Buying Guide

Pearl Jewelry Buying Guide: All About Pearls

For thousands of years, pearls have been a classic favorite; coveted for their natural beauty, rarity, luster and shine. To find one is invaluable. Out of 10,000 oysters, there may only be one treasure among all treasures… a single, natural pearl.

Smiling model wearing front/back pearl earrings.
Pearl ring, earrings and strand necklace on sand with seashells.

Pearls today, whether designed in a necklace, bracelet, earrings, ring or brooch, are commonly referred to as cultured pearls. Pearl jewelry has become a favorite due to its classic design and affordable appeal.

A cultivated pearl is created by intentionally placing a tiny Mother-of-Pearl bead inside an oyster. The oyster gradually coats the bead in layers of a pearlescent, organic substance called nacre, which builds-up to eventually create a lustrous pearl.

Ross-Simons carries on the timeless tradition of bringing to you luxurious and distinguished pearl jewelry with Cultured Freshwater, Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Regardless of the occasion or your preference, you'll enjoy the highest of quality and selection at great prices.

Our Pearl Jewelry Infographic also explains the pearl types, pearl shapes and pearl quality in an easy to understand visual format.


Pearl Shapes

Pearl Shapes — Round


Round pearls are perfect spheres and the shape most people think of when they think of a pearl.

Pearl Shapes &mdash Near Round


A pearl that visually appears almost round.

Pearl Shapes — Oval


A pearl that visually appears oval..

Pearl Shapes — Button


A pearl that is circular in shape with a flat bottom and a flattened or domed top.

Pearl Shapes — Drop


Drop pearls are pearl or teardrop-shaped. The drop can either be "long" or "short" and are typically used in earrings or pendants.

Pearl Shapes — Semi-Baroque


These pearls are slightly irregular in their shape.

Pearl Shapes — Baroque


A pearl that is not symmetrical and is irregular in shape. It can be abstract and even resemble a stick or some other unique shape.

Pearl Shapes — Coin


A coin pearl is a flattened disc-shaped pearl. It can be circular or slightly more irregular.


Pearl Sizes

Whether you prefer a dainty pearl earring or a bigger-the-better pearl bracelet, the size of a pearl depends on the type you select. Our pearl chart can help you in shopping for and understanding the different types of pearls and their sizes from the largest and most exotic Tahitian pearl to multi-sized and multicolored, cultured freshwater pearls.

When shopping Ross-Simons' extensive pearl collection, remember that a pearl is measured by its diameter in millimeters. Pearl sizes can range from 1 millimeter or less to as large as 20 millimeters for an incredible Tahitian pearl.

8 Pearl Sizes from 5mm to 13mm shown with ruler.


Pearl Quality Characteristics

The quality of pearls is measured by the combination of factors, which include:

  • Type of pearl.
  • Thickness of the pearl nacre: when shopping for a pearl, the larger the pearl, the more nacre it has and the greater the luster. The amount of luster a pearl has is as visible as the differences in pearl sizes.
  • Size of the pearl.
  • Pearl luster: pearls produce a deeply intense shine, known as luster, when light is reflected off the many layers of nacre or tiny organic crystals.
  • Pearl color: a pearl's color is called its body color. Since pearls are produced in living creatures, their colors typically vary among white, golden, silver, pink or black. Pearls can also have a glow of a secondary color, which can be seen when light reflects off of the pearls. This hint of color is known as its overtone.
  • Pearl shape: pearls are natural, organic substances and because of that, they come in many unique and interesting shapes. A completely round pearl is very difficult to find and the rounder a pearl is, the more expensive it becomes.

Ultimately, the real value of a pearl should be based on your own personal preference. Ross-Simons offers a selection of gorgeously luminous pearls in an assortment of styles and designs for even the most discriminating… at the level of quality Ross-Simons is known for!


Cultured Pearl Jewelry

Cultured Freshwater pearls are typically grown in Asian waters in a spectrum of colors. These colors include some of the most popular offered in a variety of styles from Ross-Simons: white, pink, black and champagne.

While some colored pearls can be achieved naturally, some Freshwater pearls are treated to produce a distinctive or particular color. The color you select should be based on your complexion. Their affordability makes them a popular choice when searching for your next pearl jewelry purchase.


Akoya Pearl Jewelry

Whether it's a pair of Ross-Simons earrings; a delicate pendant surround by dazzling diamonds; or a simple strand, you'll enjoy the look of Akoya pearls.

Akoya pearls are truly the perfect choice and most popular if you are considering a pair of pearl earrings or an elegant strand of pearls! Cultured in the Akoya oyster and primarily found in Japan and China, they are lustrous and are generally white or cream colored with overtones of rose, silver, or cream. Although Akoya pearls may seem surprisingly similar in appearance to Freshwater pearls, they are very different when the two are compared side-by-side. Akoya pearls are renowned for their incredible luster and are considered the classic pearl. They are smoother and rounder than Freshwater pearls. Akoya pearls range in size from about 6.0-8.5mm.


South Sea Pearl Necklaces

South Sea pearls are the rarest of pearls and simply spectacular with a unique satiny luster, as well as an array of colors considered more unusual in other types of pearls and are typically white, silver and golden. Cultivated in the white-lipped oyster, larger than the oysters used to produce Akoyas and Freshwater pearls, the size of pearl they produce is considerably larger… reaching sizes as large as 15mm. White-lipped oysters are rare, sensitive and difficult to cultivate, making the pearls they produce more expensive and highly desirable.


Tahitian Pearls

Enchanting and mysterious, Tahitian pearls are unique unto themselves due to their natural dark colors: metallic silver, to the color of graphite. Within this range of colors, they can have bluish, purplish, or greenish overtones.

Found in the waters off of the islands of French Polynesia, the natural black color of Tahitian pearls comes from the color of the oyster's black lips. They are much larger than average oysters and are extremely sensitive to the cultivation process. This makes the large pearls they produce extremely valuable and sought after.


Blister Pearl and Keshi Pearl Jewelry

Blister and Keshi pearls are accidental creations of nature – beautiful ones at that!

A blister pearl is a pearl that grew attached to the shell of the mollusk. Since a blister pearl needs to be cut off the shell in order to be used, pieces of the shell are often left attached and in a free-form shape. Blister pearls make intriguing pendants and earrings, especially when set in a bezeled frame.

A Keshi pearl is an irregular-shaped by product of a pearl cultivation, composed entirely of nacre and containing no nucleus. When a mollusk rejects the pearl cultivation process, a beautiful and unique Keshi is born. Keshi pearls make interesting beaded necklaces and bracelets.

Both blister pearls and Keshi pearls have an irregular shape and no two are alike. For this reason, we can guarantee that each piece of blister pearl and Keshi pearl jewelry will be special and one-of-a-kind. You'll find abstract and artisanal designs full of imagination. And the look they create is organic and whimsical.



The Classic Akoya Pearl Jewelry Collection

The caliber of our Classic Akoya pearl collection offers fabulous quality for the money, including necklaces with clasps in polished 18kt white gold. The Akoya pearl farms in China now rival their Japanese counterparts. Our classic Akoya pearls are hand matched with medium reflection, medium nacre and very good luster. The pearls are nearly round to the naked eye and have only a very few blemishes on some of the pearls. The body color is white to cream white, with lovely pink and silver overtones.