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Pearl Buying Tips

Honora
Honora

Pearls make the perfect gift for babies born in June or under the signs of Gemini or Cancer. As ancient symbols of purity and innocence, pearls are traditionally worn by a bride on her wedding day—making pearl jewelry a great gift to celebrate a bride-to-be or a 1st, 3rd, 12th or 30th anniversary.

If you’re shopping for perfectly round natural pearls, you’ll need patience and a large pocketbook. Most pearls on the market today are produced through culturing, giving pearl buyers a wealth of options.

Most freshwater cultured pearls are made in China, while common saltwater cultured pearls include Akoya, white or golden South Sea, and black Tahitian. Colors can range from creamy white to pink, yellow, brown, purple, blue, green, silver or an iridescent rainbow of hues like a peacock.

Pearls are one of few gems not measured by carats. Luster is the most important aspect of choosing a pearl. The finest pearls are metallic and reflective like mirrors.

Shogun Pearl
Shogun Pearl

Pearls can range in size from 3mm to 13mm. Because pearls do not require polishing or faceting like most gems, finding a pair of pearls that match perfectly in size, color and luster can be more difficult—and more expensive. A matched strand of natural pearls may sell for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars.

Beware imitation pearls or shell pearls, which are made from conch shells or glass coated with a solution containing fish scales. Rubbing two pearls together will reveal if they are smooth imitation stones, or if they feel gritty from the nacre that comprises natural and cultured pearls.

Gem experts can distinguish natural pearls from cultured pearls by using gemological X-ray equipment. Natural pearls consist entirely of concentric growth rings, while cultured pearls have a solid nucleus of the bead or shell that was implanted to stimulate pearl production.  

Find an AGS jeweler in your area who can help you select the perfect pearl, or learn more about other birthstones.