How to Buy Pearls

Buy Pearls
Buy Pearls

How to Buy Pearls. Versatile and classic, pearls are a worthwhile investment that can soften a business suit or add more elegance to a dress. Here's what to look for.

Things You'll Need

  • Pearl Bracelets
  • Pearl Earrings
  • Pearl Necklaces

General Considerations

Decide whether you want natural, cultured or imitation pearls. Keep in mind that imitation pearls are costume jewelry and are of very little value; natural pearls are almost impossible to find in stores and often aren't as high in quality as cultured pearls.

Choose a pearl shape: round, symmetrical or baroque and/or irregular. Spherelike round pearls are the most expensive and highly prized. Symmetrical pearls, such as those shaped like teardrops, should be evenly shaped.

Consider pearl size, the most important factor in price. The larger the pearl, the costlier it will be.

Decide if you want a double-strand necklace of smaller pearls (cheaper) or a single strand of larger pearls (more expensive).

Place pearls directly under a light on a flat, white surface in order to inspect them.

Inspect each pearl for luster. Lustrous pearls have a shiny surface, good contrast between light and dark areas, and strong, crisp reflections. Avoid pearls that resemble dull, cloudy white beads.

Look at the pearl's 'orient,' a play of iridescent rainbow colors'characteristic of high-quality pearls.

Examine pearl color, which can be white, yellow, black, gray or various other colors. Ask whether the color is natural or dyed; the latter is less expensive. More exotic natural colors are more expensive.

Inspect the pearl's 'overtone,' a tint secondary to the main body color. Pinkish overtones can increase pearl price, while green or blue tints may lower the price.

Verify the pearl's cleanliness by checking that it has minimal surface blemishes such as nicks, cracks, pits or discoloration.

Turn the pearl in your hands to examine it from all angles. Color, shape, smoothness and luster all may vary within a single pearl. Roll a strand of pearls on a flat surface to test them for roundness'round pearls roll more smoothly and evenly.

Distinguishing Real Pearls From Imitations

Run the pearl lightly along the biting edge of your front teeth. A real pearl will feel slightly gritty or sandy, whereas a fake pearl will feel smooth. This is a standard test for authenticity that most sellers will allow, as long as you ask first.

Look at and feel the pearl. Absolutely flawless-looking pearls, as well as those that feel unusually light when you bounce them in your hands, are probably fake.

Examine the pearl under a 10magnifier (a loupe). Imitation pearls appear grainy.

Tips & Warnings

  • Pearls offered at unbelievably low prices are probably fake.

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