Pearl Buyers Guide


  • About Pearls
  • Pearl Selection
  • Caring for Pearls

Pearls have been an object of desire through the centuries. The exotic, lustrous skin of pearls embodies all that is feminine. No other jewel makes the transition from day to evening as smoothly as pearls. In addition to the classic strands and stud earrings, creative new designs are helping to bring these alluring gems to the forefront of the fashion world. Either by themselves or paired with other colored gemstones, pearls offer glamorous sophistication and timeless elegance.

USA Jewels is your retail pearl supplier for exceptional quality pearls. Our pearls are renowned for quality and the richness of their natural nacre. Make the classic beauty and timeless appeal of cultured pearls a central part of your jewelry collection.

South Sea Cultured Pearls

The allure of South Sea pearls is legendary. USA Jewels provides an exceptional, extensive selection of high quality, large South Sea cultured pearls.
Learn more about South Sea Pearls

Tahitian Cultured Pearls

Tahitian pearls are often called "Black Pearls" and come in an opalescent black hue, shimmering with peacock green, gray and purple overtones.
Learn more about Tahitian Cultured Pearls

Akoya Cultured Pearls

Akoya pearls are the classic and best-known variety of all cultured pearls, and are what people typically imagine when thinking of a pearl.
Learn more about Akoya Cultured Pearls

Freshwater Cultured Pearls

Supply for Freshwater pearls is plentiful, as each shell can produce up to 100 pearls simultaneously. Consequently the price of freshwater pearls varies and is generally lower than other cultured pearls. Learn more about Freshwater Cultured Pearls

Mabe Cultured Pearls

Formed on the inside of the shell, rather than the inside of the body of the oyster, these pearls are often referred to as cultured half pearls.
Learn more about Mabe Cultured Pearls

Selecting Pearls

Pearls are classified by origin, and then graded by size, shape, nacre thickness, color, luster, and surface clarity. These qualities are not considered to be of equal importance when arriving at the final grade. When selecting pearls, be familiar with the "Five-Virtues" of pearls to assist you in selecting your ideal pearl. However, the most important thing to remember when selecting a pearl is that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

Luster

For cultured pearl experts, luster is the single most important indicator in evaluating pearl quality. Luster is what separates the superior from the inferior and the extraordinary from the ordinary. Throughout history, this unique attribute has separated pearls from all other gems.

Luster describes the beauty you see as light travels through the nacre of the pearl. Luster derives from the pearl's countless layers of pearl nacre, the natural pearly substance that forms the body of the pearl itself. It is the nacre of the pearl that causes light to refract from the depths of the nacreous layers through minute prisms, giving each pearl its unique lustrous appearance.

USA Jewels only supplies pearls of excellent luster due to the quality and thickness of the nacre. Importantly, the luster of these pearls is natural and untreated, and as such their beauty will not diminish over time if cared for properly.

Complexion

Pearls may have surface characteristics, which may or may not detract from the pearl's beauty depending on the quality, depth, or visibility of the blemishes. Pearl nacre is a beautiful matrix of calcium carbonate crystal laid on tile-like formation by the oyster. The appearance of the nacre is determined by several factors including whether the calcium crystals are "flat" or "prismatic", the perfection with which the tiles are laid, and the fineness and number of tiles. When the tiles are laid in a perfectly uniform pattern the nacre will appear identical over the entire pearl surface, thus creating the "flawless" pearl.

Nature is not normally flawless, however, and some tiles may be imperfectly laid. This results in surface blemishes and imperfections beneath the nacre's surface. The effect on the pearl's beauty depends on the degree of visibility of these imperfections. This is described as the pearl's complexion.

Surface complexion quality refers specifically to the abundance or absence of physical blemishes or marks. When evaluating complexion (the trade uses terms such as blemish, spotting and cleanliness), remember that cultured pearls are grown by live oysters in a natural environment. As such, there are many uncontrollable forces that affect the surface.

Size

Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can be smaller than one millimeter in the case of tiny seed pearls, or as large as twenty millimeters for a mature South Sea pearl. The larger the pearl, other factors being equal, the more valuable it will be.

Shape

Classic shapes range in descending order of value from round to near-round, from oval to drop. More contemporary shapes include circle and baroque. Popularity of certain shapes, or the rarity of others, can result in a premium price for particular shapes. It's important to understand that in pearl industry terms, generally the shapes from round to drop are pretty symmetrical, while anything baroque denotes a pearl that is completely asymmetrical or free-form. These unusual shapes usually occur in Japanese cultured pearls as well as Tahitian, South Sea and Freshwater pearls.

The photographs of the shapes shown are representative samples of the various shapes and qualities available. As a product of nature, each pearl is rare and unique. The pearls you purchase may not look exactly like the images shown.

Color

Cultured pearls come in a variety of colors from rose to black. The desirability of different pearl colors is a matter of individual taste. The most popular color is white or white with slight overtones. Pearls that are naturally colored, rather than color enhanced by artificial means, will add value to the pearl. Most South Sea cultured pearls offered by USA Jewels have natural color and luster and are not enhanced.

Caring for Pearls

Daily Care

As an organic gem, pearls are vulnerable to chemicals found in cosmetics, hair spray, and perfume. To preserve your pearls' luster, always put on your jewelry after applying make-up and styling products.

Pearls can also be harmed by perspiration. Before placing your pearls back in the jewelry box, wipe them gently with a soft cloth.

Storage

Contact with other jewelry may scratch pearls. Avoid tangles by fastening clasps, then lay each jewelry piece in a separate compartment of your jewelry box. When traveling, use a protective jewelry pouch or wrap each item in a soft cloth. Pearls can dehydrate when stored too long, so enjoy them frequently.

Cleaning

Never use an ultrasonic cleaner on your pearls. It can damage their nacre. Occasionally wipe your pearls gently with a cloth dipped in mild, soapy water. Then rinse the cloth in fresh water and wipe the pearls clean. Dry them with a soft cloth.

If pearls come into contact with an acid substance such as fruit juice, vinegar, or other chemicals, immediately wipe clean with a soft cloth. Be careful not to submerge your pearls in water as this will weaken the silk thread.

Maintenance

From time to time, check the clasps or screws holding your jewelry together. With frequent wear, even well cared for pearls may loosen and they will require restringing.