As the great Jackie Kennedy once said, “Pearls are always appropriate.” Like most other gemstones, pearls don’t fit neatly into one particular category. Their subtle, luxurious beauty boasts multiple personalities to suit the many customers who choose them. In our experience, we receive multiple pearl buying FAQs from our wonderful customers. So we’ve sought out our gemstone experts to share all there is to know about pearl buying.
Here are five pearl buying FAQs and how to best answer them:
What are the different types of pearls?
Originally exclusive to Australia, South Sea pearls are now cultured in Indonesia, Burma, and the Philippines. Colors range from white pink and silver pink to dark gold. Australian pearls can throw fancy colors including red gold — extremely rare and highly regarded. These sizable pearls work well in strands and statement pieces.
Often called black pearls, Tahitian pearls grow in the warm, turquoise lagoons of French Polynesia and other islands in the South Seas. Colors range from gray to black, shimmering with peacock green, gray, and purple overtones. Try these dark devils for an edgier look.
Hailing from Japan, the most valued Akoya pearl colors are white and white with pink undertones. Best-known of the cultured pearls, their roundness, nacre depth, and consistent luster have positioned them as the preferred choice for a timeless statement.
Though originally produced in Japan, 90% of the world’s freshwater pearls now come from China.Supply is plentiful, as each shell can produce up to 100 pearls simultaneously. While typically irregular in color and shape, freshwater pearls are the most affordable and are widely used in sterling silver jewelry because of their availability.
Japanese Mabé pearls grow in saltwater mussels and some oysters, forming on the inside of the shell, rather than in the mussel’s tissue. The most desirable color is white with pink undertones, but dark, smoky, and blue colors are more desirable as ever. These cultured pearls with domed hemispheres and an almost flat back are great for brooches and pendants.
What do I look for when buying pearls?
Similar to the 4 C’s of diamond buying, familiarize your customers with the Five Virtues related to pearl purchases.
For cultured pearl experts, luster is most important when determining pearl quality. Luster derives from the pearl’s countless layers of pearl nacre, the natural substance that forms the pearl itself. Luster describes the beauty you see as light travels through the nacre of the pearl. It is the nacre that causes light to refract from the pearl’s layers, giving each pearl its unique milky appearance.
Surface complexion refers to the physical blemishes or marks on the pearl’s surface. When evaluating complexion, the trade uses terms such as blemish, spotting, and cleanliness. Since cultured pearls are grown by live oysters in a natural environment, there are many uncontrollable forces that affect their surface.
The desirability of different pearl colors rests in the eye of the beholder. The most popular color is white or white with slight overtones. Pearls that are naturally colored, rather than color enhanced by artificial means, will add value to the pearl.
Classic shapes range in descending order of value from round to near-round, and from oval to drop. It’s important to understand that in pearl industry terms, the shapes from round to drop are pretty symmetrical, while anything baroque denotes a pearl that is completely asymmetrical or freeform.
Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can be smaller than one millimeter in the case of tiny seed pearls or as large as twenty millimeters for a mature South Sea pearl. Generally speaking, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it will be.
How do I care for my pearls?
As an organic gem, pearls are vulnerable to chemicals found in cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume. To preserve the luster of your pearls, always put on your jewelry after applying make-up and styling products. Pearls can be harmed by perspiration, too. Before placing your pearls back in the jewelry box, wipe them gently with a soft cloth.
Never use an ultrasonic cleaner on your pearls — it can damage their nacre. Occasionally wipe your pearls gently with a cloth dipped in mild, soapy water. Then, rinse the cloth with fresh water and wipe the pearls clean. Dry them with a soft cloth. If pearls come into contact with an acidic substance like fruit juice, vinegar, or other chemicals, immediately wipe them clean with a soft cloth. Be careful not to submerge your pearls in water as this will weaken the silk thread.
Contact with other jewelry may scratch pearls. Avoid tangles by fastening clasps, then lay each jewelry piece in a separate compartment of your jewelry box. When traveling, use a protective jewelry pouch or wrap each item in a soft cloth. Pearls can dehydrate when stored too long, so enjoy them frequently.
Are pearls safe for daily wear?
Frequent wear rehydrates pearls and helps to maintain an almost otherworldly luminescence. What do pearls have to do to stay beautiful? They need to be worn often. If stored in a hot, airless environment, they can dry and crack. Pearls need oil from the skin to enhance their luster and color. Also, from time to time, check the clasps or screws holding your jewelry together. With frequent wear, even the best-kept pearl strands may loosen and will require restringing.
Aren’t pearls too traditional for modern women?
In recent years, there’s been a resurgence, culturally, among the younger generation longing for a style reminiscent of a more elegant time. Think about the gilded ’40s or the classic American style of Jacqueline Kennedy in the ’60s. In everything from architecture to fashion, we are seeing influences from these time periods today. Pearls have always made a statement about class and sophistication, finding their way into almost every woman’s wardrobe. Further, cultured pearls are affordable and dynamic accessories perfect for donning on a romantic night out, while casual enough to wear with jeans and your favorite blouse.
Download and print this handy pearl buying guide
We hope we’ve fully answered the top five pearl buying FAQs you may encounter when selling pearls to your customers. What other sorts of questions do you receive about pearls? Let us know in the comments below!