How to Choose Fine Pearls

Buying fine pearls? What you need to know about fine pearls. How to choose fine pearls, how to buy pearl jewelry and buy fine pearls with expert eyes.

Pearls Buying Guide

So how to choose fine pearls? Here’s the secret to how to choose a pearl well: learn how to buy a pearl you will like by mastering the 6 factors that determine pearl quality.

  1. Nacre Thickness – How to choose fine pearls? This is the most important factor, for it protects the pearl from discoloration, age and damage. Check the thickness by looking at the area around the drill hole, where you can see the widths of the nacre layer and the shell bead layer.
  2. Luster / Nacre Quality – Nacre quality directly affects the luster (degree of shine and how light reflects through the layers of the pearl). The most attractive pearls are uniformly iridescent and have an intense luster. Generally, the thicker and more even the nacre coating, the more appealing the pearl.
  3. Surface perfection – Examine pearls carefully for flaws and blemishes. Most medium to high grade pearls have imperfections that will not be visible from a distance, and can only be seen upon close, meticulous examination.
  4. Color and overtone – The darker and more intense the overtone, the more desirable the pearl. The most desirable and more rare white pearls have rose colored overtones, for these are the most rare. Cream colored pearls are less rare, and thus more affordable. The natural body colors are white, black, gray, green, blue, pink and gold; the other colors are rarer, and thus more expensive.
  5. Shape – Perhaps the most direct factor in how to choose fine pearls: The rounder the pearl, the more desirable. To check, simply roll the pearl down a surface. If it rolls in a straight line, it is round.
  6. Size – The larger the pearl, the more expensive (but not necessarily more desirable – this depends on your personal taste). Large pearls are attractive, but those that are too large may be seen as ostentatious.


How a Pearl is Formed / How are Pearls made?

How are Pearls formed? They are either cultured or formed naturally:



How pearls are formed naturally – When a foreign particle gets inside an oyster and serves as an irritant, the oyster protects itself by secreting nacre, forming a pearl sac over the irritant (parasite, microorganism, etc). As layer upon layer accumulates over years, a pearl is formed.



How pearls are made / cultured – Natural pearl formation rarely produces gem quality pearls. Thus, pearls are often cultured by manually inserting a foreign object into the mollusk of an oyster. This induces the process of pearl formation. Most of the pearls available on the market are created through pearl cultivation.



How to tell real pearls from fakes

To know how to choose fine pearls, you also need to know how to choose pearls that are real. Your first hint is the name of the pearl jewelry itself. Fake names are sometimes highlighted with the following terms: simulated, plastic, glass, resin, faux, artificial.



Otherwise, there are a number of tests you could try to help you test for genuine/fake pearls:

  1. Strong lighting – Examine the pearls either under the sun or under strong indoor lighting. Except for the most expensive genuine pearls, other genuine pearls will not be perfectly matched under strong lighting. Look for variations in color and overtone; if the pearls are perfectly matched, they are most likely fake.
  2. Magnification – As with diamonds, magnify pearls to easily determine if they are fakes. Genuine pearls will have a number of ridges and irregularities, while fake pearls are grainy and smooth.
  3. Drill holes – Drill holes could be an extremely helpful clue. Since the weight of a pearl directly affects its price, the holes you find in real holes tend to be the smallest possible. In contrast, fake pearls often have larger holes. Another sign is flaking near the drill holes; only the nacre of cultured pearls tends to flake away.

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