How to Select Pearls

Choose a cultured pearl necklace for its effect on your appearance and personality. The human eye is the single most important tool in judging the quality of a pearl.

When considering buying pearls, there are five important features to look for according to international standards.


The paramount defining virtue of beauty and therefore value. The lustre of a pearl is like the personality of a person. The features may not always be perfect, but if the personality is strong the person appears interesting, attractive and very often beautiful. Lustre describes the beauty of light being reflected from the surface of the pearl and simultaneously refracted from inside the pearls nacre. To achieve good lustre, pearls must be made of fine thick nacre. Nacre refers to the hundreds of skins or layers of matter covering the nucleus. The more perfect the construction and layering of the nacre the more perfect the reflection of light which creates the lustre.


Size matters. The larger the pearl the scarcer. Pearls should be measured across the smallest diameter. Where pearls have a definite elongated shape the measurement should be taken across the smallest diameter and also across the largest length of the pearl.


Perfectly round pearls are the most scarce and are valued accordingly. But there’s more to pearls than just round ones. "Baroque" pearls have a personality of their own with their voluptuous lines and contemporary impact. Pearl shapes are categorized as either "classical" or "baroque".


The more flawless the pearl the higher the value. Pearls are created in the ocean, rivers or lakes by wild oysters (salt water) or molluscs (fresh water) and nature almost always leaves its mark. Even though most markings can be seen by the naked eye they are part of the unique and individualizing elements of every pearl.


Color affects the perceived beauty of the pearl according to the buyer. Popularity impacts on price even though color is irrelevant to the pearl’s intrinsic value.

Design - Length

Long necklaces are informal and versatile, while short necklaces can be demure, sophisticated or casual. Choker necklets enhance a long neck and longer strands slenderize and appear to elongate the neck.

Choker - 35-40cm (14" - 16") in length. Should nestle around the base of the neck in single or multiple strands.

Princess - 45cm (18") in length. Halfway between a choker and matinee length.

Matinee - 50 - 60cm (20" - 32") in length. Should fall to the top of the cleavage.

Opera - 70 - 80cm (28" - 32") in length. Should fall to the breastbone.

Sautoir or Rope - Any pearl necklace longer than opera length.

Bib - Multiple strands of pearls, each shorter than the one below, nestled together in one necklace.

Graduated - A necklace comprised of pearls which taper downward in size from large pearls in the center to smaller pearls at the ends.

Uniform - A necklace which appears to be comprised entirely of pearls the same size, though there is generally a slight difference in size between the centre and the end pearls for a more proportionate look.