Pearl jewelry has been around for millennia. Chances are you have some in your jewelry box. Whether they are imitation or cultured (95% of the ‘real’ pearls in the market today are cultured), pearls are some of the most classic and functional jewelry. They are the staple of a woman’s business attire and look great with denim or tennis wear.
Pearls make a wonderful gift and can be found in many price points. With care, pearls can be passed on to younger generations. One of my favorite pearl strands was a gift from my mother-in-law who received them from her father when she was a teenager. I plan to pass them on to my daughters-in-love.
Ready to make someone’s holiday season with the gift of pearls? Here are a few buying tips that I garnered from the website of Absolute Pearls. http://www.absolutepearls.co.uk/index.php
The difference between imitation and cultured pearls
Imitation pearls are created with a glass or plastic bead that is coated with a fish scale mixture called essence of the orient or pearl essence. One of the most famous types of imitation pearls is ‘Majorca Pearls’.
Cultured pearls can be created in freshwater and seawater. Many are farmed and harvested in China, Japan and the USA. Some can be harvested in as little as six months. Others can take seven years to create. The size and color depend upon the type of mollusk or oyster that creates the pearl.
Akoya pearl is probably the most well known name of cultured pearls. It is created in the Akoya oyster. They are also loosely known as Japanese pearls as they are mainly cultured in Japan. However, with the technology transfer between Japan and China, China now produces Chinese cultured Akoya pearls and apparently a good deal of Akoya pearl production under 7mm on the market is from China. Japan maintains nearly all the 7mm+ size production themselves. The Akoya pearl is typically round or near round, available in white and cream shades with silver or pink overtones.
South Sea Pearls
generally refers to seawater pearls in a large area stretching from Thailand, Burma, Indonesia, Philippines, South East Asia, through north Australia, across to French Polynesia and the Tahitian Islands. They tend to be the largest and most expensive pearls available, especially from Australian waters. Golden, light-yellowish pearls are typical of those found in Indonesian and Philippine waters, while the white and silvery colors abound in Australian waters.
The Tooth Test
This is the easiest, if not the most hygienic, test for telling if a pearl is an imitation or not. Simply, rub the pearl lightly along the biting edge of your upper front teeth. If it feels sandy or gritty, it is probably real. If smooth, it is probably imitation. (I just tried it on several strands of my pearls and it works!)
Color is a matter of personal taste and is often selected on whether it suits the wearer’s skin tone or not.
Geographically, Americans are said to prefer pink pearls, Europeans prefer white and cream, whereas South Americans and Middle Eastern people go more for the cream and gold colors.
Cream and gold colors are believed to suit dark and olive skins, while some feel whites and pinks are more suitable for Caucasians and Asians.
Try clothes of the same color as the pearls – if the color of the clothes suits you, then the pearls should do as well
If you have ever used my services, you know how I feel about wearing the proper size pearls for your stage of life. Here is a great guide from Absolute Pearls.
- 5.5-6.0mm or smaller – young ladies 15-17 years old, turning 16, High School graduation or first ‘starter’ necklace for a young person.
- 6.0-6.5mm – Young ladies 18-30 for Valentines Day & Christmas, perfect also for college and university graduations, 18th and 21st Landmark birthdays and petite ladies.
- 6.5-7.0mm – One of the most popular sizes today and generally considered a wardrobe basic for the 25 to 45 age range.
- 7.0-7.5mm – One of the most popular sizes today and generally considered a wardrobe basic for the 25 to 45 age range.
- 7.5-8.0mm – For ladies 30 years up. At this size, there is a certain ‘importance’ displayed. Popular as a wedding anniversary gift, 30th & 40th landmark birthdays, important Mothers Day and Christmas gifts.
- 8.0-8.5mm – Pearls 8mm and up tend to start getting more expensive. Ladies 35 and up especially high flying career women will have a strand for everyday wear. Also very appropriate for wedding anniversary gifts and 40th & 50th landmark birthdays.
- 8.5-9.0mm – It is said that Jackie Kennedy wore this size of pearl. Impressive and glamorous, successful and powerful women wouldn’t be seen without! A very special occasion gift and it screams ‘I love you’ when bestowed by your man.
- 9.0-9.5mm – For those ladies who are ‘pearlaholics’, this size exudes sophistication and good taste. Goes well with a BMW X5.
- 9.5-10.0mm – A favorite size of Barbara Bush and for most cultured pearls except South Sea and Tahitian, the largest size normally available. For the Managing Director, Chairwomen and those ladies driving Aston Martins! *Now all I need is the car!
LAST ON, FIRST OFF
- To minimize contact with perfume, make-up, perspiration etc. which can alter your pearls’ luster or color, your pearls should be the last thing you put on and the first thing you take off.
- Wipe your pearls gently with a warm damp cloth to remove body oils before putting them away.
WEARING YOUR PEARLS
- Wear your pearls often to allow them to breathe.
- Re-string your pearls every 1-2 years depending on how frequently you wear them. Your pearls should be knotted. Small knots tied between each pearl in a strand to prevent them rubbing together and to avoid the loss of pearls if the necklace breaks.
- Avoid contacting pearls with perspiration, make-up, oils, creams, perfume, hairspray, chlorine, acids, ultrasonic cleaners, dust and grit.
STORING YOUR PEARLS
- Keep your pearls straight if possible and protected in a soft material such as velvet, silk or satin.
- Do not let your pearls rub against hard objects such as gold and diamond jewelry.
- Avoid very dry or extreme heat conditions.
- If not worn frequently, store your pearls in slightly damp linen to help prevent them drying out.
Final Tip: If you have several strands of small sized pearls and are not a teenager anymore, consider wearing all of your strands at once for a luxurious look. Don’t worry about mixing colors of pearls. They will all look fabulous together.
Special thanks to my pearl models Barbara and Alexandra Brady.
Published in December 2014 edition of Northside Woman Magazine