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to Choosing the
Perfect Pearl Necklace
FOLLOW THESE DETAILED TIPS FROM A PEARL INDUSTRY EXPERT TO EASILY FIND THE NECKLACE OF YOUR DREAMS!
By Jeremy Shepherd, Founder & CEO of
IF YOU'RE NEW TO PEARLS
and shopping for a pearl necklace, the wide range of options may seem a bit daunting at first. There are so many different types, sizes, colors and lengths to choose from.
If you’re like most, the grading can be confusing as well. Give me a few minutes of your time and I promise to give you a bit of clarity.
GRADING PEARL NECKLACES
Let’s begin with pearl grading. If you’ve spent much time browsing stores and other websites, you’ve probably seen grading scales that appear to be all over the place.
Some companies grade with letters, others grade with numbers and some companies don’t post any grades at all. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Well, there is a reason.
You’re probably familiar with the four C’s of diamond grading: cut, color, carat weight and clarity. In pearl grading, there are seven value factors. They include
size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality
. But here’s the catch! Unlike diamonds, there is
no industry standard
for grading pearls.
What does this mean for you? Simple. You cannot comparison shop by grade alone. A pearl necklace graded AAA by one retailer might only be worth 1/10th the value of a necklace graded the same by another.
THERE IS NO INDUSTRY STANDARD FOR GRADING PEARLS
Pearl grading is subjective and every company selling pearls (on the planet) grades and sells them differently. That means every grading system is subjective and unique.
We know with certainty, for example, that our AA+ graded akoya pearls have better luster, surface and color than another online seller's AAAA pearls exhibit. This is the unfortunate result of no standardized, universal grading system.
The French Polynesian government has created a system of grading for exporting Tahitian pearls. We tailor our A to AAA grading to match their system as all our Tahitian pearls were legally exported from Tahiti and have gone through this grading process.
Click here to read
about Pearl Paradise's grading system.
(L to R):
Here are examples of just some of the more classic pearl necklaces available at all price points from Pearl Paradise, the world's largest online pearl company.
Pearl Types Used In StrandS
First let’s start with the biggest misconception people have when they first begin their search for the perfect pearl necklace. You want a strand of cultured pearls.
You don’t want a strand of natural pearls.
Pearl farming, or the practice of inducing pearl oysters to grow pearls, replaced the natural pearl trade a full century ago. Natural pearls do still exist, but a fine strand may cost you more than a million dollars.
YOU DON'T WANT A STRAND OF
There are four basic varieties of cultured pearls commonly available today:
Each offers you something different and each can be magnificently beautiful.
Each offers you something different and each can be magnificently beautiful.
Akoya Pearl Necklaces
Akoya pearls are known for their color, shape and ~ most of all ~ their luster.
is the quantity and quality of light that reflects from the surface of the pearl. This is the
most important factor
in choosing an akoya pearl necklace. It’s what makes the pearls shine. It’s also a proof-positive indicator of whether the pearls spent enough time in their mother oyster.
Akoya pearl oysters are seeded with a perfect round bead and put back into the water for (hopefully) a period of 1.5 to 2 years. But many (too many) farmers harvest after only a few months. (Do you remember the part about a seller’s reputation?) The pearls might
similar in the beginning, but they won’t last more than a couple of years.
The finest akoya pearls are called
by the trade. Wait! Does this mean you can comparison price shop hanadama grade pearls? Not so much, unfortunately. It is still subjective and even when graded by a laboratory, there is a wide range. It comes down to reputation once again.
LUSTER IS THE QUANTITY & QUALITY OF LIGHT THAT REFLECTS FROM A PEARL'S SURFACE
I should mention this side note about akoya pearls. Nearly all akoya are perfectly round and white, but exotic natural-color blues, silver-blues, golds and baroques exist. These are considered very rare and you will have a very hard time finding them in a jewelry store.
The most popular size of akoya pearl necklace is 7-7.5 mm, while 8-8.5 mm takes a close second. Unless you’re purchasing a strand for a young lady, I would caution against going much smaller.
Click here to
akoya pearl necklaces.
Move scroll bar to the right to view entire panaoramic photo of gorgeous akoya pearls in various colors.
Freshwater Pearl Necklaces
Freshwater pearls have been around nearly as long as akoya, but have never been considered quite as valuable, even though they are more “pearl” than akoya. How so?
Freshwater pearls are traditionally grown without a bead. They are 100% nacre (pearl). Why are they considered less valuable? A freshwater shell can grow dozens of pearls at a time. Most akoya oysters only grow one or two at a time.
If you’ve seen freshwater pearls in a store, you probably think freshwater pearls are all weird shapes and not very shiny. This is most often the case. They aren’t as round as akoya because they don’t have a bead in the center. But fine freshwater pearls do exist. The finest, like those we refer to as
are nearly indistinguishable from fine akoya pearls in shape, color and luster.
If this is the first strand of pearls for you or someone you’re shopping for, consider freshwater. Not only do they offer the akoya look at a lower price, they also commonly grow in natural pastel colors. You’re only going to find those colors (naturally) in freshwater pearls.
Fine quality freshwater pearls are almost always sorted in half millimeter sizes, and this makes a big difference in value. If you were to compare a strand of 7-8 mm pearls with a strand measuring 7.5-8 mm (our most popular), the latter would be noticeably larger, shinier and more round.
Click here to v
freshwater pearl necklaces.
Freshadama pearls come from the top .01% of freshwater pearls produced today. Freshadama is considered to be the highest grade of Freshwater pearls.
Tahitian Pearl Necklaces
Have you been to Tahiti in French Polynesia? If so, I am sure you will agree it is one of the most exotic vacation destinations.
The pearls that grow there are no less exotic. They are often called “black pearls,” but in reality, Tahitian pearls exhibit a rainbow of colors. The most popular is dark green.
I have a particular affinity for Tahitian pearls. Over the years, I’ve spent time in some of the remotest parts of French Polynesia. On one trip, I brought a film crew to a pearl farm and shot a 20-minute documentary which won first place at the International Family Film Festival.
DARK GREEN IS THE MOST POPULAR TAHITIAN PEARL COLOR
If you are considering a Tahitian pearl necklace, I’m sure you can spare 20 minutes to
. Afterwards, you will know more about Tahitian pearls than 99% of GIA graduate jewelers.
Click here to v
Tahitian pearl necklaces.
(Above, L to R):
Photos of just some of the many Tahitian pearl necklaces sold by Pearl Paradise.
(Below, L to R):
Gaze upon gorgeous Tahitian pearls showcasing the natural beauty of this sought-after gemstone of the sea.
South Sea Pearl Necklaces
I have a feeling if you’re looking for a South Sea pearl necklace, you’ve already done a bit of pearl research and you’ve likely purchased pearls in the past.
South Sea pearls are not what I would typically recommend for a first strand of pearls. Unless you’re the type that starts at the top.
South Sea pearls are the largest and most valuable of all pearls farmed today. They are farmed in remote areas of Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia and a few other countries.
The pearl oyster that grows these gems is the largest used in pearl farming. It’s the size of an American dinner plate. The pearls are the size of marbles.
SOUTH SEA PEARLS ARE STATEMENT PEARLS
There are two types of South Sea pearls: those grown in the
pearl oyster and those grown in the
pearl oyster. You guessed it. White and silver South Sea pearls grow in the former, and the ultra-valuable gold South Sea pearls in the latter. The make some of the most beautiful and most expensive South Sea pearl necklaces in the world.
These are statement pearls. If you’re the wearer, you’re making a statement. If you’re the giver, you’re making a statement. It’s impossible to wear a strand of South Sea pearls and not be noticed.
South Sea pearl necklaces.
Pearl necklaces should (almost) always be knotted between each pearl. This is very important.
The knots prevent the pearls from rubbing against one another and they also protect your investment. If your necklace were to break, your pearls wouldn’t scatter.
SILK IS THE MOST POPULAR THREAD USED FOR KNOTTING
The only exception to the knotting rule is with small, graduated strands. These do not look nice with knots so are typically only knotted near the clasp.
Silk is the most popular thread chosen for knotting.
Even though many companies use silk, more and more are beginning to use synthetic fibers because they tend to be more durable. Either is fine.
Choosing The Right Pearl Size
If you’re new to pearls, I know there are questions you will or already have been pondering....
What size of pearl suits me/her?
How would a 6 mm strand of akoya look compared with an 8 mm strand of freshadama?
How would either compare to a 10 mm strand of Tahitian?
FRESHWATER PEARL NECKLACES MEASURING 7.5-8 MM REIGN SUPREME
We’ve been in the pearl business for 20 years now. I can confidently say what are the most popular sizes. These sizes are safe. They aren’t too big and they aren’t too small.
If you’re looking for something on the smaller side, go smaller. If you’re looking for something on the larger side, go larger.
The most popular size of akoya pearl is 7-7.5 mm. A very close second is 8-8.5 mm.
Freshwater pearl necklaces measuring 7.5-8 mm reign supreme. The second most popular is 8.5-9 mm.
Choosing the Right Length
The length of a pearl necklace is a personal preference.
What look are you going for? If you plan to wear your pearls more casually, you’re probably better suited to a shorter strand. Longer strands are considered more formal, although this is not a rule.
lengths are 16 inches and 18 inches. Strands as long as 35 inches and even 50 inches are also very popular because they can be worn long or doubled up.
NOTE: This article was originally published on the website of
which has given
magazine permission to republish it here for our readers. All images are courtesy of Pearl Paradise.
Founded in 1996 and brought online in 2000, Pearl Paradise has grown into the
world's largest online pearl company.
With a custom-built, 1,300-cubic-foot vault filled with pearls, it offers a selection of pearls unlike any other pearl seller, online or off. The company's commitment to offering prices 80 percent below retail has accelerated its growth. With more than a quarter-million satisfied customers to date, Pearl Paradise has benefited greatly by word-of-mouth advertising. Its commitment to quality customer service, plus unbeatable pricing and selection, has helped it become the Internet’s premier source of pearl jewelry.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeremy Shepherd, the founder and CEO of Pearl Paradise, is a leader, innovator, and a disruptor. From an early age he struck out on his own to satisfy his fierce independence, need for adventure, and a more satisfying way of life.
As a teenager, he traveled to Japan alone and stayed to attend high school. He is self-taught and fluent in Japanese, Spanish and Micronesian. Through college, Jeremy worked for Passport to Languages as an interpreter of all three languages. To continue his world travels, became a flight attendant in 1996 and began to import pearls during his runs to Asia.
In a sector dominated by generations old family businesses, Jeremy endeavored to become a first generation, self-taught pearl importer, dealer, and internet reseller. Over the past 20 years, he has traveled to pearl-producing areas all over the world, creating relationships with pearl producers, exporters, and people dedicated to support the pearl industry.
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