Freshwater pearls cover a wider range of colors and shapes than any other pearl type. Originally these pearls were marketed as a lower quality, inexpensive alternative to Akoya pearls. For this reason, jewelry designers traditionally used freshwater pearls for pieces that favored design over the gems themselves. However, since the 1990s, a class of freshwater pearls that are round and lustrous have emerged which rival Akoya pearls in both quality and value. Freshwater pearls cover the widest range of options for pearl buyers in size, shape and color.
How To Buy Pearls?
Buying pearls can be a daunting and difficult task for the uninitiated but with a little bit of research the job can become a very interesting and enjoyable experience. The goal of this article is to be a simple primer for those new to shopping for pearl jewelry, but in no way can the topic of "Pearls" be covered in a single page.
Step 1 - All pearls sold on the retail market are "cultured pearls" unless otherwise labeled as natural pearls. Many Jewelers and consumers mistakenly label Freshwater pearls as "cultured pearls", but this is misleading since Akoya, Freshwater, Tahitian and South Sea pearls are all "cultured pearls". To avoid confusion knowledgeable dealers and consumers will refer to pearls by their correct pearl type.
Step 2 - Decide what type of pearl suits your style and budget. A strand of pearls can range from 15€ - 35.000€+, so understanding the different types of pearls will help you narrow down your choice.
Akoya pearls - Price 60 €- 3000€+
Akoya pearls are the classic white pearls, famous for their metallic, mirror like luster and perfectly round shape. Akoya pearls are often thought of as white pearls but are also available in dyed "black" versions.
Tahitian pearls - Price 120€ - 10,000€+
Tahitian pearls are the only naturally "black" pearls ranging from silver to dark green with multi-color peacock hues being the most sought after. Tahitian pearls come in perfectly round and more commonly off-round shapes and generally larger in size(8-16mm).
South Sea pearls - Price 399€ - 30,000€
South Sea pearls are large (9-18mm) pearls ranging from silky silver to deep golden colors and command the highest price of all cultured pearls. Because of their large size and high price they are generally found as pendants, rings and earrings with full strands pricing as high as 30,000€+.
Freshwater pearls - Price 15€ - 1500€
Freshwater pearls may be the most interesting of all cultured pearls, given their long history and rapid evolution in recent years. Originally only found in high quantities and low quality, they were considered almost costume jewelry by most. In recent years the Chinese have made huge advancements in culturing technique and now we see Gem Grade Freshwater pearls that rival Hanadama grade Akoya's in quality and South Sea pearls in size. Connoisseurs and pearl aficionados have now adopted these high quality Freshwater pearls as the new cultured pearl of choice. Available from 2 - 18mm in size and ranging in color from natural lavender to pink to bright white in color, Freshwater pearls are the "it" pearl at the moment.
Step 3 - Never before has such a wide range of pearl colors been available. Whites, Lavenders, Golds, Pinks, Greens, Blues, Purples and every shade in-between can be found naturally and with the aid of treatments. White is the classic, versatile color choice and many believe that a woman's first pearl necklace should always be a white strand. "Black" pearls are not actually black but dark shades of gray, greens and blues and give an exotic look that works especially well with darker skin tones. Pink, peach and lavender shades are fun, flirty pieces perfect for spring and summer wear but when color matched correctly with an outfit can look incredibly sophisticated as well.
Color is a personal choice and generally doesn't affect the price of pearl, so let your personal taste guide your color choice.
Step 4 - Understanding Value Factors
When dealing with cultured pearls there are several factors that will determine the overall value of a pearl. The biggest factor is shape. Round pearls almost always command the highest price, but many love the uniqueness of baroque and off-round pearls as well. Read more about pearl shape here.
The surface of a pearl is another important factor to consider; the cleaner the pearl's surface the better. A pearl is a natural gemstone so there will always be some form of imperfection, but as long as they are minor they won"t be noticeable when worn.
Related to surface is luster; a poor surface will negatively impact the luster of a pearl. High luster is what all pearl buyers are looking for; a high quality pearl with high luster will be almost mirror-like in appearance. A pearl's luster is what makes a pearl "pop" and stand out.
Last but possibly most important is size, and in the case of pearls, size matters. Traditionally a women will "earn the right" to wear larger pearls as she matures. A good rule of thumb is to choose pearls 7mm and larger for adult women and keep anything smaller reserved for young girls and teenagers.
Pearl Buying Tips
- Only purchase from a company with a solid return policy. Pearls always look great in a photograph or showroom but may appear different in natural lighting, so it's important to be able to exchange or return your pearls if necessary.
- Purchase from a retailer like Atelier Sandra that specializes in pearls. 99% of all jewelers are uneducated; misinformed or simply ignorant when it comes to cultured pearls, many don't understand the product they are selling.
- Don't get hung up on brand names; Tiffany's and Mikimoto both are known for high quality goods, but by no means do they have a monopoly on high quality pearls. Savings of thousands of dollars can be had if you do your research.
- A simple method to check if a pearl is real or imitation is the "Tooth Test". Gently slide the pearl across the front of your teeth; if it feels smooth then it's a fake, as real pearls feel gritty.
How are pearls growing?
Pearls form inside oysters, mussels, and clams (molluskan bivalves) when a small object becomes trapped inside the shell of the mollusk. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not sand that finds its way inside the shell but a small piece of clay, mud, worm, small crab, or parasite. When a foreign object enters the shell, as a self defense mechanism, the mollusk attempts to isolate the foreign object by secreting nacre (also known as mother of pearl). Throughout time, many layers of nacre are formed around the foreign object, and a beautiful pearl is born. One might say that the conception of a natural pearl is much like the birth of a child. The genetics of a child as with a pearl depends on the two entities that converge. The shape of the pearl actually depends on the shape of the foreign object that is trapped inside the mollusk, the rounder the object-the rounder the pearl. The color of a pearl on the other hand depends on the mollusk that incubates it.
Do you only use freshwaterpearls?
Yes, all our jewelry are made from freshwaterpearls.