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Pearl Buying - Choosing & Caring for Pearls

Pearl buying can seem daunting - the more you learn the more you realise you don't know! If you've read the other articles in this guide you'll understand the different types of pearl and the qualities that determine their value. If you're buying pearls as a gift this page answers the most frequent questions.

  • there's no industry standard for grading pearls. One supplier's AAA may be another's A.
  • quality factors are size, shape, lustre, nacre thickness, blemish, colour, and matching.
  • in seawater pearls, a minimum nacre thickness is vital to prevent chipping and flaking.
  • pearl prices rise sharply after they reach 7mm to 8mm in diameter.
  • pearls are a natural product so expect some small imperfections.
  • naturally coloured pearls may have small variations in shade along the strand.
Necklace Lengths

necklace lengths Diagram
16 inches, 18 inches
20 inches, 22 inches
Sometimes called:
Choker: 14-16 inches Standard: 16 inches
Princess: 17-19 inches Matinee: 20-24 inches
Opera: 28-36 inches Rope: 36 inches and over

Popular Lengths
For necklaces, 18 inches is easily the most popular. This is the total length, including the clasp.

In everyday use bracelets get more of a battering. They shouldn't be too loose as they can snag and break. 7.5 inches suits most people. The clasp on a bracelet must be easy to fasten and unfasten as it's a one-handed operation.

Choosing Pearls as a Gift
It's usually wise to go for the best grade of pearl you can afford - even if this means choosing a smaller pearl size. If you don't know what she'd prefer you can't go too far wrong with traditional round white pearls.

You'll find a handy video summarising the main criteria for buying a necklace here.

giving pearls A good necklace can be spoiled by a cheap presentation case or tacky lightweight clasp. Some overseas sellers ship products in 'luxury' cardboard jewellery boxes to save weight. Cardboard is cardboard!

pearl colours Classic white, ivory and cream are usually a safe bet. Other colours are a matter of skin tone and personal preference. If the colour of a dress or blouse suits, then that shade of pearl probably will too.

pearl care

Pearls are a soft gem with low resistance to heat and chemicals. Clean them with a dry or damp soft cloth or chamois. Never use detergent, bleach or chemicals unless you want to watch your pearls melt. Don't try to remove dirt with a toothbrush or any abrasive material as these may scratch the pearl's surface. It's better to clean pearls regularly than allow a build up of dirt or make-up.

pearl care kit
Put on pearls after applying make-up, perfume, deodorant or hairspray. Take off pearls before showering, bathing or swimming so you don't get the thread wet. Keep your pearls in a soft pouch or bag away from other jewellery that scratches.

pearl restringing
Traditionally, good quality necklaces and bracelets are strung on silk thread that stretches with time and use. If you wear your pearls a lot they will need restringing periodically.

stud earrings
When removing stud earrings try to get your fingers behind the earring cup rather than tugging on the pearl itself.

broken stud earring?

repairing earrings
Don't panic. Fix it with this simple home repair

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