Pearl Types

The Jewelers Center offers much more than just diamonds. We sell, design, or repair just about any type of jewelry you’re looking for. Here you’ll find out how to choose pearls.

Pearls are produced naturally in the body of salt and freshwater mollusks, such as oysters and mussels. Because perfectly round, naturally produced pearls are so rare, a process known as cultivation was developed by Kokichi Mikimoto in the early 1900s.

The general color of a pearl is also known as the body color. Pearls typically range from white, cream, and yellow to pink, silver, or black. An overtone of secondary color is sometimes seen. Color variation does not affect the quality of the pearl, though it should be noted that color matching is important when choosing pearls for some necklaces, earrings, or bracelets.

The appealing, deep shine of a pearl is often what defines its beauty. Luster is an integral feature in determining the quality of a pearl, and the difference is clearly visible to the untrained eye.

While pearls come in many different shapes, the rarest and highest-quality are round. When considering a pearl purchase, whether it be a necklace, bracelet, or earrings, look for consistency in the shapes of the pearls.

Pearls come in a wide range of sizes. Round pearls are measured according to their diameter, while baroque pearls are measured by their length and width. A pearl’s size does not necessarily affect its quality, but it does affect its price. Large, round pearls are rare and their luster is usually high.

Below are some average pearl sizes (in diameter):
Akoya: 6-8mm
Freshwater: 5-6.5mm
South sea: 11-13mm
Tahitian: 11-12mm

Surface Markings
Like diamonds and other gemstones, pearls are rarely flawless. However, high luster or the way pearls are strung and set can help conceal surface markings.

Pearls are soft and delicate, but when cared for with common sense, they will maintain their luster for centuries. Pearls should be stored in a cloth pouch or jewelry bag, separated from other jewelry to prevent nicks or chipping. Periodically, pearl strands should be restrung since the silk thread used to tie the pearls together breaks down over time.

The Jewelers Center is home to more than 180 fine jewelers.