Pearl Education (Warning: Somewhat of a Rant)

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  1. *Not trying to start any wars, it just makes me sad to see people paying TONS fo money for pearls when they really don't have to*

    I have decided to condense my pearl rant into one tiny thread that I can link to instead of repeating the same info over and over again. All this info is off the top of my head, but can be double checked at the Pearl Guide (google it).

    Types of white pearls:

    Freshwater: All nacre, usually has incredible orient and luster at higher qualities, usually can't grow past 9mm
    Akoya: Mirror like luster at highest quality, usually doesn't go past 9mm
    South Sea: Known for large size, usually start at 9mm and go up to 13mm

    Pearl Quality: Usually divided into A (being the lowest), AA, AA+, and AAA (being the *commercially available* highest quality), and then "Hanadama"/Gem Grade (very highest quality)

    Myth that drives me crazy: "Mikimoto pearls are the highest quality pearls in the whole world!"

    Answer: Yes and No. Mikimoto usually uses Hanadama (which are AKOYA) pearls for their strands. The problem is that you can buy certified Hanadama pearls for a fraction of the price ($2500 for a non branded Hanadama versus $10,000 for a Mikimoto). It's comparing apples to apples.

    Now, the problem with Hanadama and top of the line Akoyas is that they look exactly like top of the line Freshwaters. One company offers "Freshadama," or Gem Grade freshwaters. Many online retailers (again, check Pearl-Guide for the list of 4 trusted online pearl dealers) offer their own brand of "Gem Grade" Freshwater pearls.

    In most cases, people prefer Gem Grade Freshwater to the Hanadamas, because the Freshwater pearls have more "orient."

    So, why does this all matter?

    Gem Grade Freshwaters: $200-$1000
    Hanadamas: $2000-$7,800
    Mikimoto: $10,000+

    Don't believe me? Can you tell the difference between Gem Grade Freshwaters and Mikimoto Quality Hanadamas?

    Link- Scroll down to see the side-by-side comparison

    Yeah. Thought so.

    /end rant.
  2. Actually Mikimoto strands start at $2350. You only get a $10k+ price tag when they're 30" long strands, South Sea pearls or when they start adding diamonds or other precious gems.

    I own an 18" Mikimoto strand and a pair of studs. When I walk into stores that exclusively sell pearl jewelry wearing my necklace, I get nothing but compliments. They see that it's a quality piece of jewelry and I feel great wearing it. It's graded as A1, but for me, the visible difference compared to AAA is not worth the price upgrade. Of course, there's always a premium for getting name-brand jewelry. Some people are educated on their other options, but still choose designer for one reason or another. It's hard to see someone choosing Tiffany diamond engagement ring for twice the price they could pay at a private jewelers, but if that's what they want, it's their choice: they didn't make it without shopping around.

    I love my Mikimoto pearls even if I do pay a premium for the name. For me it's worth it; it's special and it's the only pearl jewelry I'll ever need. Of course getting 40% off and no tax makes it a better deal to begin with.
  3. Thank you for posting this. Very helpful for me, as I know nearly nothing about pearls !
  4. I have no doubt Mikimoto's pearls are sold at a premium compared to lesser known names. But when I was shopping for a strand of pearls, while I knew there were cheaper alternatives in the market, I only had Mikimoto in mind. Why? Because I had the assurance that each and every pearl in the strand would be perfect. I didn't need to worry about whether they would rip me off since I didn't know much about pearls. And plus they have great after sales service - I can always bring the strands back to be restrung at no additional cost. And if I wanted a longer strand, they could always find similar coloured pearls to match mine from their huge inventory.

    So I quite agree with jan228 that it's the same concept when it comes to buying jewellery from the haute joaillier like Cartier, Harry Winston, Tiffany etc. Their diamonds are 3 or 4 times above the actual market value but there are still people willing to fork out the premium.
  5. Thanks so much for this post! I plan to buy pearls in the future and it's great to have the myths explained so I don't get ripped off :goodpost:
  6. I also have no problem paying the mark-up for Mikimoto pearls. I have a nice amount of pearl jewelry and the Mikimoto really does stand out in my eyes. Plus, I can rest assured that Mikimoto pearls are exactly what is advertised and not have to wonder about "less than honest" vendors. JMO......
    I'm also honest enough to say that some brand names matter a lot to me. :smile:
  7. I haven't seen any strands in stores that measure up to my Mikimoto necklace: from Cartier to Iridesse to no-name pearl shops. I'm sure there are beautiful strands out there for less money, but I have yet to see one in person.

    I'm also not a fan of online sites where I can't see the product first.
  8. Thanks for the educational post. I have a fair amount of pearl jewelry and will normally choose South Sea pearls over akoya or Freshwater. I will probably never buy Mikimoto because I can get AAA quality pearls where I live, at much lower cost. I am fortunate that my mom knows her pearls and taught me well. However, if I had no knowledge of pearls, I think I would feel much safer buying from a brand I am familiar with and one that is known for quality. It is certainly better than inadvertently buying imitation pearls and passing on fakes to your children. I can understand why people are willing to pay a premium for that kind of security.
  9. Great thread. It is very helpful for someone that does not know about pearls-like me :smile:
  10. Callire-What do you think of Honora?
  11. thanks for the great info Callire...I know next to nothing about pearls and it's good to know some in depth information on this topic...I didn't even know that South Sea and Freshwater were referring to size differences and lusters...i just assumed it was a type of pearl:rolleyes:
  12. Thank you for this information. I do know that brand names matter a lot to some people. So, even if they know a Mikimoto strand of pearls may be identical to a no-name brand, I think they like the sense of security and luxury that comes from an established brand with a good reputation.

    Personally, I like to shop around and if I can find similar quality at a much cheaper price, then I am all for that! I especially love the information about the gem-grade freshwater pearls. I've been looking into getting an opera-length strand, so knowing this information is probably going to save me a lot of money.
  13. ^^^ITA. I love jewelry and feel comfortable with doing this with stones, but with pearls I am always anxious about being ripped off there is so much stuff flooding the market who knows what is what?

    What reputable retailers do you know that sell Gem Grade freshwaters?
  14. #14 Feb 22, 2009
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2009
    Okay, I was a bit miffed when I wrote the original post, mostly because I was sick of the "my Mikimotos are the most amazing pearls on the planet" attitude that I hear all the time. Rant aside, here's more info:

    I think the best way to describe Mikimotos, is like most of you said, comparing normal silver jewelry to Tiffany's. Basically, you're paying for the name and the guarantee of getting great quality pearls, but you can get the same guarantee from other places.

    It's more tricky because there are no regulated industry standards for pearls, so "grades" are highly subjected, and easy to abuse. It's also hard to buy pearls for what they're actually worth because ALMOST ALL jewelry stores carry bad quality pearls for inflated prices. *shudders*

    So, where can you shop?

    My absolute top choice is Pearlparadise is a company that I feel 100% safe with. I can buy a strand from them and know that is will be absolutely perfect. They have a great return policy as well, so if you're not sure, you can always return.

    Their freshadama line is absolutely fantastic quality gem grade freshwaters. Each online company generally has their own line of gem grade freshwaters, but each retailer generally focuses on one thing.

    For example, PearlParadise uses the top quality, gem grade freshwaters with orient, while pearlsofjoy focuses on luster (I think, can't remember off the top of my head), and thepearloutlet may focus on roundness.

    These sites are also very good: (I've personally ordered from them numerous times) (I've ordered from them twice, and they are a great company as well. Generally, I like to buy "fun" pearls from them. They have great monthly specials with cool designs, but they focus more on AA+ pieces at affordable prices) & (Haven't personally ordered from either, but they are respected on the Pearl Guide forum and their websites are perfect)

    IMO: DO NOT buy from bluenile for pearls. While they're great for diamonds, everything is overpriced and they don't even attempt to give pearls a grade. I haven't seen them in person, and the price might be good for gem grade, but since they don't explicitly say so, I wouldn't spend my money there.

    Also, you can get Hanadama akoyas that are certified from Japan from a number of websites. Thepearloutlet and pearlparadise both carry certified Hanadama strands if that's what you're looking for. I think TPO is a bit cheaper for Hanadama than PP, so you might want to check that out.


    I'll get the exact info, but this is NOT a good online shop.
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