Part 5 – Specifics for Picking Akoya Pearls

Set of Large Akoya Pearls

SERIES 1: How to Shop for Pearls
Part 5 – Specifics for Picking Akoya Pearls

The next pearl we will look at is the Akoya or “saltwater” pearl. While Akoyas are sometimes referred to as “saltwater pearls,” this can be misleading as Tahitians and South Sea pearls can also be considered saltwater pearls; like Akoyas, they too are cultured in saltwater.

Akoya pearls are nucleated with a round bead (made from the shell of a mollusk), so the pearl is made up of layers of nacre over this bead. Because of this, Akoya pearls are generally very to perfectly round. So while grading doesn’t rely heavily on shape for Akoyas, there are some off-round and near-round Akoya pearls which are generally not desired. But Akoya pearls are also found in baroque shapes, which are favored by many individuals for their unique, tear-drop and pear shapes. Only 2-5 beads can be nucleated in each Akoya mollusk, and ultimately only 1, maybe 2 pearls are actually produced and able to be marketed. These numbers are drastically different than the number of Freshwater pearls that can be produced, making Akoya pearls much more rare and thus, more valuable.

The luster of Akoya pearls can be the sharpest of all the pearl types. Very high luster Akoyas will have such a sharp reflection that it is almost mirror-like. Though not exceptionally common, this kind of luster is highly sought after (and paid highly for!), especially in the larger the pearls. Because Akoya pearls only range in size from about 2mm-10mm, size weighs more heavily in the quality factors. Any Akoya pearls above 8mm tend to be on the rare side, with anything over 9mm being very rare.

Map of Japan - Virtually all Akoyas 8mm and larger are cultured here.

Japan is essentially the only country producing Akoya pearls larger than 8mm, so quantity is low compared to many other pearl sizes and types available. And especially now, in the light of the recent earthquake/tsunami in Japan, this large-size Akoya industry is going to take a very big hit in the next 2-5 years with most of the future pearl harvests being affected. You might want to splurge on a larger size Akoya necklace now while there are still large strands to be found!

Akoya pearls on the market are generally found in 2 colors – white, which is naturally occurring, or black which is dyed. Akoyas may also be found in a natural blue color, which can range from gray/silver to icy, sky blue. Within the white Akoyas, these pearls have 3 major overtone colors that are found in subtle addition to the white color – silver, cream/ivory, and rose. Choosing between these different overtones relies entirely on the buyer and their personal preference. Depending on one’s skin tone, certain overtones will look better than others, so it’s important to try a variety on your own skin and compare how the pearls complement your skin. For example, I have very rosy undertones in my skin, and thus, pearls with a rose overtone look completely drab and blend in with my skin. Pearls with a cool, silver overtone, however, is a very striking complement to my skin’s rose undertones and make the pearls “pop” next to my skin. It’s quite amazing when you see in person how the difference in the overtones with your skin can affect the look of the pearls.

The vast majority of ALL Akoyas (and most Freshwaters too!) on the market have been bleached at some point to improve the whiteness and evenness of their color. Then, many Akoyas have been tinted with a process calling “pinking.” Pinking involves letting the pearls soak in a diluted red dye to give them a lovely, rosy pink overtone. Both bleaching and pinking are considered in the industry as a standard process of production, and not an actual “treatment.” Treatments are deemed to alter or enhance the pearl by outside means that increases the value or beauty of the pearl. Companies that sell pearls are only required to divulge to their customers any “treatments” that have been done on the pearls. Though the bleaching and pinking of pearls DOES actually enhance the beauty and raise the value of the pearls, the practice of bleaching and pinking has been going on for so many years (almost 100 for bleaching!) that they has become just standard industry practices and companies don’t mention their pearls are bleached or pinked. This is just information that is helpful to know about the average pearl. Since bleaching and pinking are so widespread and common in the industry, I don’t feel it is a factor that should concern one in making a pearl purchase.

Posted in Akoya Pearls, Cultured Pearls, Gifts, Grading Pearls, Graduation, Graduation, High Luster Pearls, Holidays, Pearl Luster, Round Pearls, Shopping, Uncategorized, wedding | Leave a comment

Graduations, Weddings, and Still Time for Mother’s Day!


With Mother’s Day just around the corner, that means that all those graduations and weddings are just around the corner too. Since Pearlzzz on Amazon MarketPlace still has some great specials going on for Mother’s Day, I’d take advantage of those and buy for my graduation and wedding presents also. Right now, through the 31st of May, 2 different box sets are buy 1 get another one for just $1! Wow!

That means I can get one for my Mom, and then get another in whatever color of pearls I want for myself, practically FREE!  All you have to do is put 2 qualifying box sets (sets must both be gold or silver) in your cart and upon checkout it will automatically discount you so the total is $1 more for the additional box set.

7-8mm White Freshwater Pearl Set in Sterling Silver - 18" Necklace, 7.5" Bracelet, 7-8mm Button Stud Earrings

Here are the qualifying box sets!

Sterling Silver Sets
QSET-10037-AM (white)
QSET-10037K-AM (black)
QSET-10037P-AM (pink)
QSET-10037CH-AM (chocolate)


7-8mm Chocolate Freshwater Pearl Set- 18" Necklace, 7.5" Bracelet, 7-8mm Stud Button Earrings





14K Yellow Gold Sets
SET-28Y-AM (white)
SET-28YK-AM (black)
SET-28YP-AM (pink)
SET-28YCH-AM (chocolate)  

And since you might have some young men in your life that you need a gift for a wedding or graduation, also offers two exclusive jewelry lines that have many pieces that are specifically geared for men -  Semantica and Rosso Amante. These stainless steel pieces are sleek and bold with a wide variety of interesting designs that vary from traditional looking styles to unique, artistic pieces; there’s something perfectly suited for everyone.

ROSSO AMANTE - Stainless Steel Bracelet with Rose Steel Accents
SEMANTICA – Stainless Steel Throwing Star Pendant
SEMANTICA – Polished and Brushed Stainless Steel Pendant
With so many options to choose from, or Pearlzzz on Amazon MarketPlace is sure to be the place for you to find the perfect gift. Or something nice for yourself!
Posted in Cultured Pearls, Freshwater Pearls, Gifts, Graduation, High Luster Pearls, Holidays, Mother's Day, Near-round Pearls, Round Pearls, Shopping, Uncategorized, wedding | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day is Almost Here!

Since Mother’s Day is less than 1 month away, (That’s right! Very little time left before May 8th!) I’d like to interrupt our Blog Series to write a blog dedicated to Mothers, Mother’s Day, and to all children who are at a loss for ideas for Mother’s Day.

For any holiday where the media pushes gift-giving down our throats, I’d like to remind everyone to not feel overwhelmed trying to buy the perfect present or feeling like they NEED to spend a lot of money. A gift does not have to be expensive (or cost anything!) to be meaningful and heartfelt. But I know everyone likes to be able to spoil their mothers, grandmothers, and wives with something special; so I’d like to help making shopping for them a little easier this year.

Jewelry. Every woman has some. Most women would enjoy more. It’s that simple. Now the trick is to buy something that is within your budget, while still being a quality piece of jewelry. I would suggest you use your new-found knowledge from the last blog, Series 1.4, and buy some beautiful, Freshwater pearls. There are so many options for styles and prices, that you’re sure to find something perfectly suited for that special someone.

A full set of Freshwater Pearls, like this one, is a great choice for someone new to pearls! has a great selection of companies that sell Freshwater pearl jewelry. Pearlzzz brand on Amazon has one of the largest selections for Freshwater pearl jewelry, and at really affordable prices. Freshwater pearl bracelets start under $20!! I also really like the new line of pearl jewelry from Macy’s called, Belle de Mer. It has mainly traditional and classic styles of white pearl jewelry, and like most stuff from Macy’s, they’re gorgeous! And it comes in a really cute little box with a leather-like pouch to store the pearls in. If you’re looking to spend a little more, I’d go for one of the Tahitian necklaces that Pearlzzz sells on Amazon.

24" Tahitian Baroque Necklace by Pearlzzz

We haven’t discussed what to look for in Tahitian pearls yet, but Pearlzzz has a 30-day, no questions asked, return policy – so what do you have to lose? My favorite is the 24″ Baroque Tahitian strand.The long length looks exotic and makes it great to wear with dressy or casual styles.

Pearls look great all the time so you can’t beat the accessory that goes with everything!!


Posted in Baroque Pearls, Cultured Pearls, Freshwater Pearls, Gifts, Holidays, Mother's Day, Pearl Shapes, Shopping, Tahitian Pearls | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part 4 – Specifics for Picking Freshwater Pearls

SERIES 1: How to Shop for Pearls
Part 4 – Specifics for Picking Freshwater Pearls

Now that we know main qualities to look for in any pearl type, we can look more in-depth to learn what factors to look for in each specific pearl type. First we’ll start with the most common in the market, the Freshwater pearl.

A little background helps in understanding why we look for different qualities in different types of pearls. Freshwater pearls are the least expensive of all the pearls, and this is due to the way they are cultured.Freshwater pearls are cultured in a mussel that allows from 24-40 pearls to grow in one shell!

Freshwater mussel, Hyriopsis Cumingii, during the culturing process

 This can’t be done with any other pearl type, and thus, Freshwater pearls are indisputably the most prevalent in the market. Culturing Freshwater pearls is also unique from other types in that they are cultured with a piece of tissue instead of a round bead. This causes Freshwater pearls to very rarely be round and to be virtually solid nacre. That is why roundness is an important factor in choosing a high-quality Freshwater strand, and nacre thickness is not relevant.

Since luster and blemishing are important for all pearl types, we keep those qualities in mind when we focus on shape for Freshwater pearls. Freshwaters can come in shapes from baroque (an indefinable shape), oval, potato, near-round, to very round.

These Freshwater pearls lack a round shape and could be described as baroque, button, or off-round in shape.

 While some people enjoy the baroque shapes that Freshwaters come in, most often people are looking for round pearls. Potato pearls are the least round, that are trying to be. Semi-round or near-round will be just slightly not round to the eye. A round or very round Freshwater will be round to the naked eye, but when measured may still not be exactly round. Very round Freshwaters will make the highest quality strand if they still have good luster and little blemishing.

Generally, if a pearl has good luster, then it probably has thick nacre. Though nacre thickness isn’t relevant for Freshwater pearls, (unless it has chips or peeling in the nacre which is BAD!!) luster is still an important factor. Freshwater pearls’ luster is generally less sharp than the luster of the other pearl types, excluding South Sea pearls. If comparing the luster of a high-quality Akoya strand to the luster of a high-quality Freshwater strand, the Akoya luster is generally going to be brighter, sharper, and more distinct. So always compare pearls within the same pearl family. Freshwater luster will have a more overall shininess, instead of the sharp reflections in the surface of the pearl. A high luster strand will also have a hint of iridescence, which is also sometimes referred to as orient. This iridescence is similar to the rainbow of colors that oil on the ground appears to have. This is a very desired quality in pearls, as it gives the pearls a richness and depth that can’t duplicated.

Different colors of Freshwater pearls - Pink, White, Black, and Chocolate. The pink and white are natural colors. The black and chocolate have been color-treated.

When buying different colors of Freshwaters, I feel it is important to know if they are naturally occurring colors, or if the pearls are dyed. Freshwater pearls come in a range of natural colors like pink, peach, apricot, bronze, lavender, gray, white, and many shades in between those colors. The colors may vary in brightness or intensity, but will generally be within the pastel family. Black Freshwater pearls are always dyed and so are chocolate colored ones. But Freshwater pearls are often in dyed in every color of the rainbow so make sure that the dealer is open about what they are selling. When choosing pearls of any color though, I would always compare the strands on your skin because even slight variations in pearl colors can make a big difference in how the pearls complement your skin tone.

Posted in Cultured Pearls, Freshwater Pearls, Grading Pearls, High Luster Pearls, Near-round Pearls, Oval Pearls, Pearl Luster, Pearl Shapes, Round Pearls, Shopping | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Part 3 – Main Quality Factors for Any Pearl Type

SERIES 1: How to Shop for Pearls
Part 3 – Main Quality Factors for Any Pearl Type

Once I am confident I have genuine pearls in front of me, the main important factors (simplified) that determine a pearl’s quality are the luster and blemishing. Shape should be included if you are looking for round pearls. There are other important factors like size, matching, nacre, and color when grading pearls professionally; but for the individual consumer these factors usually come down to a matter of personal preference. And even with luster and blemishing, which is more important in a pearl is your own preference. Personally, luster is always the deciding factor for me.

Moderately Blemished Pearls with Large Inclusion

I think a pearl with amazing luster and a few blemishes is more attractive than a perfectly clean pearl with poor luster, but to each his own.

Blemishing really needs no explanation. A blemish on a pearl can be anything from a miniscule pinprick dent, to a white spot that is flush with the surface, to large deep inclusions that are 1mm or more in size. Obviously the less and/or smaller the blemishes, the better. I like to judge blemishing based on if I can see the blemishes from 12″-18″ away while the pearls are being worn. If not, then 90% of people that see the piece on me would not be close enough to see the blemishes either. 

High Luster Pearls

Luster is a little bit more tricky as it takes awhile to determine luster on an individual strand or pearl without much to compare it to. Often, even pearl buyers (who have seen many, many pearls) will take a strand of pearls with the best luster they have, to compare with the pearls they are buying. This because even comparing luster among a bunch of pearls/strands is relative to the range of luster that the give selection has. This gives them the assurance that they are getting at least the same quality of luster they are used to, and not just picking the most lustrous strands from whatever selection the pearl farmer is showing.

Light can make a big difference in how the luster appears. In bright, direct light, all pearls will look shiny; differentiating luster quality is next to impossible. Fluorescent light can also be very hard to accurately see luster in. Beware, because often jewelry stores show their pearls under direct fluorescent light, making them all appear very reflective. Always have the pearls taken out of any cases or lights to inspect luster quality. In indirect light, pearls with poor luster will have a chalky or dull appearance. A pearl with excellent luster will have a very crisp reflection. A trick to telling if it is high luster is to look at the light source reflecting in the surface.

Top row shows poor luster, bottom row shows high luster.

Do the edges of the light look soft and hazy? Or can you clearly see the crisp edges and details of the light? With high luster, you should be able to easily see clear details in the reflection, like your facial features. Notice how much shinier and clearer the light source is in the pearls in the bottom row of the picture. Being able to accurately determine luster with no comparison will take some time, but you can always use whatever pearls you already have to at least make sure your next pearls have equal or better luster.

Top to Bottom Row: Near-round pearls, oval pearls, round pearls

If you’re buying round pearls, then obviously the rounder the better. Except!….when it comes to luster and blemishing. A very round pearl with poor luster or heavy blemishing is less desired than a near-round pearl with high luster and/or little blemishing. Generally you’ll find the best looking pearls for your budget, if you’re flexible on some of the factors. If you narrow your search to only the roundest freshwater pearls or only pearls with no blemishing, you’ll instantly dismiss a lot of pearls that in actuality might look better overall considering all or most other factors.

**I’d love to hear questions or comments from others who have bought or are looking at pearls. What do you find most desirable in the pearls you’re looking at?

Posted in Grading Pearls, High Luster Pearls, Near-round Pearls, Oval Pearls, Pearl Luster, Pearl Shapes, Round Pearls, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Part 2 – Determining Genuine Pearls

SERIES 1:  How to Shop for Pearls
Part 2 – Determining Genuine Pearls

The first thing to check when inspecting pearls is to first determine whether they are real pearls or imitation. And to clarify, when I say, “real pearls” I am including both natural and cultured pearls into this category. Cultured pearls have long since been dismissed as not being “real pearls,” and should always be considered genuine. Imitation pearls are ones that are not an organic, grown substance, and are usually produced using a mold by a machine. The lack of irregularities is a dead give-away that they are not genuine pearls. That is, unless you have found yourself a truly great strand of pearls!

Once you have handled and seen many pearls up-close, determining their legitimacy will be an easy task. Imitation pearls are generally made from plastic which makes them lighter than real pearls and the surface is unnaturally smooth. Because real pearls are an organic substance, the surface appears smooth to the eye, but in actuality has a slightly gritty texture. You may be able to feel this with your fingers if you are comparing a real pearl strand to an imitation strand side by side. If you don’t have any other strand to compare to, the foolproof method to determining authenticity of the pearls is to gently scrape your teeth on the surface of the pearl. If they are real pearls, then the sensation will probably be rather unpleasant, as the surface of a pearl will have the texture of fine sand to your teeth. If you try this with imitation pearls, you will instantly be able to detect the non-porous, smoothness of the plastic that slides off your teeth.

Generally, if you are buying from a reputable store (in person or online), you won’t need to verify the pearls are genuine. If you’re buying from an individual or unknown seller at a thrift/antique store, on Ebay, or a yard sale, then I would recommend checking if you are not certain. Most jewelry and pearl stores are selling genuine pearls, so the real trick is determining which is the best quality for the best value.

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Part 1 – No universal grading makes it hard to shop for pearls

BLOG SERIES:  How to shop for pearls 
Part 1 – No universal grading makes it hard to shop for pearls

As a jewelry and online shopping enthusiast, I understand the struggle consumers go through when purchasing products online, specifically quality jewelry. The biggest issue I see problems with is in the area of pearls. Currently there is no universal grading system enforced, leaving it open for pearl retailers to base their grading scale off of their own personal choosing, which generally relates to a company’s inventory. A small company’s “AAA” pearl may be the exact same pearl that a large company, with an inventory size to match, would give a “AA” grade. Or one company might have access to seven pearl farms, whereas another might only have access to one pearl farm. It is all relative to each company’s experience, pearl access, and professional integrity.

There are people knowledgeable in pearls trying to push grading scales they have implemented, but these pearl experts are almost always trying to sell their own pearls as well; so naturally any of these grading scales is going to favor their own company’s pearl access and stock. That is why until there is a grading system universally enforced for all types of pearls, I think consumers should be proactive about their pearl purchases and educate themselves about what defines a high quality pearl and judge by their own visual consideration; instead of relying on a company (who’s only goal is to sell pearls) to tell them they are purchasing a pearl of high quality. Of course they will say it’s high quality…they want to sell you pearls!

With so many companies selling pearls online, to be competitive most companies offer at least a 30 day return policy with no questions asked. This allows consumers to purchase a piece of pearl jewelry just to examine in person and decide for themselves if it is a quality purchase they wish to keep. In fact, it is probably easier to make the best pearl purchase online INSTEAD of in person at a store, as most jewelry stores would not allow you a 30-day full return policy with no questions asked.

Pearls are something that almost everyone has, values, or wants; yet the average person knows little to nothing about the realm of pearls. Having worked with pearls for years, I am going to spend the next few weeks writing a series of blogs describing what you should look for when buying pearls. Then you can be confident when you make a pearl purchase, that you are getting the quality and aesthetics you want for the best price.

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Smart Phone: Smarter Shopper?

These days, everything is becoming so technologically integrated that it looks as if your business won’t stand a chance unless you jump on the technology band wagon too.  According to a Wall Street Journal article (link here), shopping via smart phone has increase ten-fold in the past year. Not only is it already easy to purchase online via smart phone, there are also many phone apps, like “Red Laser” and “Barcode Scanner” that allow shoppers to use their phones to compare prices with other retailers.

It seems that if any business really wants to be at the top of their game, they need to make quick advances to add mobile technology to their business/website. Many smart phone users will not even bother using websites that aren’t mobile compatible because they’re slow, difficult to read, and too large to properly see well on a mobile device. This puts websites with mobile sites at a strong advantage. And as more and more people get smart phones, the shopping wave of the future will undoubtedly be via phone.

Gartner, a company specializing in “technology research and business leader insight,” predicted in 2010, that by 2013 smart phones could surpass computers as people’s primary source to search the internet. With these drastic rises in mobile technology, it only makes sense that online businesses that don’t offer mobile sites will suffer to those that do.

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