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Pearl Buying - Choosing & Caring for Pearls

Author: The Pearl Market.
Pearl buying can seem daunting - the more you learn the more you realise you don't know! If you've read the other articles in this guide you'll understand the different types of pearl and the qualities that determine their value. If you're buying pearls as a gift, this page answers the most frequent questions.


  • there's no industry standard for grading pearls. One supplier's AAA may be another's A.
  • quality factors are size, shape, lustre, nacre thickness, blemish, colour, and matching.
  • in seawater pearls, a minimum nacre thickness is vital to prevent chipping and flaking.
  • pearl prices rise sharply after they reach 7mm to 8mm in diameter.
  • pearls are a natural product so expect some small imperfections.
  • naturally coloured pearls may have small variations in shade along the strand.

Necklace Lengths

necklace lengths Sometimes called:

Choker: 14-16 inches Standard: 16 inches
Princess: 17-19 inches Matinee: 20-24 inches
Opera: 28-36 inches Rope: 36 inches and over

Popular Lengths

For necklaces, 18 inches is easily the most popular. This is the total length, including the clasp.

In everyday use bracelets get more of a battering. They shouldn't be too loose as they can snag and break. 7.5 inches suits most people. The clasp on a bracelet must be easy to fasten and unfasten as it's a one-handed operation.

Sizing a Bracelet

Whilst 7.5 inches is pretty standard, if you have (for example) a very slim wrist you might need a custom length. Here's a rough guide...

Take a piece of string and wrap it around your wrist where you want the bracelet to lie. The string should be just resting on the skin - neither tight nor slack. Measure the string and add an inch to allow for the radius of the pearls and the clasp. This should give you a length with a little bit of slack for ease of fastening.

Buying Pearls as A Gift

It's usually wise to go for the best grade of pearl you can afford - even if this means choosing a smaller pearl size. If you don't know what she'd prefer, you can't go too far wrong with traditional round white pearls.

giving pearls A good necklace can be spoiled by a cheap presentation case or tacky lightweight clasp. Some overseas sellers ship products in 'luxury' cardboard jewellery boxes to save weight. Cardboard is cardboard!


pearl colours Classic white, ivory and cream are usually a safe bet. Other colours are a matter of skin tone and personal preference. If the colour of a dress or blouse suits, then that shade of pearl probably will too.

Caring For Pearls

Pearls are a soft gem with low resistance to heat and chemicals. Clean them with a dry or damp soft cloth or chamois. Never use detergent, bleach or chemicals unless you want to watch your pearls melt.

Don't try to remove dirt with a toothbrush or any abrasive material as these can scratch the pearl's surface. It's better to clean pearls regularly than allow a build up of dirt or make-up.

Put on pearls after applying make-up, perfume, deodorant or hairspray. Take off pearls before showering, bathing or swimming so you don't get the silk thread wet (it can stretch).

Keep your pearls in a soft pouch or bag away from other jewellery that scratches.

If pearls are kept in a box for a long time they'll dry out and 'yellow'.

pearl restringing
Traditionally, good quality necklaces and bracelets are strung on silk thread that stretches with time and use. If you wear your pearls a lot, they will need restringing periodically.

stud earrings When removing stud earrings, try to get your fingers behind the earring cup rather than tugging on the pearl itself. If a stud does become detached from it's stem you can find out how to repair it here.

The Pearl Market Limited, Drefach Felindre, Llandysul, Carmarthenshire SA44 5YW  contact us
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