I think that ANY time you buy a "name" brand you are paying a premium for that name.
I'm not saying that they don't have beautiful pieces but they are going to cost more than an independent designer who could do equally beautiful work. But you couldn't then say "I have Mikimoto (or TIffany's or whatever brand) pearls."
I have black pearl studs, white pearl studs, and an incredibly gorgeous black pearl ring with four diamonds on either side of the pearl. On Saturday my DH bought me a black pearl and diamond pendant. All are Mikimoto.
I have another pearl necklace that isn't a brand name, but the pearls are the real deal. As pretty as they are, I prefer Mikimoto. There's a certain comfort level I get by knowing exactly what I'm wearing.
As pretty as they are, I prefer Mikimoto. There's a certain comfort level I get by knowing exactly what I'm wearing.[/quote]
^^That's the point I was trying to make, well said Leelee. There is just so much product available these days, everyone 'does' pearls, but I feel uneasy about them. You just can't tell the quality necessarily, to a certain extent you do rely on the jeweller's reputation.
I have Mikimoto pearl earrings, a long necklace and a bracelet. I really love them and the luster and shine of the pearls are amazing. I do not think Mikimoto are overpriced since you know what you are getting. I also like the "M" hanging of the necklaces and bracelets since it's my name initial and many people who do not know Mikimoto think I had the letter placed there for my name.
If you decide for an independent pearl designer or others, make sure to specifically say which grading/quality of pearls you are wanting so that you don't get disappointed.