How to Buy Pearls with Confidence

Of all the gemstones, the pearl is one of the most mysterious ones. Perhaps it is the fact that one term covers so many different types. If you have bought these “natural gems” at a department store before and found out that they were not what you really expected, we can help. We have put together a quick tutorial that covers most pearl-related questions.

Is it Natural or Cultured?

Real pearls come from oysters, which makes them natural, right? Wrong! Natural pearls are a rarity. You find them most frequently in older vintage jewelry. A natural pearl refers to a specimen found in an oyster that commercial fishing operators caught for human consumption. Today’s pearls are almost exclusively cultured. This process involves the implantation of an irritant inside an oyster and the overseeing of the resulting gem’s development. At the right time, pearl farmers harvest them, and the process starts again.

What is Luster?

When buying pearl jewelry, there is a lot of talk about luster. The term refers to a natural shine that the product brings to the table. It is not an artificial polish but instead stems from the pearl material’s reflection of natural light. Remember that this natural gem consists of nacre, which is little more than calcium carbonate that has built up in layers around the irritant, which pearl farmers inserted at the beginning of the process. Although each pearl presents with a luster, the larger quantity of the material around bigger specimens results in a finer presentation. So, if you are going for luster, bigger is better.

Choose the Right Pearl Type

Did you know that there are real pearls and imitations? In some cases, the lines blur when consumers try to get a good deal. You commonly see three pearl types.

1. Akoya pearls. Cultured Akoya pearls from Japan grow in saltwater and present with almost perfect round shapes. The most famous name in the trade is Mikimoto. These pearls come from the pinctada fucata oyster. There are also Chinese Akoya pearls, which do not come close to matching the perfection of their Japanese counterparts.

2. South Sea pearls. There are three different kinds of South Sea pearls. Grown in the pinctada maxima, you might find white or golden pearls. From the pinctada margaritifera, you can expect black pearls. These are the most famous specimens.

3. Freshwater pearls. These pearls come in a broad range of sizes, shapes, and colors. They grow in mussels rather than oysters.

At Peter Suchy Jewelers we are experts in all types of vintage, estate and antique jewelry. We hope you’ll stop by our showroom located at 1137 High Ridge Road in Stamford Connecticut.
Or, hop on over to our top-rated BigCommerce Store where you’ll find all the vintage pearl gemstone jewelry you see here. If you find a listing has ended, please email us at as we may still have the item in stock.
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