The main things to look for are size, shape & Orient (luster)
The location of the pearls can affect the value for example 7mm pearls from one location could be classed as large but from another location 7mm could be small.
Sorry if you know this all ready, a pearl is formed when a grain of sand gets inside the oyster this irriates the oyster in to coating the sand with a substance called nacre. The oyster will continue to do this building up the layers so when looking for pearls you should look for an even rounded shape. The luster of the pearl (also known as orient) is based on the thickness of the coating
This probably belongs in the Jewelry section.
Also remember that a lot of independent designers *cough* design gorgeous pearl pieces at much more reasonable prices than 'name brand' designers.
This blog entry from one of the vendors I like to shop from has a great little history of freshwater pearls.
There are also Akoya pearls that are super expensive and gorgeous (sea water pearls).
I've got to go along with CastoCreations.
Maybe try attending a jewelry show sometime. My aunt bought a 3-stranded pearl necklace at a Jewelry show for $4,000 less than she would have paid at a retail store. Same brand, everything. Jewelry shows also feature independent designers, who have very unique things
You want to find pearls that don't have flaws and that have a good luster. (If the pearls look like they're glowing, that's luster.)
In terms of cost, cultured cost more than freshwater, but one isn't necessarily 'better' than the other. It's more of a matter of personal taste.
Freshwater pearls are bean looking and they can vary in size and shape. (Cultured freshwater are 'beans' that are more uniform to each other.)
Cultured pearls are spherical and they're uniform to each other.
I'd say go with a color that goes with your skin tone. You can get colored ones, or you can get white ones that have a colored tint to them. I would probably like ones with a pinkish tint, whereas an Asian lady might like ones with more of a yellowish tint to them. You can also go pure white, if you want to.
I think that sea (salt) water cultured pearls cost more than the freshwater pearls because they generally have more luster and are more round in shape. The reasons for the higher luster are:
1. duration (therefore more layers of secretion),
2. the starting grain of sand is smaller,
3. chemicals from sea water (??? I am not sure about this one).
Anyone with more accurate information?
This web site has some good info on the various types of pearls:
Pearl Paradise Pearl Jewelry - Information About All Pearl Types
Very informative site. Thanks!
I'm also an independent jewelry artist, and have been looking for good sources of Tahitian pearls for my jewelry, so I've been googling 'pearls' a lot, and save the good sites in my favorites. Glad to share the info!
I'm a fan of akoya pearls and I was in a chain jewelry store and asked if they sold akoya pearls. The woman got all hoity-toity with me and said "Akoyas are a brand name like Mikimoto and no we do not carry them". My understanding is that akoya is a TYPE of pearl, not a brand. I own an 18 inch akoya strand and nowhere on it does it say akoya brand. I know they are akoyas because they's been independently appraised. Who is right me or the SA??
Just a thought...
If you are open to some gorgeous immitations try looking at Majorica brand. You can find them at Saks and Neimans. They are really lovely. You can also build the necklace of your dreams with the sizes, colors, and closures etc. You can really have a stunning piece when you are finished that will last a lifetime.
I am not sure if this is something you are looking for, but I thought I would add it here. Google for the brand and take a look. There is one website I found that is really great to help you with putting together your piece and ordering it.
Just thought I'd show off the pearls I found this weekend ... I'm knotting them on silk for a member (who can identify herself if she likes ). They are so gorgeous!!!
These are 10 mm near rounds and are just about as perfect as I've seen. I am not charging anywhere near $1,000 though if I were to charge "regular" store prices I could probably mark them up to $1,800 at least - they are that good.
I just think people need to find a local artist whose work they've seen and who they trust to design a stunning pearl necklace at way less than designer prices. Of course, don't go to just anyone...ya need to make sure they know what they're doing.
You are right. Akoya pearls are salt water grown pearls (as opposed to fresh water pearls), and Mikimoto was the Japanese company who developed the growing technique. Sounds like the SA didn't know what she was talking about. (and with her snooty attitude, has probably lost more than one sale!)
I like the akoya pearls better, too, because they have a nicer lustre than the FW pearls.
Lovely job, Megan! What a lucky PFer!
I love pearls, my jeweler sourced some 7.5mm akoya pearls for pearl and diamond earrings. I agree with Pippi, the akoyas have beautiful lustre.
I like the pearls from American Pearl. They have their Japanese akoya pearls which are very expensive and also the Chinese akoya which is a good value for the money.
The Finest Quality Japanese Akoya Cultured Pearl Necklaces.