What to Look for When Buying a Strand of Pearls

Most women dream of owning a pearl strand. If you are starting the process of trying to determine what type of pearl, what type of strand is a good fit for you – then you have come to the right place. In this blog, we are going to explore a few of the things that you should consider when making your first pearl strand purchase!

What type of pearl is right for you?

There are three types of saltwater pearls: Tahitian, Akoya, and South Sea. Each of these pearls are unique and have vastly different features. If you are looking for the “classic pearl strand” then Akoya Pearls would most likely be the best fit for you. If something a bit more bold and dramatic is what you have in mind, then Tahitian Pearls would be perfect. If you love larger pieces of pearl jewelry then we would recommend beautiful South Sea Pearls.

Here is a beautiful visual illustration of the differences upon first glance for these different types of pearl strands.

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Choosing the shape of your pearl

After selecting the type of pearl you like most, the next step is to identify the type of shape you want. Many people think that all pearls are round. While pearls are round, they also come in gorgeous drop shapes, near round, button, oval and baroque. When selecting the type of pearl shape, it’s important to simply pick the shape that you enjoy most.

Here are just a few of the beautiful types of pearl shapes you will come across in your search for a pearl strand:

unnamedSelecting the quality of your pearl strand

Now that you have selected the type of pearl you want as well as the shape – most of the choices should be done – right? The last aspect to consider when making your first pearl strand purchase is evaluating the type of quality that is important to you. As can be expected, the higher the quality, the more valuable and therefore the price of the piece is higher. Depending on your budget, we recommend selecting a higher quality pearl over a larger pearl or a specific shape. For example, perfectly round highly rated Akoya’s will fetch a higher price than near round highly rated Akoya’s. In that particular scenario, we would recommend selecting the near round pearls so the quality could be higher for a similar price.

Here is an illustration that will highlight how we at Seven Seas Pearls grade and rate pearls.

ScreenHunter_1923 Sep. 18 22.36Buying your first pearl strand is very exciting! We would love to help you find the perfect piece that suits your needs, style and budget. We invite you to explore our selection of hundreds of strands on our website and welcome any questions. If you don’t see exactly what you are looking for, please let us know. Our website holds only a small percentage of the literally thousands of pearl pieces that we have. If you are near the Los Angeles area, we would love to welcome you to our showroom. No appointment is ever needed. We look forward to meeting you soon!

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Sizes of Saltwater Pearls

When it comes to diamonds, most people understand something about their size and how that size is determined. While pearls are graded in a very similar fashion to diamonds – most don’t understand what the different sizes of pearls mean. While this is a pretty in-depth topic we will do our best to give you a basic understanding of pearl sizes and how they compare to each other.

Akoya Pearls

Akoya Pearls come from the pearl farming waters of Japan and of the three saltwater varieties are the smallest in size. These pearls tend to range from 2mm all the way to the more rare size of 10mm. The average size of Akoya Pearls are between 7mm and 8mm. Many times strands will have a slight variance in order to create a perfectly matched strand. Unless it is a graduated pearl strand, this slight difference in sizes is not noticeable.

Here is a great visual of a 2mm Akoya Pearl, a 5mm, 7mm and 10mm. You can see in comparison to the penny how these vary in size.

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Tahitian Pearls

Tahitian Pearls are the second largest in size of saltwater pearls. Tahitian Pearls are farmed in the waters of the French Polynesia. These pearls range in size from 9mm to 18mm with the average size being 13mm. These gorgeous pearls come in a wide variety of unique shapes and like Akoya and South Sea Pearls they are also measured at their widest point.

Below you will see a great visual in comparison to the penny as to just how big Tahitian Pearls can be. Here you see a 9mm, a 13mm (the most common size), a 15mm and an 18mm.

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South Sea Pearls

Of saltwater pearls, South Sea Pearls are the largest in size. These incredible pieces range from 8mm all the way to our museum quality 27mm South Sea Pearl. South Sea Pearls can be smaller than 8mm in size, and if they are, they tend to be Keshi South Sea Pearls. The average size of a South Sea Pearl is between 10mm and 15mm.

Here is a great visual example of a 5mm South Sea Keshi Pearl, a 10mm, a 15mm and a 20mm South Sea Pearl. In comparison to the penny, it’s easy to see just how much bigger these beautiful pearls are.

unnamed (4)We hope that this gave a bit of perspective as to what common and more rare sizes of saltwater pearls are. If you are local to the Los Angeles area, we would love to invite you to tour our showroom. No appointment is ever needed and you are welcome at any time.

Understanding the basics of Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea Pearls

Pearls are all the same, they just come in different shapes and colors right? Wrong. However this is a misconception that most people have. For starters, there are two main classes of pearls: freshwater and saltwater pearls. While freshwater pearls can be beautiful, at Seven Seas Pearls we work with only saltwater pearls.

Saltwater pearls are exactly what they sound like – pearls that come from the ocean. Freshwater pearls on the other hand can be cultivated in streams, lakes and rivers. Saltwater pearls are broken into three main categories: Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls and South Sea Pearls. -Believe it or not if you know this, then your pearl knowledge is already leaps and bounds above the general public.

What separates these classifications of pearls is the region where they are farmed. Akoya Pearls come from the farming waters in Japan, Tahitian Pearls come from the French Polynesian Islands and South Sea Pearls come from the waters of Australia. Each sub-type of pearl has general outlines regarding color and size. Once you become familiar with these outlines, you will be able to identify where any type of saltwater pearl is from!

Akoya Pearls: These gems are the smallest in size in comparison to Tahitian and South Sea Pearls. Akoya Pearls range in size from 2mm all the way to 10mm with 7mm being the most common. Akoya Pearls are typically considered to be the “Classic” pearl. Akoya Pearls come in more muted tones than their Tahitian or South Sea counterparts. Akoya Pearls can range in color from white, to ivory, rose, silver, gray to blue. Each of these stunning “base” colors will have gorgeous overtones that will really make them stand out. – For example, gray Akoya Pearls with a purple overtone.

Here is a beautiful sample of just some of the colors that Akoya Pearls are famous for:

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Tahitian Pearls: These metallic beauties are known for their incredible rainbow of colors. They are larger than Akoya Pearls and typically range from 9mm all the way to 18mm. What makes these pearls unique is their incredible gray and black color. These base colors are simply incredible when paired with stunning overtones such as purple, peacock, green, blue etc.

Below are just a few of the stunning metallic colors Tahitian Pearls are famous for:

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South Sea Pearls are the largest of all saltwater pearls. These gorgeous gems range in size from 8mm all the way to 27mm. Like Akoya’s, South Sea Pearls are known for their more muted and pastel colors. South Sea Pearls are famously known for their deep golden and champagne colors but also come in a full spectrum of ivory, white, blue pistachio and light pistachio.

Here are a few of the stunning colors that South Sea Pearls are famous for:

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As you can see, there is a vast difference between each of these types of pearls. Once you become familiar with the colors and sizes, it becomes quite easy to determine where a pearl has originated from. Check back soon for a more in-depth look at each of these subtypes of pearls.

How to Care for Your Pearls

Now that you have selected the perfect piece of pearl jewelry, we find that many people want to know the best way of caring for these delicate gems. Pearls if properly preserved can bring many decades of joy and beauty. However, if they are not cared for, they can become dull and lifeless. Here we have a few simple steps that will allow you to enjoy your pearls for years!

Avoid all chemicals

Since pearls are essentially layers of nacre that have been formed, harsh chemicals can destroy the luster and ultimately the pearl. To avoid this, put your pearl jewelry on last. Lotions, hair spray, perfume etc. can harm the nacre of your pearls – so use these products before you put on your pearl jewelry. In particular, make sure your perfume has dried before putting your pearls on. If your hands are oily or greasy from hair gel, hair spray etc. make sure you wash your hands before touching your pearls. If your pearls do come in contact with chemicals, give them a wipe with a soft cloth.

Many women use ultrasonic cleaning machines to clean their jewelry, it is crucial to never use this on your pearls. The chemicals will destroy the luster of the pearl and you will be left with pearls that have no luster, or shine.

Wipe down your pearls

If you are sweating or as women prefer to call it “glistening” it is important to give your pearls a quick wipe with a soft damp cloth before returning them to your jewelry box. It is important to never use tap water as it contains chlorine. Many people get carried away with this concept of wiping down their pearls and will saturate the entire strand. This will not “clean” your pearls any better and will weaken the silk thread they are strung on. If you do need to saturate your entire strand for a specific reason, take care to dry each pearl and lay the strand out flat for it to dry. Many times people will “hang” their pearls to dry which only serves to destroy the silk thread that is holding it together. If you feel that your pearls are dirty and need to be cleaned, you can either take them to a professional or use a very mild and small amount of dish soap to remove the dirt and grime.

Storage

If you have lots of jewelry and your jewelry box is overcrowded – make sufficient room for your pearls to be stored separately. Because of their delicate surface, pearls can be scratched easily if they are stored next diamonds or other sharp object. Over time, other rings, necklaces and earrings will “chip” away at the nacre of your pearls. It is important to store your pearls in a cloth pouch or lined drawer – never hang your pearls as it weakens the thread.

Long Term Care

Pearls need to be and should be worn frequently! So bring them out to be seen. Even if you do not wear your pearls on a regular basis, it is important to have them restrung on a regular basis. It is easy to determine if pearls need to be restrung. If you are able to move the pearls on the string in between the knots – it’s time to bring them in.

Contrary to what many women believe, pearls should not be worn in any type of water. Pools have chlorine which will destroy the luster and shine of a pearl. Additionally, the water will weaken the silk thread and can break. It might seem reasonable that saltwater would be good for pearls – since that is where they came from. But the salt in the water will dry and can create a thin white cloud on the pearl – which will also dull and ruin the luster and shine of the pearl. As pearls develop, they are protected by the shell and water and are not alternatively dried with the saltwater on them. This is the main difference between how saltwater can harm pearls – yet that was the climate in which they developed.

These simple tips will help you keep your pearls in perfect condition and will assure years of beauty! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know.

Shapes of Akoya Pearls

If you read our last blog, then you have an awareness and working knowledge of what Akoya Pearls are and where they come from. In this blog we are going to explore a bit more in-depth the gorgeous shapes that Akoya Pearls come in.

Many people assume that only high quality pearls are perfectly round. This thought process could not be further from the truth. Another common misconception is that pearls that are irregular in shape are “natural pearls”. Pearls are a naturally formed gem, because the process is not entirely controlled by human hands, gorgeous shapes evolve. Pearls that are not perfectly round are not considered natural pearls. In fact, if anyone tries to sell you a “natural pearl” it would serve you well to run. In today’s pearl market, 99.9% of all pearls are cultured pearls. Meaning that they are farmed and harvested. There are many laws forbidding the hunting of wild oysters for their pearls. As a result, they are nearly impossible to find, and if you did “find one” a red flag should be waving. All pearls, like their gorgeous rainbow of colors come in a variety of shapes. The most well-known are pearls are perfectly round, then near round, baroque, tear-drop and button. When selecting a shape of pearl, there is no right or wrong shape to choose. It is based entirely upon preference and personal style.

Here is a great example of how shapes for Akoya Pearls can vary slightly. While to the layman’s eye, both of these pearls could easily be considered to be round. But in order for a pearl to be classified as round, it must be perfectly round. If you look closely, the pearl on the right is not perfectly round. This shape is called “near round”.

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Because Akoya Pearls are smaller in overall size than South Sea or Tahitian Pearls, the shapes they come in are not nearly as exaggerated. Teardrop and button shaped pearls are common in the larger sizes of pearls (South Sea and Tahitians). Because of its smaller shape, Akoya Pearls are not typically given the classification of button or teardrop shape. For example, South Sea Pearls can grow as large as 27mm (granted this would be quite rare). But because of its size, a baroque South Sea Pearl would be more irregular in shape than a baroque Akoya Pearl.

Here is a great example of what would be considered a baroque Akoya Pearl and a baroque South Sea Pearl. You can see how the difference in size impacts the irregular shape of these beautiful pearls.

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If you are considering an Akoya Pearl Necklace, we invite you to explore our website which has hundreds of gorgeous Akoya Pearl Strands. Each necklace has been individually photographed and graded. The piece that you are viewing is the actual piece that you will receive. If you live in the Los Angeles area, we would love to have you visit our showroom. We are open to the public and you never need an appointment. Our passion is pearls, and we look forward to sharing this passion with you.