Nothing looks more beautiful with a bridal gown than a single strand of flawless pearls. Known by some as the “Queen of Gems,” the classic elegance of pearls transcends centuries and style fads.
But pearls are not just for the bride — they’re the perfect accessory for bridesmaids as well.
Today, you can find pearls in shades ranging from the traditional color of white all the way through the colors of the rainbow. Some specialized pearls can come in colors like pink, green and black which are really great for matching with the theme of your wedding dresses.
Insights to Pearl Types & Selections
Most pearls you see in retail stores today are cultured pearls. Pearls are formed when a foreign object enters the shell of a mollusk and triggers the release of nacre, which builds layer upon layer until a pearl is formed.
If you’re confused by the different types of pearls on the market, you’re not alone. “Pearls are classified according to their origin and their shape,” says Natalie Parman, vice president of merchandising at Jewelry TV. “Because of the wide variety of pearls available, you can choose a look and a price that is right for you.”
Cultured pearls are less expensive than natural pearls because they can be mass-produced with the aid of technology. Instead of waiting for nature to take its course, pearl farmers insert an irritant and a nucleus (often a mother of pearl bead) into an oyster to speed up the process.
Cultured pearls can come in a variety of shapes and sizes; many of which are dyed to colors that can be chosen at will. As a result, you can find almost any color that you personally prefer.
Akoya Pearls From Japan
Akoya cultured pearls are produced by the Akoya oysters which are found in the waters surrounding Japan. They are almost perfectly round and are well known for their high luster and rich color. The colors can range from white to cream, pink, green, silver and gold. These pearls can vary in size from between 2 millimeters to 10 millimeters.
“Cultured Akoya pearls are the quintessential ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ strand in a creamy white color,” says Parman. Since they are affordable, cultured Akoya pearls also make wonderful bridesmaids and mothers’ gifts.
South Sea cultured pearls are larger than Akoyas, usually more than 10 millimeters. Produced in the warm waters of the South Seas, they come mainly from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
These pearls are mainly white, yellow or gold. Due to their size and rarity, South Sea pearls are very expensive. In particular, exotic golden South Sea pearls have gained popularity in the United States recently. “If you’re choosing a special strand of pearls for your wedding, this can be a good jewelry investment,” says Parman.
Tahitian pearls are produced in Tahiti, the Cook Islands and Mexico. They range in color from black, to aubergine, pistachio and many other colors, often with overtones of blue, pink or green.
These pearls range between 8 and 15 millimeters and are highly valued because of their rarity. “Wear Tahitian pearls to your rehearsal dinner, or pack them as part of your honeymoon wardrobe,” says Parman.
How to Choose Good Quality Pearls
When choosing pearls, look for nacre thickness and quality. Nacre quality determines how long the pearl will last as well as how light reflects through the pearls. You should check for any cracks or peeling in the nacre too.
Also, look for how the pearls on a strand are matched. Pearl matching affects the value of the finished piece because mismatched pearls are not as aesthetically pleasing. Finally, look for pearls that are individually knotted between each pearl instead of just strung one after the other — that’s a sign of quality craftsmanship.
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