And the winner of the freshwater pearl necklace giveaway!
Congrats to Cheryl! Your necklace will be on its way to you soon!
Thank you to everyone who entered! I’ve found pearls to be a crucial addition to building a wardrobe. I’d like to take this opportunity to share some pearl shopping tips to help you build your own collection.
What is a pearl?
A pearl is a hard object made inside a mollusk (oyster, mussel, clam, etc.) to protect itself from something that has gotten inside it’s shell. The pearl is made of many layers of calcium carbonate that the mollusk wraps around the irritating item to trap it, so it won’t harm the mollusk. Pearls are prized for their luster (shine) and iridescence (color changes when looked at from different angles).
Are they real or fake? The faux pearl test:
The easiest and quickest way to tell if a pearl is real or fake is the bite test. Simply place a pearl between your front teeth and gently bite down on it. A real pearl will feel gritty and sandy. A fake pearl will feel completely smooth.
~ disclaimer: sales associates will not be happy with you if you do this blatantly in a store. If you do the bite test, be discreet.
Another way is to look really closely at the pearls, but you need good eyesight for this one. Under a bright light or sunlight, look for imperfections in the pearl beads. Real pearls are never perfect, and pearl beads in a necklace will never match perfectly by size or color. If you look at them close and see differences in size and color, then chances are they are real. If every pearl is the same size and exact same color, chances are they are fake.
None of these test are fool proof, as fake pearl manufacturers try to make their pearls look and feel as real as possible. If you’re really concerned about the authenticity of your pearls, a gemologist can test for you, but it will cost money.
Freshwater: These pearls are grown inside mollusks in non-ocean water. These are easy to grow and harvest, and often have less luster. These are often the more affordable pearl options.
Salt water: These pearls are grown inside mollusks in the ocean, usually in special lagoons called “farms”.
Cultured: Most pearls today are cultured. It simply means a mollusk has been implanted with an irritating material that makes it produce a pearl. The mollusks are harvested and opened a few months later to retrieve the pearl.
Natural: Natural pearls are really rare, and will cost a pretty penny. It just means a mollusk produced a pearl all on it’s own, and grew it for many years. Hundreds of mollusks can be harvested and opened to find even one natural pearl.
Baroque: Baroque pearls are not perfectly round. They can be flattened, oval, ringed, among many other varieties. These are usually cheaper because most people prefer that perfect round pearl necklace. I however, love baroque pearls. I think it makes a necklace really special and unique.
Akoya: The most popular type of salt water pearl. These are grown in the waters around China and Japan, and have a beautiful luster, but are generally small. Mikimoto pearls are Akoya.
Tahitian Black: These are a large, dark colored pearl. It is very hard to mass produce black pearls, so they tend to be very expensive.
South Sea: The most expensive type of pearl. These pearls are made in south sea oysters, which are rare, and difficult to harvest (these grow in deep water ocean habitats). They can also be quite large.
Pearl price points:
Real pearls can be affordable, you just have to know where to look…
$ – Freshwater cultured pearls. These are usually very affordable, and I often see them for even less than some fake pearls!
$$ – Akoya cultured pearls. These are the cheapest of the the salt water pearls. Prices can vary wildly, but some good deals can be found, especially online.
$$$ – Tahitian cultured pearls. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Tahitian necklace of round (not baroque) pearls for less than $2,000.
$$$$ – South Sea cultured pearls. So expensive, I can’t even imagine owning a necklace.
$$$$$ – Natural pearls.
Common necklace lengths:
Chokers (16 inch) & Princess (18 inch): The most common necklace lengths. These will drape nicely around your neck and rest above your blouse neckline. I prefer 16″ for my height, as I find 18″ is a bit too low for most of my blouses, and will get mixed up in my neckline.
Opera Length: Remember that pearl necklace that Carrie Bradshaw wears in Sex and the City the Movie? That is opera length. It was the necklace length du-jour for attending the opera, hence the name.
Rope: A very long pearl necklace that can be worn a variety of ways. You can loop it around two or three times for a layered look, or tie it in a knot. You could get creative and tie it around your waist as a belt, or loop it around your wrist for an arm full of pearls.
Mikimoto pearls…what are they? Any why are they so expensive?
Before the process to culture pearls existed, the only pearls were natural, and hard to find. When the process to culture pearls was discovered, Mikimoto acquired the patents and began culturing pearls in Japan. Mikimoto is the first company to commercially produce cultured pearls, and today, are high quality, cultured Akoya pearls, and can be quite expensive.
Majorca pearls…what are they? And why are they so expensive?
Majorca pearls are fake! They are man-made from glass. As for why they’re so expensive…I’m not sure. I would never pay money for Majorca fake pearls when I can buy real freshwater pearls for way less.
Chanel pearls…what are they? And why are they so expensive?
Chanel pearls are fake! They are glass, and also super expensive. Coco Chanel was actually known for wearing fake pearl necklaces mixed with real ones. The only reason I can think of for their high prices is brand status.
My favorite place to buy pearls online you ask? Pearl Paradise! My mom has been buying from them for years, and my Akoya necklace is from them. Check out their monthly specials for great deals. I am not affiliated with them…just a long time customer.