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How to Buy Pearls: 5 Best Tips

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You might think pearls are too old-fashioned, or that you’re too haute and hip for them. But truly there’s nothing more timeless than a string of pearls. Before you go out to purchase yours, learn how to buy pearls with these five tips.

1. Choose cultured, natural, or imitation pearls.

The three basic types of pearls are cultured, natural, and imitation. Imitation are fine for costume jewelry and affordable pearl accessories, but if you’re looking for an investment piece, you’ll want natural or cultured. Natural, however, are hard to find and therefore pricier, so those of us on a budget will likely end up shopping the cultured variety.

2. Consider the look you want.

Pearl shapes vary. Perfectly round pearls are more common in cultured pearls as opposed to natural. Color is another factor, with cultured pearls coming in tones that range from white to rose to silver to black. How to choose? Try on a few pieces, and select what looks best against your skin tone.

3. Set your budget.

As with all things, you’ll pay more for good quality. Pearls are typically given one of four grades: A, AA, AAA, and AAA+, with AAA+ quality being the highest. Often, the variations between, say, AA and AAA are lost on the layperson, so if the AA is the best you can do on your budget, go for it. Luster, by the way, is a visible indication of quality.

Lower quality pearls can look chalky, while high-quality pearls have a more mirror-like surface.

4. Balance price and size.

Pearls are measured in millimeters, and the price is based on the size. You’ll need to strike a balance between the look you want and the cost you can live with.

5. Pick a piece you’ll wear.

There’s no point in parting with your hard-earned cash if your pearls sit in the jewelry box all but one night a year.


Thursday 17th of January 2008

I am a pearl snob and have loved my pinkish baroque cultured pearls. I recently found out that many oysters die when the pearls are removed from them. Took the “shine” off of natural and cultured pearls for me. The BEST fake pearls are by Kenneth Jay Lane and you can find them at QVC, ebay, and in stores. He did the fake pearls for Barbara Bush (okay, not a style icon) and Jackie Kennedy (remember the photo of toddler JFK Jr. grabbing her pearl necklace?)


Wednesday 16th of January 2008

While I was in Hawaii (Honolulu specifically) there were these convenience stores called the ABC Store that sold genuine pearls for low as $3.99 for earrings and $5.99 for necklaces. Some of them, granted, are of varying shape, but if one wants real pearls and finds themselves off the mainland, maybe a good place to check out.

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