Unravel the Mystery of Shopping for Pearls

Learn the basic characteristics of pearls and find out for yourself what experts keep as secrets...that even imperfect pearls can be stunningly beautiful and affordable.

Five basic characteristics of pearls...learn about them here.

pink pearls

More About Pearls

Weighing Pearls in Carats
How are Pearls Made Naturally?
Facts about Pearls
Video-Evaluating Pearls
Video-Culturing Pearls
Chinese Pearl Powder
Pearl Divers - Dangers
Where are Pearls Found
Why I use Sterling Silver
Peeling Pearls
Polishing Pearls

Pearl Glossary
Natural Pearls
Pearls as Medicine
How are Pearls Made
Early Theories
Faux Pearls
Types of Pearls
Working of Pearl Mantle
Drilling Pearls

Pearls, like people are unique, no two are exactly alike, which makes shopping for them such a great adventure.

Two basic types are SEA and FRESHWATER . The names are self explanatory and define the place of origin.

Five basic characteristics of pearls are:


Some people only want perfect pearls, and although we see their point...of wanting quality, there is also a wide range of exquisite imperfect ones for a fraction of the cost that will give the same effect.

Here is a list of characteristics of pearls and their meanings.


...is the most important of the five characteristics, probably because it's the quality that's most visible from a distance....the beauty that catches someone's eye. It also shows the quality and depth of nacre. The deeper the layers, the higher the luster. When picking out pearls (other than on the Internet) it's wise to look at them with your back to the light. A fine pearl will reflect your image like a mirror.

Did you know that pearls are known for "not stealing the show?" Instead they enhance the natural beauty of the wearer. Diamonds are typically "attention takers," causing people to focus on the diamond's radiance rather than on the wearer.


...can be round, baroque, oval, button, mabe, teardrop, rice.

ROUND is the most highly favored and valuable. Before cultured pearls were available, it could take years to make a matching necklace. Today, with more available, matching necklaces are easier to make. It's commonly thought that only sea pearls could be round, but this isn't true. Freshwater ones can also be very round.

BAROQUE or irregular or potato shaped are some of the names given to odd shaped pearls. Shapes vary from near round to highly irregular. They can be equally as lovely as round and with a high luster, just as stunning.

The great thing about this shape is the price...it won't max out your credit card. Purchasing baroque shapes is a great starting place, unless of course, one wants to save up and purchase one fantastic perfect necklace and stop there, but most women find that owning pearls is so exhilarating that just one great necklace won't do....it's so much better to have a collection of different lengths, colors, sizes, shapes, something for every occasion and outfit.

Even Mikimoto sells baroque pearls. Read about my visit to the Mikimoto store in New York City where I saw a very expensive baroque necklace. The baroque shape is growing as one of the most popular characteristics of pearls.

OVAL are just that, oval shaped sort of like an egg. They look lovely strung end to end.

BUTTON are round but a little flat. Similar to round, they can be strung into lovely necklaces.

MABE are round on the top and flat on one side making them useful for earrings and pins.

TEARDROP shapes lend themselves to drop necklaces or hanging earrings.

RICE look like rice crispies and are usually used in mass amounts on twisted strands or with other stones.


...is measured in millimeters, generally, the larger the higher the price, but not always, depending on other characteristics. 7mm-7 1/2 mm is the most common size.


...for freshwater can be peach, black (which are dyed), lavender, white or pink. Because of the characteristics of pearls and the various shades it's important to buy colored earrings and bracelets at the same time as a necklace if you want a perfectly matching set. It's sometimes difficult to match a color without seeing it. There are infinite shades of pink, for example.

peach pearls color sample

black pearl color sample lavender pearl color sample sample of white pearl color sample color pink pearls

Click on photos to see necklaces in the above colors.

...can be perfect or near perfect, contain small "pits," or have rings around them. Most, even high quality ones, have some imperfections and minor imperfections. These characteristics of pearls don't detract much from their beauty unless severe.

Pearls are no longer delegated to just evening and bridal wear....they look GREAT with blue jeans. Characteristics of pearls give an emotional "lift" and a sense of personal elegance.

Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.