Pearls are truly stunning! But do you know that not all of them are the same? In fact, the quality difference in pearls at different retail stores may be more startling than you expect. When you shop for pearl jewellery, it’s important to understand the type of pearls you’re buying and avoid the following common pitfalls.
1. Buying fake pearls
Fake pearls or imitation pearls are not real pearls. Although they look like natural or cultured pearls, they’re often made of glass beads coated with a compound that is made from fish scales. They have no intrinsic long-term value and their coating will eventually wear off. Here are a few steps you can take to identify if a pearl is real or fake.
2. All pearls are white.
Many people thought that white was the only pearl colour so they didn’t really look for any other colours that may have inspired them. The truth is pearls come in a wide range of natural colours such as pink, peach, and lavender in freshwater pearls, golden in South Sea pearls, and exotic dark shades in Tahitian pearls.
3. "These are natural pearls."
When you run into a jewellery shop, sometimes you may be told that certain pearls are natural rather than cultured. It’s important to understand that 99.9% of the pearls available today are cultured. Natural pearls are extremely expensive and rare. You will most likely find them in a museum or an auction. Even in the case of Keshi pearls, where pearls are grown in a pearl sac without a bead or tissue, they’re still the by-products of pearl culturing and cannot be called natural pearls.
4. Freshwater pearls are cheap and have poor quality.
This was very true back in the 80s when freshwater pearls had yellowish colour and low lustre. However, as the cultivation techniques advanced in the late 90s, the quality of freshwater pearls has improved significantly. Today, fine quality freshwater pearls can easily rival Akoya, and South Sea pearls in terms of size and lustre. As the Japanese Akoya pearl industry continues to dwindle, freshwater pearls have become more important than ever.
However, there’re still a lot of low quality freshwater pearls on the market with many sold at a high price that does not justify the quality. They’re often potato-shaped or off-round with a dim reflection and visible blemishes. So don’t be tricked into buying these pearls as they do not maintain their value.
5. Paying a high price for pearls with large blemishes.
Many people would tell you that if a pearl has lots of imperfections, it means it is a real pearl. Hence, the value is high. This concept is very misleading. Sure, most natural or cultured pearls do have blemishes (and in fact lots of them). But if you’re looking for fine quality pearl jewellery that preserves the value, then you want to find those with fewer, smaller and hardly visible blemishes.
Pearls have been one of the most treasured pieces of jewellery throughout history. Make sure you avoid these common pitfalls when buying pearl jewellery and select the quality pieces that will stand the test of time!