Buying Pearl Jewelry Tips 101

You want to buy the best pearl jewelry you can for your money. It's easy to forget your budget as you let an iridescent strand of pearls sensuously glide through your fingers, reflecting your smile in each gleaming bead. And you're thinking about how happy this will make your love. Take a few deep breaths, blink your eyes once or twice and come back down to earth.

When buying pearl jewelry, the most important price factor is the size. The larger the pearl, the more expensive it is, so a double strand of smaller pearls can be more affordable than a single strand of larger ones. Learn about different types of pearls and grading systems. If you already know how to check pearls, here's a quick list of pearl scams, then shop at our selection of Freshwater Pearl Necklaces.

Basic Buy Pearl Jewelry Tips

  • Real pearls feel heavy and cool. Imitation pearls feel like feathers in comparison.
  • Run the pearls across your teeth. Real pearls feel rough, fake pearls feel smooth. You shouldn't do this at a store, but if you have any doubts after your purchase, check at home.
  • Have the jeweler place the pearls on a flat, white surface directly under a light and inspect each pearl for its luster. Pearls with a high luster have a shiny surface, good contrast and reflect objects near them. Poor quality pearls look like dull, chalky beads. Akoya pearls have the highest luster, black pearls naturally have a lower one.
  • Pearl color is a personal choice and generally doesn't affect its value, unless it is a rare natural color, which is more expensive. Before you buy pearl jewelry, decide which colors look best on you and base your decision on that.
  • Inspect the pearl's overtone, a secondary tint. Pinkish overtones can increase pearl price, while green or blue tints may lower it, except in the case of black pearls, where a greenish tint is more in demand.
  • If the pearls are a very high quality, they will have a good orient, which is a play of iridescent rainbow colors.
  • Check the pearls' surface for blemishes. Clean pearls have nearly no bumps, pits or wrinkles on them. Cracks and chips, which are usually found near the drill holes, may get worse through time. Naturally occurring imperfections don't necessarily take away from a pearl's beauty or value.
  • Roll a strand of pearls on a flat surface to test them for roundness. Round pearls roll more smoothly and evenly. Round or drop shapes should be symmetrical.

Pearl Jewelry Scams

Before you buy a piece of pearl jewelry, learn what is or isn't a scam.

As with diamonds, some enhancements are considered acceptable. For example, to obtain a high match level some Akoya pearls are lightly bleached and tinted after drilling. This treatment is considered acceptable and shouldn't affect the pearls over time.

As pearl grading standards are only subjective, some sellers might stretch the truth (and quite a bit) to persuade you to buy their pearl jewelry. How do you know if you're dealing with a huckster?

  • Ask the jeweler for written details about how they determine a pearl's quality. If they claim to have an unusual amount of AAA pearls, you can be sure that they're "upgrading" a good deal of their pearl jewelry.
  • A popular pearl jewelry scam is jewelers who claim to sell "AAAA" or "AAA+" pearls: these grades do not legitimately exist. Don't buy them!
  • A lacquer coating can be added to a pearl to increase its luster. This is not legit. If you are suspicious, have the pearls examined for nacre thickness by a qualified gemologist.
  • Sometimes three-quarter or half (mabe) pearls are set into pearl jewelry pieces and sold as whole pearls. Examine jewelry carefully, especially if you want to buy custom pearl jewelry from a dealer you don't know well or if you're in a tourist area.
  • Epoxy or other filler material can be used to disguise poor quality pearls with deep pits, and then coated with a pearlesence or other shiny coating, which will easily chip and peel.
  • If you can afford to buy jewelry made with natural pearls, don't wind up with cultured ones. Ask for certified x-ray test results. A natural pearl will show onion skin layers throughout. Cultured pearls usually have a larger beaded center.
  • How To Buy Jewelry Online Guide

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