Pearl expert Antoinette Matlins

Antoinette Matlins in the Sea of Cortez Explaining a Rare Oyster's Ability to Impart Exotic Colors on the Pearls Within

Let's get an expert opinion about choosing pearls. This  ocean loving jeweler adores pearls whether in round shapes or lumpy baroques. So when I read this great information from Antoinette Matlins, crazily over-qualified Gemologist and master of the gem and pearl universe, I asked if I could share it with you.

She, awesome gem diva that she is, she said "yes." For pearls that will give you years of lustrous beauty, follow these proven tips from professional gemologist Antoinette Matlins, from the latest edition of her wonderful book,  The Pearl Book.

I did my usual Calla subheading thing, but the info is pure Antoinette!

Five Things You Need to Consider in Choosing Pearls For You

1. Select pearls with a rich lustrous character.

2. Select pearls that have relatively smooth surfaces.

3. Select pearls with a pleasing shape.

4. Select a color that complements your own skin, hair and eye color.

5. Select the appropriate size.

Why Pearl Luster Is Important to Your Choice

The more intense the luster—the brighter and more luminous the pearl—the better. The intensity of the luster can be a visual indicator of the thickness of the coating; highly lustrous pearls will have a thick pearl coating.

Avoid chalky, dull or lifeless pearls, because these usually have a thin pearl coating that will chip or peel off, leaving only the shell nuclei, which are worthless shell beads!

How Smooth do You Need Your Pearls to be?

Fine cultured pearls with a thick pearl coating rarely have flawless surfaces. Minor surface imperfections are acceptable in pearls with intense luster. Avoid pearls with large blisters, pits or visible surface cracks.

Is Round the Sexiest Shape in Pearls?

The Pearl Book Cover

Antoinette's Book

Shape is an important factor affecting cost. The rarest and costliest shape for a lustrous pearl is round. Most “round” pearls are not perfectly round (the more perfectly round, the rarer and more costly; the more out-of-round, the less rare and costly).

Caution: Most chalky, thin-coated pearls are very round (the round core inserted initially hasn’t been inside the oyster long enough for the coating to thicken sufficiently to jeopardize the shape).

There are many lovely shapes other than round from which you can choose today, and lustrous pearls in any shape, even those that are slightly out-of-round, are preferable to a round pearl with low luster and a thin pearl coating. Even if very round, avoid pearls that are chalky or lack a luminous glow that comes from deep within the pearl.

What You Need to Know About Pearl Color

Although color affects cost because some colors are rarer than others, you should select the color that is best suited to your own complexion. In terms of cost, white pearls that possess a faint blush of pink across the surface are rarer and costlier than those that are slightly creamy in color.

Peacock Tahitian Pearl Ring

This Tahitian Pearl is a Fine Peacock Color. It Shows Great Luster, Shape and Color.

Other colors, such as black or gold, are rare and costly and, depending upon the exact shade of color, can be rarer and more costly than some white pearls.

Caution: Many pearls are artificially colored. Be sure to ask whether or not the color is natural and be sure this information is stated on the receipt. For pearls in rare colors such as black or gold, ask the jeweler to obtain a report from a respected gem-testing laboratory verifying natural color.

Pearl Size Information and Ideas on Getting it Right

Size can dramatically affect the cost of pearls. Larger pearls in fine quality are rarer and sell for much more than smaller pearls. The size of a cultured pearl is given in millimeters and indicates the diameter of the pearl.

In the classic round, white pearl, there is a dramatic jump in price at 8 millimeters; pearls in a 7½-millimeter size will be much more affordable. When buying a necklace or pearl strand, if you can’t afford the size you really want, in the quality you want, consider several strands in a smaller size. Two or more strands of smaller pearls can create a look comparable to a single, larger strand, for less money.

Editorializing from Calla

That my friends is the great advice from Antoinette Matlins. I'll mention that I sell pearls and have a number of pearl importers that I work with.

Different areas of the world export different types of pearls. When you are choosing pearls be sure to see all the beauty on offer from different locales. We even get some pearls here in America.

Pearl Farm in Tennessee

John Latendresse Looking Out Over his Submerged Pearl Beds

As pioneering pearl farmer John Latendresse famously said,  "It is not the pristine clear blue waters of Tahiti with half naked women diving for pearls, rather it's the muddy rivers of Tennessee, a little bit less romantic, but maybe more intriguing."

John's unique non-color treated cultured pearls are a source of  pride in America.

Other Pearl Blog Posts to check out:

Pearls, Your Jewelry Divas and How to Store Them

Why Sizing Your Pearl Ring Costs More

The Top Ten Reasons to Restring Your Pearls

The Pitfalls of Pearl Restringing - What Might Happen After Restringing

Pearls Must Be Knotted! Or Pearl Restringing with Knots

French Wire Finish for Your Pearls; It's Stronger and Prettier

Ten Ways to Casual-ify Your Pearl or Bead Necklace

Calla Gold
Pearl Jeweler










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About Calla Gold

Calla Gold is a Personal Jeweler and Author who takes pride in working with clients one-on-one to integrate their personal sense of style and taste into custom designed jewelry and repaired jewelry pieces.   Unlike typical Santa Barbara jewelry businesses, Calla Gold has no brick-and-mortar location. Calla Gold comes to you, bringing you the jewelry collection you want to see and collaborating with you to create unique custom jewelry. Calla also works with at-a-distance clients.

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Antoinette Matlins
8 years ago

Dear Calla: Thanks for spreading some of my “pearls of wisdom”in such a lovely way! And your mentioning of John Latendresse’s pearls (American Pearl Company) brought back a wonderful memory. Before John’s death — a great tragedy to me, personally, as well as to the entire pearl world — I was with him visiting his pearl farm in Tennessee. It was following some heavy rains and flooding, and we went out to one of the islands and spent several hours. En route back, I noticed a tick on John’s light blue jeans…then another…and another….and OMG they were all over him!… Read more »

8 years ago

You must be a mind reader, because I have had pearls on my mind! I have been wanting to do a post on pearls and have the title and even a video, but have not had the time to do the research! You have given me the push! Thank you for a wonderful post and links!


Lori Cooper
8 years ago

Hi Calla,
After our discussion about the extremely poor advice to “wash your pearls each time you wear them” that I overheard at a local jeweler, I’ve been thinking about pearls. I sure do love them! This was a super eye-opening, informative blog post and I will let others know about it.

Renee Manseau
Renee Manseau
8 years ago

What great pearls of wisdom! There sure is a lot to know about a great pearl, and I appreciate being introduced to Antoinette Matlins. What a globe trotting pearl expert she is.
I was interested in what you wrote about American Cultured Pearls too. Who knew? That would be something to collect for sure!
As usual, Calla, you’ve done a great job breaking things down for us.

Antoinette Matlins
8 years ago

what a boost to one’s ego, reading the nice words here! Just want to respond to a couple of the comments here. First, Calla, I’d see if Gina could arrange a tour of the farm for you — it’s in the Camden area. Re: washing pearls. It IS important to remove any surface irritants from pearls — such as cosmetics, soap residue, lotions, vinegar from a salad dressing that might have splattered onto your pearls without your being aware of it. But this does not mean “washing them.” I highly recommend using a damp white/light beige cloth such as a… Read more »

Mark Johnson
8 years ago

Hi Calla, Great post. Just saw your post on Google+ and thought I’d take a look. Really interesting. I really need to learn more about Pearls! Shows me how little I actually know! You really must write us a short piece on pearls for our site – our blog readers I’m sure would appreciate it here in the UK. Always looking for knowledgeable and respected ‘like minds’ in the industry to share great information with. Feel free to drop me an email if you fancy collaborating with some shared articles. Lovely part of the World btw. My wife and I… Read more »

Antoinette Matlins
8 years ago

Dear Mark:
Yes, I’d be happy to help “spread reliable information” on pearls, “estate” jewelry, diamonds or gemstones…or any other facet of this field. Calla’s blog is great, and if you are as committed as Calla, it would be a pleasure.
You can reach me through my website ( or my publisher’s.
Glad you enjoyed some of the dialogue here!

Tracey M
Tracey M
8 years ago

Calla Gold, I really enjoyed this pearl information from Antoinette Matlins. Choosing pearls is something every woman wants to do. But we want to choose well so it’ll be still beautiful for the next generation. Calla, do you get those golden south sea pearls? I might be in the mood.

8 years ago

Calla Gold with Antoinette Matlins,
I have loved having pearl necklaces for a long time. When I bought pearls before I don’t think much before I jumped. However, now I should think about this twice before buying. All the points you mentioned in your post about pearl selection are worth reading and I will follow these for sure.

Sue M.
Sue M.
7 years ago

Reading through all these comments I’ve learned a lot.
This is a great post for people who want to choose pearls properly.
Antoinette Matlins comes across as real and knowledgeable.
Thanks for the post Calla Gold.