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Shopping for a South Sea Pearl Necklace

Of all the pearls around the world, one is revered above all others: the South Sea Pearl. Grown in the deep seas off Austrailia’s coast, the South Sea pearl is prized for its brilliant gold or white shine. Shopping for South Sea pearls can be confusing. An informed shopper should gather as much information as possible so as to make an educated decision.

Grading South Sea Pearls

Pearl necklaces are graded by the Five S’s: Shine, Surface, Shade, Shape and Size.

Shine (Luster) is the way that light reflects and shines through the pearl. Because a pearl is an organic object, it often has Surface markings such as nicks, scratches, small indentations and discolorations. (A pearl void of such markings is considered perfect and only accounts for 5-10% of the total amount of pearls harvested each year). Pearls have a wide variety when it comes to color and overtone, with different Shades being considered more desirable than others. Pearl Shape can range all the way from Baroque to Perfect-Round, with different shapes being considered more valuable than others due to their rarity. Pearl Size is measured by the diameter of the pearl, usually measured in millimeters. The combination of these qualities factors in to the total grade of the necklace, resulting in a rating of A, A+, AA, AA+ and AAA. The highest grade for a pearl necklace is AAA quality. AAA pearls are the most desirable and valuable. They are impressive gifts to give someone who especially cares about quality and value.

South Sea Pearl Luster

Shine (Luster) is the way that light reflects from the pearl. It is the most important factor in determining a pearl’s value. Luster is what gives the pearl its iridescence and depth. Luster is determined by the thickness of pearl nacre, the coating that makes up the pearl. Very lustrous pearls have a deep-mirror like surface and a bright shine. Pearls with low luster look dull and foggy. South Sea pearls are in possession of thick, creamy nacre and are famous for their rich, silky luster.

One way to examine the luster of a pearl necklace is to lay the strand on a table and look at the pearls from 20 inches away. The sharper and clearer your reflection is on the pearls’ surface, the higher the luster.

South Sea Pearl Surface

As pearls are an organic creation, they often have surface imperfections. Flawless South Sea pearls are very rare and command a much higher price. The surface of a pearl is graded by how many imperfections are visible and to what percentage they are distributed. These marks can range from small and nearly unnoticeable, to quite large and distinct. When buying pearl jewelry, be sure to examine the pearl surface carefully for these kinds of flaws.

South Sea Pearl Color

South Sea Pearls have a wide variety of colors and overtones, ranging from white, silver, yellow and gold with subtle undertones of pink, blue and green.

Among these colors, deep golden or white hues are the most desirable and valuable.

Golden South Sea Pearl Necklace: The deeper the golden color, the more rare and valuable the pearls are. Their beautiful glowing hue creates a sense of warmth; livening the complexion and creating a feeling of luxury.

White South Sea Pearl Necklace: Famous for their rich, creamy color, White South Sea pearls can have rose or silver overtones. While pearls with silver tones are more popular, South Sea pearls with rose overtones are considered to be rarer and more valuable.

When buying a White South Sea pearl necklace, keep in mind that pearls with white body color are more valuable than those with ivory or cream. Use caution, as some sellers may sell cream South Sea pearls as white ones for a higher price.

When choosing color, keep in mind the complexion of the wearer. For example, if the wearer has a dark complexion, the golden color would be a good choice. If the wearer has a fair complexion, a white or silver hue would be nice.

When examining the color of a South Sea pearl necklace, it is best to view it under natural light. Pearl color will look slightly different under various types of lighting. Pure morning light is the ideal time. Florescent light tends to give pearls a more bluish or yellowish hue, while incandescent light lends pearls a more reddish hue.

South Sea Pearl Shape

South Sea pearl shapes include perfect round, semi-round, circle, oval, button, drop, and baroque. Because symmetry is rare in nature, round shapes are the most highly valued. While a strand of round South Sea pearl necklace is the most classic and valuable, a nearly round necklace can create a similar look at a significantly reduced price. Another option to consider is a baroque necklace. Stylish and fun, it can be worn with everything from a pair of jeans to a Gucci bustier.

South Sea Pearl Size

The most common sizes for South Sea Pearls are 10mm – 15mm. South Sea pearls in 16mm - 20mm are very rare and extremely valuable. Ultimately, the size of a necklace is a personal preference as it reflects individual style and personality. When choosing a size, you should consider the wearing purpose of the necklace. Generally, larger necklaces are more extravagant and create a statement; while smaller necklaces are more for everyday wear.

South Sea Pearl Necklace Matching and Workmanship

It is important to examine the workmanship of a pearl necklace. Poorly matched pearls with obvious color differences will lessen the beauty of your necklace, causing its value to drop dramatically. When you receive your necklace, examine it by letting it hang off the tip of your finger. Examine whether the line of the necklace is straight, the knotted tie too tight or too loose and whether the finish is beautiful.

South Sea Pearl Necklace Graduation

Graduation means that the pearls are strung from smallest to largest, starting at the clasp and ending with the largest pearl in the center of the necklace. This is traditionally done to capture the elegant, interesting look it creates.

South Sea Pearl Necklace Length

When choosing pearl necklace length, keep in mind both the size of the wearer and the effect you wish to create. Traditionally 16 inches, or choker necklace length, is considered the classic look, while longer lengths are ideal for casual, business, or evening wear. It is an ideal choice for those with high necklines as well. The most popular length for a pearl necklace is 17 inches; a length that is not quite a choker yet doesn’t drape extravagantly low on the wearer.

Millimeters Vs Inches

Pearls are measured in mm. 1 inch is equivalent to about 25mm. Therefore, a 10mm pearl is equal to 0.4 inches.

South Sea Pearl Necklace Pricing

Due to their size and rarity, South Sea pearls can be expensive. Here are some quick tips to help you in the decision making process:

When selecting a necklace it is wise to choose quality over size. High quality South Sea pearls are a statement of perfection and sophistication. Also, they are rare and have investment value. A high quality South Sea pearl necklace can last for generations.

Where to Buy

When buying South Sea pearl jewelry, compare prices from both online sellers and local stores. On average, local dealers tend to charge considerably more than online sellers. It is best to buy from a trusted online source. Make sure to check the sites’ return policy, customer support, and customer reviews.