Buying Pearl Jewelry: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Published On: 
January 27, 2023
pearl buying guide by pearls.jp

Buying Pearl Jewelry: The Ultimate Beginner's Guide


Pearl jewelry has been a popular accessory for centuries, and for good reason. Pearls are timeless, elegant, and versatile. They can be worn with a casual outfit or a formal attire. They add a touch of sophistication to any look. But before you start shopping for pearl jewelry, it's important to understand what you're buying. In this guide, we'll cover the different types of pearls, how they are graded, and how to choose the right pearl for you.

Types of Pearls

Natural Pearls

Natural pearls are formed when a small foreign object, such as a grain of sand, enters the shell of a mollusk. Over time, the mollusk secretes a substance called nacre around the object, eventually forming a pearl. Natural pearls are rare and highly valuable, making them a sought-after luxury item. Unfortunately, natural pearls have been over harvested throughout time, which led humanity to invent pearl culturing.

A natural pink Conch pearl

Cultured Pearls

Cultured pearls are formed in a similar way to natural pearls, but with the help of human intervention. A small bead (usually made of mother-of-pearl) or piece of tissue is inserted into the mollusk's shell, and the mollusk forms a pearl around it. Cultured pearls are the vast majority of all the traded pearls nowadays. Any pearl you see in shops, or online nowadays, is cultured. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors as well.

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are cultured pearls that are grown in freshwater mussels. They are typically smaller than saltwater pearls and come in a wide range of shapes and colors.

freshwater pearl necklace AAA Tokyo Japan

Saltwater Pearls

Saltwater pearls are cultured pearls that are grown in saltwater oysters. They are typically larger than freshwater pearls and have a more consistent shape. They come in a variety of colors: white, gold and black.

Gold south sea drop pearl earrings
Natural golden south sea cultured pearls, pearl drop earrings

When choosing between freshwater and saltwater pearls, it's important to consider your personal preference and budget. Freshwater pearls are less expensive and come in a wider range of colors and shapes, while saltwater pearls are of substantially better quality and last for life. Freshwater pearls are often treated, and dyed to resemble saltwater pearls which leads to their luster and shine to fade quickly.

Pearl Grading

When buying pearl jewelry, it's important to understand the grading system used to evaluate pearls. Pearl grading is based on several factors, including size, shape, luster, surface quality, and color.


The size of a pearl is measured in millimeters. Pearls that are larger than 10mm are considered large, while pearls that are smaller than 7mm are considered small. This also has to do with the type of pearl. For instance, Japanese Akoya pearls will only reach 9-9.5mm in diameter. This is due to the relatively small size of the Akoya oyster. South sea pearls usually start at 8mm and reach sizes that may exceed 20mm in rare cases.

Grading pearls by size


Pearls come in a variety of shapes, including round, drop, oval, button, and baroque. Round pearls are the most valuable and sought-after, while baroque are have a random shape. Their prices are determined by there rarity in the market.


Luster refers to the brightness and reflection of a pearl's surface. Pearls with high luster have a bright, mirror-like surface, while pearls with low luster have a dull, matte surface. This is often referred to A, AA, AAA luster.

Grading pearls by luster

Surface Quality

The surface quality of a pearl refers to the number and size of blemishes on the pearl's surface. Pearls with high surface quality have few or no blemishes, while pearls with low surface quality have many blemishes. It is important to remember that these are natural imperfections.


Pearls come in a variety of colors, including white, cream, pink, gold, and black. The color is determined by the type of oyster the pearl grows in. Japanese Akoya pearls are usually white, or silver-blue. South sea pearls can come in white or gold. Tahitian pearls are also known as black pearls, and range in color from silver to jet black. Freshwater pearls come in an array of pastel colors.

mens pearl jewelry pearls.jp tokyo japan

Choosing the Right Pearl

When choosing a pearl, it's important to consider your personal preference and budget. Think about the size and shape of the pearl that you prefer, as well as the color and luster.

Size and Shape

When it comes to size and shape, consider what you will be using the pearl for. If you're looking for a statement piece, a larger pearl may be the way to go. If you're looking for something more subtle, a smaller pearl may be the better option. The shape of the pearl is also important to consider. Round pearls are the most classic and versatile, while baroque pearls are unique and can add a more modern or edgy touch to your jewelry.


When it comes to quality, consider the luster and surface quality of the pearl. Pearls with high luster and surface quality will have a bright, mirror-like surface with few or no blemishes. These pearls will be more valuable and will last longer. Pearls with low luster and surface quality will have a dull, matte surface with many blemishes. These pearls will be less expensive but may not be as striking to look at.


When it comes to color, consider what you will be wearing the pearl with, as well as how it goes with your skin tone. White and cream pearls are the most classic and versatile, and they will go with almost anything. Black pearls are not seen as often and could add a more modern and unique touch to your jewelry.

We also recommend contrasting the pearl’s overtones with your skin tone. In example, if your skin is pinkish, we would not recommend pearls with strong pink overtones, rather silvery-white. This will contrast the pearls with your skin and create an even more impactful look.

Caring for Pearls

Pearls are delicate and require special, yet easy care to keep them looking their best. Here are a few tips for caring for your pearl jewelry:

  • Clean your pearls with a soft cloth and mild soap and water. Avoid using harsh chemicals or ultrasonic cleaners.
  • Store your pearls in a soft pouch or jewelry box to protect them from scratches and damage.
  • Avoid exposing your pearls to extreme temperatures or humidity.
  • Avoid wearing your pearl jewelry when applying lotions, perfumes, or hair products.
  • Have your pearl jewelry professionally inspected and cleaned every few years to ensure they are in good condition.
Japanese Akoya Pearls Care pearls.jp


Pearl jewelry is a timeless and elegant accessory that can be worn with anything. By understanding the different types of pearls, how they are graded, and how to choose the right pearl for you, you can find the perfect pearl jewelry to suit your personal style and budget. Remember to take proper care of your pearl jewelry to ensure that it lasts for years to come. Happy shopping!

Stay in touch with us and be the first to know about new designs, promotions, pearl news and much more.
Newsletter Popup
Copyright © 2024 All Rights Reserved, pearls.jp
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram