The Ultimate Pearl Jewelry Buying Guide
Pearls are one of the most romantic gifts an individual can buy. More luscious than silk, more special than receiving two dozen red roses, more craved than dark chocolate truffles, pearls offer an unmatched allure. No two pearls are exactly alike, and it’s the incredible variety between these little mysteries of the sea that makes them all the more covet-worthy.
In our latest guide, we’re going to explore all of the pearl jewelry options available at Lux Bond & Green, from luxurious Mikimoto favorites to “add-a-pearl” designs, to a whole section of pearl designer jewelry. You’ll also learn how you can pick out the highest quality pearls. Don’t let the options scare you; it’s next to impossible to go wrong buying pearls with a few simple tips!
You might be surprised to find out that different types of oysters create distinctly different pearl varieties. After all, pearls are literally the product of an animal. When a fragment of debris, such as a piece of shell or rough grain of sand, finds its way inside of an oyster, the mollusk reacts with a defense mechanism, secreting a substance known as “nacre” in layers to protect itself from the intruder. Over time, the result is a gorgeous pearl. Around the turn of the century, a Japanese innovator, Kokichi Mikimoto, became the forefather of modern-day pearls by replicating this natural process. Here are some of those oyster breeds, and pearl varieties:
Akoya - From Japan hails the Akoya oyster, and its pearl is actually the most popular of all. These pearls are well known for their rich luster and color. They can come in a spectrum of colors, including white, cream, pink, light green, blue, and silver.
Black South Sea - The name says it all. This pearl shows up in dark tones like gray, silver, dark green, and deep black. It is also loved for its often-organic shape—not just round, but oval, teardrop, or something in between. Found only in Tahiti and Okinawa, or the “South Seas,” and born from black-lipped oysters.
White South Sea - White-lipped oysters generate these silky pearls, also loved for their shape variety.
Golden South Sea - More rare than other South Sea pearls, the golden-lipped oyster will produce a warm-hued pearl, from champagne tones to deep gold.
Conch - These pearls are not actually from an oyster, but instead are from the Queen conch, which grows in the warmer seas of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. The finest conch pearls are pink and feature a fire-y pattern. They cannot be cultivated, rather, one has to get lucky and find them naturally.
Baroque - These pearls are interesting and irregularly shaped, often earning them a place in fashion-forward designer jewelry.
Freshwater – These pearls are produced by Hyriopsis cumingi (triangle shell) and Hyriopsis schlegeli (Biwa shell) and other bivalve mussels that live in lakes, riverbeds and creek bottoms. The biggest difference is that most Freshwater pearls are irregularly shaped and each oyster or shell produces many pearls instead of a singular pearl that we find in all the saltwater pearls previously mentioned.
A relationship with pearl growers is just as important to cultivate as the pearls themselves. Lux Bond & Green has been traveling to the other side of the world to meet with pearl cultivators for over 40 years, scouring the seas of the Far East for only the highest quality gems. In fact, Lux Bond & Green was the first retailer in the United States to represent Mikimoto pearls as a collection nearly 35 years ago. As Lux Bond & Green’s family was building their own signature for “Every Box has a Story™,” it was a natural partnership to add the most beautiful cultured pearls into their array of products.
Now that you know a bit about your options, how do you find the best from within each category? Just like with diamonds, Mikimoto has a lettered grading system for pearls that ranges from AAA, for high-quality pearls, to A, in order of decreasing quality. These grades rank luster and surface perfection. Luster can best be described as glow and reflection. Surface perfection refers to blemishes or small marks on a pearl’s surface. The pearl will naturally have texture, however if imperfections are found on more than 10% of the pearl’s surface, it will drop to a lower grade. Shape, color,and size are other factors that determine a pearl’s beauty and value. Larger sized and perfectly round pearls are the most valuable, but shape is all in the eye of the beholder. An even color distribution around the pearl is the key characteristic to look for in gauging color quality, no matter the tone.
Enough studying for now! You’ll be pleased to hear that if you’re looking for the finest pearls in the world, we do a lot of the work for you. Only the most lustrous pearls end up being included in Mikimoto pearl jewelry, and you’ll find a wide variety of the finest necklace designs in every length. For instance, this simply stunning Black South Sea Pearl Necklace at a choker length of 16” is completely made of A+ quality pearls, secured with a white gold clasp with a tiny diamond. Or, see the deep luster of an 18” princess length Akoya Cultured Pearl Necklace of all A quality pearls if you’re looking for a more traditional option. For a layered look, try on this double strand of 18” and 20” Graduated Cultured Pearl Necklace of pink-tinted beauties.
Looking for the ultimate romantic present, perhaps for a wedding anniversary, or to commemorate a special holiday season together? Consider a three-piece set including an Akoya Bracelet, Earrings, and Necklace. All boxed up in Lux packaging, with little yellow gold bows at the jewelry clasps, a gift like this will be treasured, cared for, and remembered.
Though pearls are not to be taken lightly, they also don’t necessarily have to break the bank! Lux Bond & Green has also sought trend-forward and fun fashion pearl jewelry for every budget. For instance, this Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Leather Bracelet featuring braided pink leather with sterling silver beads and a pretty freshwater pearl, or this Sterling Silver Pearl Drop Pendant and Earring Set, are youthful styles, and perfect treats for loved ones.
For a gift that keeps on giving, consider beginning the add-a-pearl program. Start with a single “starter” pearl necklace, and go from there. Every year or special occasion, add a pearl from the Green Card Collection and watch both her and the necklace grow over time. Holidays are all about traditions, and there’s always room to introduce more magic annually.
Finally, as you plan which pearls just have to be yours, here are a few tips for keeping pearl jewelry healthy and happy:
- Try not to let perfumes, hair products, or cosmetics come into contact with your pearls until they are dry as this can destroy the skin of the pearl
- Moisture should be removed from pearls with a soft cloth, and you should not submerge your pearl jewelry in chlorinated water (remember to take off your pearls before bathing or swimming)
- Keep pearls away from any objects in your jewelry box that could scratch their surface
- Wear often! Pearls want to be worn and your natural skin oils will only enrich the beauty of their organic appearance
Pearls are a gorgeous finishing touch to any outfit, and for any wearer. With the variety in pearl jewelry styles at Lux Bond & Green, you’re certain to find something beautiful to take home this season. Start shopping online with the suggestions mentioned here, or visit one of our brick-and-mortar stores today, to get lost in these strands of lustrous luxury.