If you’ve ever felt a bit overwhelmed by rows and rows of brightly lit jewels in a shop, it’s time to take command and learn how to buy pearls. Understanding the different types and origins of pearls is a great place to start. Better equipped with the fundamentals, it’s time to go shopping.
The first thing to notice is pearl color. Sure, it’s easy to distinguish between the creamy, lustrous Akoya and the dark, opalescent Tahitian, but most pearls are defined by two color characteristics: the body color and the overtone. For example, a white pearl can reflect shades of rose, silver or gold. A white strand with a soft overtone is the classic choice, being perfect for any occasion and style.
In strands, pearl sizes are expressed as a range. A necklace may be labeled as composed of pearls 6 to 6.5mm, indicating that each pearl within the strand falls somewhere within that range. If all other factors are the same, larger pearls command higher prices than smaller ones.
By now, you probably have your eye on one or two special pieces. Ask the attendant if you can view them more closely. Roll the pearls between your fingers or on a smooth, flat surface. Do the pearls appear perfectly round? Pearls also come in off-round and baroque shapes.
Now examine the pearls up close. The perfect pearl will have a smooth, clean surface, free of any bumps or blemishes. Upon inspection, you may notice a few inconsistencies. These affect the value of a pearl or strand. Fewer imperfections command higher prices.
Luster is the defining characteristic of pearls; the glossy, translucent, mirror-like surface. Luster is often indicative of the thickness and quality of the nacre. Good pearls should be bright and reflective. The more distinct the reflection in the pearl’s surface, the higher its luster and value.
If you’ve found a strand that is just right for you, take one last look at the overall piece. Take note that the pearls have been drilled symmetrically. Pearls drilled off-center will not hang in line with the rest of the strand. Make sure the drill holes are clean and not chipped, the silk is knotted tightly and well, and the clasp fastens securely.
With these tools in hand, you’re now ready to buy the perfect piece. We recommend always purchasing from a reputable jeweler who specializes in pearls, like Spey. Pearls are both innovative and timeless. A Spey pearl specialist will help you choose a piece that may be worn for decades and generations to come.