The Basics of Buying Pearls

Pearls are classified by origin and then graded by size, shape, nacre thickness, color, luster, and surface clarity. These qualities are not considered to be of equal importance when arriving at the final grade.

When selecting pearls, be familiar with the Five Virtues of pearls to assist you in selecting your ideal pearl. However, the most important thing to remember when selecting a pearl is that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."


Complexion, Color, & Luster


Surface complexion refers to the physical blemishes or marks on the pearl's surface. When evaluating complexion, the trade uses terms such as blemish, spotting, and cleanliness.

The desirability of different pearl colors rests in the eye of the beholder. The most popular color is white or white with slight overtones. Pearls that are naturally colored, rather than color enhanced by artificial means, are more valuable.


For cultured pearl experts, luster is most important when determining pearl quality. Luster derives from the pearl's countless layers of pearl nacre, the natural substance that forms the pearl itself.

Luster describes the beauty you see as light travels through the nacre of the pearl. It is the nacre that causes light to refract from the pearl's layers, giving each pearl its unique milky appearance.


shape of pearls

Classic shapes range in descending order of value from round to near-round, and from oval to drop. It's important to understand that in pearl industry terms, the shapes from round to drop are pretty symmetrical, while anything baroque denotes a pearl that is completely asymmetrical or freeform.


size of pearls

Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can be smaller than one millimeter in the case of tiny seed pearls or as large as twenty millimeters for a mature South Sea pearl. Generally speaking, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it will be.

Pearl Care

pearl care


Daily Care:

As an organic gem, pearls are vulnerable to chemicals found in cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume.To preserve the luster of your pearls, always put on your jewelry after applying make-up and styling products.


For Cleaning:

Never use an ultrasonic cleaner on your pearls-it can damage their nacre. Occasionally wipe your pearls gently with a cloth dipped in mild, soapy water. Then, rinse the cloth with fresh water and wipe the pearls clean. Dry them with a soft cloth. If pearls come into contact with an acidic substance like fruit juice, vinegar, or other chemicals, immediately wipe them clean with a soft cloth. Be careful not to submerge your pearls in water as this will weaken the silk thread.



Contact with other jewelry may scratch pearls. Avoid tangles by fastening clasps, then lay each jewelry piece in a separate compartment of your jewelry box.When traveling, use a protective jewelry pouch or wrap each item in a soft cloth. Pearls can dehydrate when stored too long, so enjoy them frequently.

Day-To-Day Wear

Frequent wear rehydrates pearls and helps to maintain an almost otherworldly luminescence. If stored in a hot. airless environment, they can dry and crack. Pearls need oil from the skin to enhance their luster and color.

Also. from time to time. check the clasps or screws holding your jewelry together.With frequent wear, even the best-kept pearl strands may loosen and will require restringing.

To learn more visit our pearl center

For more answers about all things laser, visit call our Diamond and Gemstone Team at 800-877-7777 Diamonds: Option 5, Gemstones: Option 6

BenchJeweler Articles