Fashion & Accessories

By Jacqui Trotta

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Pearls are a key accessory this spring, and don’t be surprised to see them in rich shades of black, satiny gold and soft pink. From Tahitian pearls to South Sea pearls there are so many types of these beautiful gemstones and even more ways to wear them.

Popular types of pearls

The freshwater pearl is among the most common and lowest-price pearls. They can be found in many different shapes, but are often round or button-shaped. Freshwater pearls come naturally in white, pink and lavender, and some are dyed black.

Saltwater Akoya pearls, which are gold or white with overtones of rose, silver, gold or ivory, are considered a timeless pearl. They are high-quality, exceptionally lustrous and traditionally round. Saltwater Akoya pearls are also often dyed a deep shade of black.

The Tahitian pearl is generally larger in size than a freshwater or Akoya pearl. Tahitian pearls are often round or baroque-shaped and come naturally in many rich shades. They range in color from silver to black and feature brilliant overtones of blue, green and purple. The Tahitian pearl is a distinctive and valuable pearl.

South Sea pearls are among the most expensive cultured pearls and are celebrated for their large sizes. They are usually round or baroque and come in silky shades of gold and white.

How to buy pearl jewelry

Important qualities to look for in a pearl are radiant luster, a clean surface and if the jewelry is strung it should always have tiny knots between each pearl. The knots prevent the pearls from rubbing against each other.

There is no universal grading standard for pearl quality, but when you are shopping for pearls the retailer should have a documented grading policy. A widely-accepted system is A through AAA, with an AAA pearl having, among other high-quality traits, very high luster. A freshwater or Akoya pearl graded AAA will have a surface that is at least 95% clean. A South Sea or Tahitian pearl rated AAA can only have minor, concentrated imperfections on 10% of the pearl’s surface.
If you hear the term “cultured pearl” it simply means the pearl was created with human help. In this process, a technician places nuclei in the mollusk. The mollusk reacts by secreting a substance known as nacre around the nuclei and the formation of the pearl starts. The term “natural pearl” means a pearl is formed without human involvement. Natural pearls are extremely rare.

Pearl icons

Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy made luminous white pearls a fashion staple, but there is more to pearl jewelry than the basic choker. Seen on celebrities and style makers alike, pearls are a great addition to one’s jewelry collection. There are no rules when wearing pearls and mixing different pearl types and colors will be a prominent jewelry trend this spring. You can find the ideal pearl piece for your style and budget at From freshwater pearls to Tahitian and Akoya pearls, the perfect set is in reach with Museum Way Pearls.

Originally published March 2011



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