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Pearl Buyer's Guide

Pearls are one of the unique gemstones on earth that come from a living creature. For centuries, they are treasured by men and women as gems that reflect royalty, power, love, purity, and wealth. Nowadays, cultured pearls make pearl jewelry more affordable to ordinary people. They make great gifts that can bring lasting memories for women of all ages. Pearls are timeless presents for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, Christmas, and other special occasions.  Pearl jewelry also serves as beautiful bridal fashion accessories for weddings. Pearls are also affordable enough to be used as gifts for bridesmaids.

 In order to have our customers make informed decisions when buying pearls from us, we have put together answers to the 7 most commonly asked questions by our customers over time.

1. Are these pearls natural, cultured, or imitation?

2. What are the types of cultured pearls and their values?

3. How to determine the quality of the pearls?

4. Is there a grading system existed for pearl jewelry?

5. What size should I buy? 

6. What length of a pearl necklace should I buy? 

7. What OVERTONE COLOR of pearl should I choose?

 1. Are these pearls natural, cultured, or imitation?

 Princess Pearl carries only genuine cultured pearls. Fine cultured pearls are the most popular pearls today and what you see when you go to any retail jewelry store. Natural pearls are extremely rare due to over fishing and pollution, thus a pearl diver may dive a lifetime and only end up with a handful of pearls, in which most will probably not be very pretty.

The difference between a natural pearl and a cultured pearl is that natural pearls are a product of nature and cultured pearls are a product of nature helped along by science. A nucleus is implanted into the mollusk to stimulate nacre production and over a few years nacre builds up layer by layer ultimately creating the pearl. The nacre is the key determiner in the pearls luster. Although the pearls are cultured, this doesn’t mean they are all beautiful. In fact, many are not, especially for the larger pearls which are in the mollusk for a longer period of time and susceptible to more adverse conditions. This is why larger round cultured pearls are so rare. Natural pearls and cultured pearls are produced in rivers, lakes, and seas or oceans by mollusks or mussels.

Imitation pearls, also known as “faux”, “simulated,” and “semi-cultured” pearls are not produced in a mollusk or anything living for that matter. Many are glass, plastic, or shell beads dipped in ground fish scales and lacquered with pearl essence. It is easy to notice the difference when placing them side by side with a cultured pearl. Cultured pearls have an inner glow but imitation pearls only have a surface shine. You can also use the “tooth test” to spot an imitation pearl. If you run the pearl along the edge of your upper teeth, the genuine cultured pearl will have a gritty feel but the fake pearl will not. If you do a comparison on cultured pearls and fake pearls, the difference is very apparent.

 2. What are the types of cultured pearls and their values?

There are four commonly recognized types of pearls: freshwater pearls, Akoya saltwater pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls. Some jewelers refer to Tahitian pearls as South Sea Tahitian pearls. Each type of pearl is produced by a different species of mollusk, and each mollusk lives in a different region on earth under very specific climatic conditions.

 Each type of pearl has its own market value due to the supply and demand relationship. South Sea and Tahitian pearls are the most costly to be cultivated, they are rare, therefore, their values are high. Akoya pearls are relatively easy and less expensive to cultivate, the production volume is higher, and the value of Akoya pearls is lower than South Sea and Tahitian pearls.

 Due to the large over production of freshwater pearls by Chinese farms, Freshwater pearls are the most inexpensive and affordable cultured pearls among all its cultured pearl family.

3. How to determine the quality of the pearls?

In general, there are seven factors that determine the quality, value, and beauty of pearls. They are luster, shape, color, size, nacre quality, surface quality, and for pearl strands or earrings, the matching of pearls.

Luster – Luster is the first and most important definition for a pearl’s beauty. Luster should be your primary focus when judging quality. To recognize finer luster, look at the clarity of images that are reflected in the pearl’s surface. The closer to a mirror image you see, the better the luster. Pearls with fine luster also seem to glow warmly from within.

 Shape – Pearls exist in many shapes, such as round, near round, pear or drop, button, coin, semi baroque, or baroque. Generally speaking, the rounder a pearl, the rarer and more valuable it is.

Size – the larger the pearl, the rarer it is. The size of a pearl is measured by millimeters across its diameter. Different type of pearls has a different range of sizes. For instance, South Sea pearls are the largest and range from 8mm-18mm, Akoya pearls range from 4mm-9mm.

Surface – the more flawless the surface of a pearl is, the higher it will be valued. However, a flawless pearl only comes about once in about every million, as pearls are the result of a natural process, and a mollusk will usually leave some sort of unique mark on the finished pearl.

Color – unlike the other factors, color has little influence on the actual value of a pearl, except in the case of popularity. Essentially, the color of the pearl you desire is a matter of personal taste. Traditionally, there is a rather consistent demand for the classic silvery white pearls and the glowing gold shades. The rarest and most desired are the white “rose” colored pearls.

Nacre Quality - Nacre is the natural substance that the mollusk secretes to protect its sensitive flesh from irritants such as shell fragments or implanted beads. This is the same beautiful iridescent material that lines the inner surface of the oyster shells, aptly named mother-of-pearl. As a rule, the thicker the nacre, the higher quality the pearl is.

Matching – For a piece of pearl jewelry that consists of more than one pearl, such as a strand of necklace, or a pair of earring, matching of pearls becomes another important factor to determine the value of the jewelry. Look at the size, shape, color, luster and surface of the pearls to see if they matched very well. A perfectly matched pearl necklace or earrings will ultimate enhance the value of the piece.

4. Is there a grading system existed for pearl jewelry?

 There is not an industry-wide grading system for pearls. However, as most pearl companies, Princess Pearl uses the A, AA, AAA system to grade its cultured pearls on overall quality. On this scale, AAA is gem-quality, the highest quality cultured pearl available.

5. What size should I buy? 

The perfectly size of pearl for a lady to wear is largely influenced by her age, height, and build.

For instance, If the lady is 40 years old, the bigger size higher quality pearls are the more appropriate choice. For a younger lady, smaller pearls in medium quality range would be a perfect match. A woman's height is very important when choosing the pearl size and pearl length. Taller women will look terrific in larger pearls and longer necklace lengths; shorter women will look lovely in smaller pearl sizes and shorter necklace lengths. Also,  build has a great impact on the perfect pearls for her. If she is petite then smaller pearl size would be perfect for her, along with shorter necklace length. If she is average build then larger pearls in longer lengths would accentuate her beauty.

 6. What length of a pearl necklace should I buy? 

Choosing the right length is an important part of your purchase. Here are some ideas of what might be the right length for her.

Choker - 16 inches. A pearl choker is perhaps the most classic and yet versatile of all the single strand lengths. A simple pearl choker can go with virtually any outfit from casual to fancy evening wear, and just about any neckline imaginable.

Princess - 18 inches. The princess length necklace is best suited for crew and high necklines. It also complements low plunging necklines.

Matinee - 20 to 24 inches. Longer than the choker, and just a bit shorter than an opera length, the matinee necklace is the right choice for casual or business dressing. HINT: When buying for an older woman, a longer length helps to draw the attention away from the neck and to the pearls.

Opera - 28 to 36 inches. The opera necklace is the queen of all the lengths. When worn as a single strand, it is refined and perfect for high or crew necklines. When doubled upon itself, it serves as a versatile two strand choker.

 7. What OVERTONE COLOR of pearl should I choose?

The overtone color of a pearl is a subtle, translucent color that lies across a pearl’s surface and is secondary to the body color.

Having no overtone color is always a safe choice unless you know what overtone color the person you are buying for prefers.

Helpful Hints:  A woman with very fair skin may prefer a slight rose overtone since it will add color to their appearance. A woman with darker skin color or graying hair will sometimes prefer more of a silver overtone.



Dear Princess Pearl,
Thank you so much for the beautiful pearls. I have been looking for the perfect anniversary gift for my wife
and this is it. I originally only wanted a pearl necklace but after looking at the different models and choices on your website, my order quickly grew to include a bracelet...

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