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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Pearl Shapes and Colors

While many people are aware that pearls come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, most assume that a pearl is a pearl. Seven Seas Pearls at this time only works with saltwater pearls. When it comes to saltwater pearls, there are three types of pearls: Akoya Pearls, South Sea Pearls and Tahitian Pearls. Each of these types of pearls come from a different oyster and are farmed in different parts of the world. When people traditionally think of pearls, many people assume that pearls are all round. While many pearls are round, they also come in gorgeous shapes such as baroque, semi-round, button, teardrop, and oval. One shape is not necessarily better than another – it is strictly preference.

In this blog we are going to give you an overview of each type of pearl and would encourage you to read other parts of our blogs for more details about each type of pearl.

Akoya Pearls

Akoya Pearls are farmed in the waters off the coast of Japan. The temperature, tide and nutrients make this the perfect farming ground for these beauties. Akoya Pearls range in color from white, ivory, blue, silver – and have a multitude of overtones that pair with these base colors. Akoya Pearls are the smallest in size of all the saltwater pearl varieties; typically they range from 2mm in size all the way up to 10mm in size. The most common size of Akoya Pearl is around 7mm. Akoya pearls are considered the “classic” type of pearls. Many women have at least one strand of Akoya pearls in their collection. Akoya pearls can be dressed up – or down depending on the occasion. Because of their size, Akoya Pearls typically are less exaggerated in the more unusual shapes in comparison to South Sea and Tahitian Pearls. Akoya Pearls are typically found in round, semi-round and baroque shapes.

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Tahitian Pearls are farmed in the waters of the French Polynesia (think Tahiti). Tahitian Pearls are found in the black lipped oyster and grow best in the shallow nutrient rich beds called atolls. Tahitian Pearls have magnificent spectrum of colors ranging from black, gray, green, purple, peacock, chocolate and eggplant. For each one of these base colors are dozens of overtones that give Tahitian Pearls a very complex color palette. Tahitian Pearls typically range in size from 8mm (on the small side) and can be found as large as 20mm. Any Tahitian Pearl that is less than 9mm in size tends to be classified as small Tahitian Pearls whereas anything larger than 13mm is considered large and rarer. Typically, Tahitian Pearl necklaces range from 10mm to 13mm in size. Because of the incredible size and color range, Tahitian Pearls have incredible shapes ranging from round, semi-round, baroque, button and teardrop.

South Sea Pearls

Of the saltwater pearl variety South Sea Pearls are by far the largest. South Sea Pearls as their name would suggest are farmed in the South Sea (near Australia). South Sea Pearls come in a beautiful range of white, ivory, cream, champagne, gold, and blue. As with other types of saltwater pearls, South Sea Pearls also have stunning overtones that when paired with the base color creates absolutely stunning shades. South Sea Pearls range in size from 8mm (the smallest) all the way up to 25mm– which are incredibly rare. The average size of South Sea Pearls is 15mm. Because these pearls are so large in size, they come in gorgeous abstract and exaggerated baroque, teardrop, round and semi round shapes.

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Choosing the Right Necklace Length

After choosing what type of pearl, the size, color and shape most would think that the selection process is over – right? Nope. As with regular necklaces, pearl necklaces come in an array of various lengths. Typically (especially if you are buying for someone else) this can be slightly overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be! Here we have put together a simple guide to help you understand how and for what occasion most necklaces are suited for. All you need to do is determine how and for what occasion you plan on wearing your pearls most – and we will suggest the most common length!

Collar Style Pearl Necklace

The collar style pearl necklace is around 14 inches in length and fits tightly around the neck. This style of pearl necklace looks absolutely stunning with scoop neck, v-neck, boat neck and off the shoulder type clothing.

Choker Style Pearl Necklace

The choker style pearl necklace fits a bit looser than the collar style and is about 16 inches in length.  This style of necklace typically sits rather tightly at the base of the throat. This is thought to be a very versatile size as it works with both high and low necklines.

Princess Style Pearl Necklace

The princess style pearl necklace is typically around 18 inches in length. This is the most common length of necklace because it is incredibly versatile and looks great with any type of neckline. The princess style length sits on the collarbone and is great for both formal and casual wear.

Matinee Style Pearl Necklace

The Matinee Style Pearl Necklace typically is between 20 and 24 inches long. This style necklace can be dressed up – or dressed down depending on the occasion. Depending on the size of the woman, this length of necklace typically falls between the collarbone and the bust line. With a necklace of this length, it’s easy to see how with a business suit it could appear dressier – or with a t-shirt it could be more causal.

Opera Style Pearl Necklace

For women who love the dramatic look of a long string of pearls, the opera style pearl necklace is perfect! The opera style length typically is between 28 and 36 inches long. This type of pearl necklace typically works best with clothing that has a high neckline and formal evening wear. If you attend formal events on a regular basis – this just might be the perfect length for you.

Rope Style Pearl Necklace

While you might think that the Opera style pearl necklace is as dramatic as it gets – rope style pearl necklaces take it a bit further.  The pearl rope style necklace is typically at least 37 inches in length – but it can also be much longer. This type of necklace can be made with multiple clasps to allow for a single dangle look – or wrapped in a way that allows for a multiple strand choker. Pearl Rope necklaces are commonly seen dangling to accentuate a backless gown.

If you are still unsure of what length is appropriate for you, we invite you to either give us a call or stop by our Los Angeles Showroom. We would be more than happy to show you different lengths of pearl necklaces and help you find the length right for you.

Akoya Pearls

Even if you love pearls but know very little about them, you have probably noticed that there are many different types, sizes and colors of pearls. In this blog, we are going to discuss one of the three main types of pearls: Akoya Pearls. Saltwater pearls come in three main varieties: Akoya Pearls, Tahitian Pearls and South Sea Pearls. Pearls are classified by the region they are harvested from. For example, Akoya Pearls come primarily from the warm coastal waters of Japan. For each type of pearl, a different type of oyster is responsible for its development. The Pinctada Fucata oyster is the oyster that produces Akoya Pearls. This oyster only survives in the waters near Japan. As a result, Akoya Pearls could never be harvested in the French Polynesia (where Tahitian Pearls are from) or near Australia, Indonesia or the Philippines (where South Sea Pearls are from). Therefore, when you see a specific type of pearl or hear its name, you know exactly what region in the world it is from.

Akoya Pearls are the most common type of pearl. Chances are if you have seen a beautiful strand of pearls, they are most likely Akoya Pearls. For decades, these little gems have been the main staple of women’s pearl jewelry.

One of the beautiful things about the world of pearls is the beautiful variety of colors that they come in. Akoya Pearls come in shades ranging from pure white, to ivory, to silver; soft pink and rarer shades include blue, pistachio and champagne. Akoya Pearls can also be found in dark green and black tones. These darker colors are not natural colors for Akoya Pearls and have been chemically enhanced. One of the unique aspects of pearl colors is the gorgeous overtones that they have. For example, an Akoya Pearl can be white but have a silver overtone. Or, a silver Akoya Pearl can have a green overtone – you can imagine how incredible the combination of these colors and overtones can be!

Here is a gorgeous example of the different colors and overtones that Akoya Pearls come in:

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Of the three types of pearls (Akoya Pearls, South Sea Pearls and Tahitian Pearls), Akoya Pearls are the smallest in size. Akoya Pearls range in size from 2mm all the way to 10mm. The most common size of Akoya Pearl is 7mm.

Here is a great example of a 2mm, a 5mm, a 7mm and a 10mm Akoya Pearl:

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In our next blog we are going to explore more in-depth the gorgeous shapes of Akoya Pearls. Check back soon!

What is nacre?

If you have either bought a strand of pearls or done any amount of research on pearls, then most likely, the term nacre has probably come up. And, if you are like most, you just know that the nacre is important – but are not really sure why. In this blog we are going to illuminate why nacre is so important, how it develops, and why it is factored into the overall grade.

Nacre is the outer coating of a pearl. When an oyster is nucleated, the nucleus is irritating to the shell. In order to protect itself from this irritant, the oyster secretes nacre around the nucleus to protect itself from the foreign object. Nacre is also referred to as ‘Mother of Pearl’ and is the same gorgeous and shimmery material that lines the interior of a mollusk.  Nacre is deposited in the thinnest of coatings as the pearl is developing. The layers are actually quite similar to the layers of an onion. Pearls with a short harvest time, tend to have a more thin nacre. Pearls that are allowed longer to cultivate have more layers and therefore a more thick nacre.

Pearls that have a thin nacre may appear beautiful at the time, but as they age, the nacre will wear off thus ultimately removing the luster of the pearl. When this happens, the pearl has a dull and chalky appearance. As a result, pearls that have a higher quality nacre are more valuable and will last significantly longer and maintain their luster in contrast to pearls with a thin nacre.

As we discussed earlier, freshwater pearls are made up entirely of nacre, whereas saltwater pearls have a nucleus with the nacre forming around the nucleus. As a result, the thickness of the nacre is an attribute that applies only to saltwater pearls.

At Seven Seas Pearls, all pearls are rated individually and then each rating is averaged out for a total grade. The rating that Seven Seas Pearls’ uses for the absolute best nacre is “top” from there the nacre is rated Very Thick, Top, Medium and Thin.

Here is an example of the difference between a pearl with top rated nacre and thin nacre – can you see how the nacre dramatically impacts the luster and glow?

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Here is another example of nacre with a less extreme difference between the grades. The pearl on the left has a rating of very thick nacre and the pearl on the right has a rating of medium nacre.

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As you can see from the above images, the thickness of the pearl nacre has a dramatic impact on the overall quality, luster and beauty of a pearl. Check back soon for our next blog on Akoya Pearls!

Why is surface clarity so important for pearls?

When considering a piece of jewelry (pearl, gemstone or diamond) the term “clarity” comes up rather frequently. In past blogs we have explored how pearls are graded and how Seven Seas Pearls grades pearls in contrast to the pearl industry. Surface clarity is a term that is used frequently to describe the overall quality of a pearl – here in this blog we are going to explore in depth why the surface clarity of a pearl is such an important factor to consider when making a pearl jewelry purchase.

The obvious first question is “what is surface clarity” – surface clarity, much like its name implies is how smooth or without flaws the surface of a pearl is. Since pearls are formed by the insertion of a nucleus, the nacre develops around it and results in layers being built around the nucleus. Since the process of nacre layers developing is a naturally occurring process (without human intervention) there is no way to guarantee the quality of the surface clarity. The surface of a pearl can be incredibly smooth – without indentations or flaws or it can be incredibly flawed and have many dents. As we mentioned in a previous blog, like when buying a diamond, it is important to have a balance of all the aspects of how a pearl is graded. If you have a pearl with excellent luster – but poor surface clarity, the pearl will have a dingy appearance. The same would be true with a pearl that had excellent clarity, but poor luster. This is one of the reasons why Seven Seas Pearls grade pearls on each individual aspect and then those ratings are averaged out for an overall grade.

As you are probably very familiar with by now, pearls are graded universally on the AAA grading system. Seven Seas Pearls has added an extra category that describes pearls that have perfect clarity. For perfect surface clarity, this term is AAA Flawless.

Here is an excellent example of how important surface clarity is. Here are two pearls that have the same rating of luster – but as you can see, one has very poor surface clarity (rated A+) and the other has very good surface clarity (AAA Flawless).

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As always, extreme differences are easy to see and take notice of. Here is an example of two pearls that are a little closer on the rating scale – even still, it is easy to see the difference in surface clarity and ultimately why they are graded differently. The pearl on the left has a surface clarity rating of AAA and the one on the right has a rating of AA – can you see the difference?

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As you can see, pearls with a higher quality surface clarity allow the pearl’s luster to really glow and reflect the light. As a result, pearls with a high surface quality are more valuable and desirable than pearls with a lower grade.

The next aspect of pearls that we are going to explore is nacre and why it is so important. Check back soon for our next blog.