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The Beginners Guide to Buying Pearl Jewelry

By Edited Feb 4, 2015 4 5

The June Birthstone

Where to Buy Real Pearl Jewelry

For thousands of years, natural pearls have been highly valued for their luster, beauty and value. They have been used in many ways, including sewn onto clothing as decorations and ground up into cosmetics. However, the most common use of them is as decorative pieces of jewelry. They have been included in the crown jewels of many European countries, in necklaces, chokers, earrings, and rings. Sometimes they are mingled in pieces of jewelry with other gorgeous gemstones. For example, Princess Diana, when she was married to Prince Charles of England, was often photographed in a beautiful pearl choker with an enormous sapphire in the center. This choker was stunning when she wore it to the White House and danced with actor John Travolta.

                                                         

John Travolta and Princess Diana

They were popular long before Princess Diana, however. A famous portrait of Marie Antoinette shows her wearing a pearl necklace and earrings. One of the most famous paintings by Johannes Vermeer is called "Girl with a Pearl Earring," painted in 1665.

Today they are often popular with woman born in the month of June, since it is considered their birthstone. However, since this lovely white or pastel colored jewelry goes well with a wide variety of styles and colors of clothing, many women wear them regardless of what month in which they were born.

Check out pearl jewelry sets from Amazon.

What Is the Difference Between Natural and Cultured?

In its simplest form, a pearl is simply made of a small bit of calcium carbonate that has been deposited in the shell of a mollusk, like an oyster. If you have ever seen one in its natural state, you know that they come in a variety of shapes. However, the ideal one should be perfectly round and smooth. Natural pearls that grow like this in the wild are incredibly rare. As a result, most of the ones that are used for jewelry are farmed inside of special oysters and freshwater mussels. It is also possible to buy imitation or simulated ones that have been made into jewelry, but most of them are not as lustrous as the ones that have been grown naturally inside of a shell. Now that cultured pearls have become so affordable, there is very little reason to purchase imitation ones. Farming has reduced the price of real ones to the point where you can purchase single strands of cultured necklaces for as little as $100 - $200, and sometimes less if you find them on sale.

Generally we think of pearls as being off-white or cream colored. In fact, if you pick a color of paint or an article of clothing that is "pearl" colored, it usually means that it is a creamy shade of white. However, many people do on realize that they can be dyed so that they now are available in white, pink, cream, green, blue, black, and yellow, as well as rainbow colored and a type of natural golden color. The highest quality natural ones have almost a mirror-like luster. It is also possible to find freshwater cultured ones that are naturally a luminous shade of black.

Although they are frequently used in the same types of jewelry as gemstones, they are not considered to be stones. Instead they are a mineral that has grown larger through repeated deposits of calcium carbonate. They are actually thought to be the immune response of the mollusk to a tiny irritating object or organism that has become trapped inside their shell.

Until we were able to use the technique of farming oysters and mussels, divers used to hunt and kill hundreds of oysters and mussels for each pearl they were able to find. This is why natural ones were so highly valued in the past. Today, farmed pearls are referred to as cultured. The development of farming has made it possible for more women to own lovely strands of pearls and similar jewelry. Cultured pearls look so much like natural ones that the only way to tell them apart is by using a gemological x-ray that examines their center. Since cultured ones are grown inside of living oysters and mussels, they are still considered real.

Pearls must be handled with more care than most gemstones. Since they are made of calcium carbonate, they can be damaged by even weak acid solutions. In fact, they can be dissolved in vinegar. As a result, it is important that they be handled and cleaned carefully.

Like a gemstone, the value of pearls is based on their size, color, shape, luster, orient and the quality of their surface. Both natural and cultured ones should be lustrous, but not have a perfectly smooth surface. They should feel a tiny bit gritty when rubbed together. Imitation or simulated pearls are usually perfectly smooth.

                                    

Black Pearl and Sterling Silver Pendant

Where to Buy Gorgeous Jewelry

Natural pearl necklaces from wild oysters are extremely rare and very expensive. Most are seldom, if ever, available for sale. When they are, a strand of natural ones could sell for a million dollars or more. In fact, in 1917, Pierre Cartier (of Cartier Jewelry) purchased the mansion he uses for his New York store by exchanging a matched, double strand of natural pearls for the mansion. They were valued for $1,000,000 at the time.

Because natural pearls are out of reach of the vast majority of people, most individuals are more likely to buy cultured ones or high quality simulated ones. If you intend to buy cultured pearls, be sure to shop with a reputable dealer. You want to be certain that you are getting the quality of that you are expecting.

Most major jewelry stores offer a extensive selection of cultured pearl jewelry. You can also find cultured pearl jewelry in the fine jewelry departments of major department stores, including Macy's, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom's, and Neiman Marcus. Amazon also has an amazing selection of both freshwater and saltwater cultured pearl jewelry, as well as simulated jewelry. If you want genuine cultured pearls, be sure to read the product description carefully when you are making your purchase.

If you are buying an expensive cultured pearl necklace, look closely at how they are strung, and the type of clasp used. You want to be sure that the clasp is secure and attractive. In addition, decide in advance whether you want a sterling silver clasp or a gold clasp. Do you want it to be decorative, or simple and unobtrusive? Do you want the clasp decorated with diamonds or other gemstones? Sometimes highly decorative clasps are worn in front rather than at the back of the neck.

When deciding on the pearls that appeal to you, consider the different colors available. For example, you can purchase pure white, golden colored, or black pearls, as well as ones that have been dyed a variety of colors. You will also need to decide whether you want a single strand, a double strand or a simple pendant strung from chains or mixed with other gemstones. All of these are desirable choices.

Whatever type of jewelry you choose, appreciate the fact that farming cultured pearls has made it possible for nearly ever woman who wants them to enjoy her own elegant real pearl necklace.

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Inexpensive, Beautiful Necklace

Cream Simulated Three Strand Twisted Pearl Necklace, 18"
Amazon Price: $40.00 $17.19 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 4, 2015)
A lovely necklace perfect for a wedding or other special occasion.

Stunning Wedding Jewelry

Bridal Wedding Jewelry Set Crystal Rhinestone Pearl Sophisticated Silver White
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(price as of Feb 4, 2015)
This necklace and earrings set will go perfectly with nearly any wedding dress.

Charming Jewelry - Perfect for a Teen

Heart Shaped Freshwater Pearl Pendant and Earrings Set
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Your flower girl would look darling in this pearl jewelry set.
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Comments

Feb 7, 2012 8:06pm
southerngirl09
Many years ago, my husband gave me a strand of cultured pearls for my June birthday, and it is one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. There is something about pearls; they just seem to go perfectly with everything. Very interesting article.
Feb 8, 2012 7:59am
Deborah-Diane
My husband gave me a strand of cultured pearls years ago, too. However, it wasn't until I researched this article that I understood what a cultured pearl was! Pearls are the perfect complement to virtually any dressy outfit. Thanks for sharing your story about your strand of pearls.
Feb 8, 2013 12:25pm
Marlando
Hi--I'm married to a June Bride--30 plus years ago-and I do my best to keep her pearl-happy. Thanks for the info--2 stars up and a rating from me
Feb 8, 2013 12:25pm
Marlando
Hi--I'm married to a June Bride--30 plus years ago-and I do my best to keep her pearl-happy. Thanks for the info--2 stars up and a rating from me
Feb 8, 2013 5:51pm
Deborah-Diane
Thank you, Marlando. I'm happy you have kept your wife in pearls ... and that, like me, you have enjoyed a long marriage!
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