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?
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.
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.
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.
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