a sign of poor quality. Thinner pearls are more susceptible to chipping, peeling and other early signs of wear and tear.  A reputable jeweler can help verify the thickness of pearl jewelry, and also confirm if the pearls are genuine natural or cultured.

Pearl similarity

Cultured pearls, just like natural ones, can have subtle differences in shape, size and luster. When selecting a pair of pearl earrings or a string of pearls, you want to ensure their shape and finish matches as much as possible, which will ensure a more balanced and aesthetically pleasing look. Of course, pearls that have noticeable defects will be valued lower than those that have no blemishes or very minor ones.

Rounder pearls = higher quality

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) states that a pearl’s roundness will dictate its value. The rounder a pearl is, the higher the price tag.  Pearl shapes are categorized as follows:

  • Round – with no variations noticed by the naked eye
  • Near Round – Only slightly elongated or flattened
  • Button – Appears symmetrical, may be flat or rounded
  • Drop – Pear-shaped or rounded but symmetrical
  • Oval – Round and oblong
  • Baroque or Semi-Baroque – no apparent symmetry, somewhat irregular in shape

Pearl Jewelry in Montvale, New Jersey

Sophisticated, elegant and incredibly versatile — pearl jewelry is always in style. Whether you’re searching for a classic bib necklace, a pearl bracelet or a simple pair of pearl earrings for an upcoming wedding, F. Silverman offers a wide selection of exquisite pearl jewelry at affordable price points. 

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