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Pearls Cheat Sheet

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Pearls Cheat Sheet All Entries

While traveling this week in Beijing and visiting the pearl market it struck me that most pearl consumers kept asking the vendors the same questions.  I hope this serves as your pearl cheat sheet.

Pearls can be a treasured investment and family heirloom if purchased correctly. There are so many pearl options out there, and with such an extreme range in price and size, it’s hard to sift through the vast variety of treasures.

 Here’s a few good facts to start out with… There are 4 main types: Akoya Pearls, Freshwater Pearls, South Sea Pearls, and Tahitian.  

 Akoya pearls are very classic, they range in size from 2mm - 11mm, although any Akoya above 8mm is incredibly rare. They are grown mostly in Japan, with the largest of the Akoya specifically only being found there. Akoya pearls are usually white or cream, but can sometimes also be black, slate blue, and rose pink. 

 Freshwater pearls are grown in lakes, rivers, ponds, and creeks, primarily cultured in China, approximately 300 miles from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai. The most common size of fresh water pearls are between 7mm - 10mm, but they can be found anywhere from 2mm - 16mm. They come in a fabulous variety of pastel shades.  Pink, peach, lavender, plum, purple, salmon, orange, cream, yellow, and of course white and black.  Freshwater pearls used to have a bad reputation for poorer quality and more irregular shape, but their quality has improved greatly, and it’s now possible to find perfectly round freshwater pearls.

 South Sea pearls are cultivated in oysters from northern Australia, Myanmar, and Indonesia. They are the largest breed of pearl, ranging from 10mm all the way up to 20mm!  They are the highest price point of pearl on the market, not just because of size, but also because of rarity as well. The colors of the south sea range from silver and gold, to white, cream, and slate blue.

 Finally, the Tahitian Pearl, pearls of the darkest hue, are only grown in the warm waters of French Polynesia. They are the second largest size pearl, being between 9mm - 16mm. Primarily produced in a black shade, these exotic pearls can also be found in deep shades of grey, brown, slate blue, green, and purple.

There are so many factors to take in when making a pearl purchase, but I think one last consideration is important and not necessarily addressed in facts and science. Irrelevant to price, origin, and type… Color is key to the wearer.  With pearls being a timeless symbol of beauty and grace, you want to ensure that the color you select complements you effortlessly. Like with makeup, even such a thing as your own skin tone should be a factor in selecting a pearl color! You want your pearls to be a statement, like your favorite knockout lipstick, that extra something that gives the perfect amount of glamour to illuminate your radiance. It’s best to avoid matching tones that appear drab, you should never be stuck with pearls that blend in like a face powder!

So now that you know some important bits of pearl information, you can feel a little more aware going into your next pearl purchase.  Check our selection of pearls in our Castaways collection along with other items such as oxblood coral and mother of pearl. 

Missed my previous blog posts? Check out "November's birthstone, Citrine" and "The differences between Tanzanite and Sapphire".