Pearl Ring Buying Guide
‘Simple and sophisticated’ – sounds like the best compliment that can be given to a pearl ring. Pearl engagement rings and pearl wedding rings have been popular gifts for several millennia. Occasions such as 16th birthday, Mother’s day, Friendship day, or graduation day often call for celebration with the gift of pink pearl ring, or rose gold pearl ring.
Learn about the different types of peals, their physical characteristics, where they are sourced from, and their price in this buying guide for pearl rings.
All About Buying Pearl Rings for Women
Pearl jewelry defies time and age. Pearl ring gold is special for someone born in June because pearl is the birthstone of June.
Pearl rings are also exchanged as fond gifts on the 30th wedding anniversary of couples. Original pearls are well-treasured and handed down to generations as heirlooms.
How are pearls formed?
In this age of instant gratification, it is even hard to imagine that original pearls take a long time to get ‘created’! Pearls are formed in mollusks such as oysters.
Whenever a foreign particle lands in the shell of a mussel, it secretes a nacre in order to relieve the irritation. The nacre contains protein and calcium carbonate.
This nacre builds in layers as time passes by and forms a natural pearl.
Pearls are a rare variety of gemstones because they have an organic origin and are not formed from minerals.
What are natural pearls?
Natural pearls form organically from nature. They are very rare and are very pricey. Natural pearls are found in the Persian Gulf and were first discovered in 1930.
However, the Gulf waters do not produce pearls any longer. Traditional fishing for pearls is carried out along the shores of India but the pearls found are small in size and are expensive.
Though natural pearls can grow in both hot and cold water mollusks in the oceans and rivers, such pearl-forming mollusks are now declared an endangered species.
So, a majority of pearls available in the market today are cultured pearls.
What is cultured pearl?
Specially designed and temperature-controlled underwater pearl farms grow mollusks. They insert irritants into them artificially and harvest the pearls after many years. Such pearls are called cultured pearls. Specific types of oysters are grown for producing pearls that can be removed without harming or killing the oyster. In about a third of the oysters, new irritants are inserted in them to grow more pearls. Unfortunately, many oysters are ‘sacrificed’ or discarded.
How can you find if a pearl is real or cultured?
Natural pearls are rarer and are more expensive. So, it is safe to assume that most of the pearls in the market are cultured. They are usually called ‘Shell pearls’.
The best way to find if a pearl is natural or cultured before buying it for your rose gold pearl ring or white gold pearl ring is to look at the drilled hole.
Natural pearls will have a layer of nacre throughout the pearl but a cultured pearl has a layer of nacre that covers up a white seed-like bead.
If the pearl is undrilled, it has to be examined under an X-ray at a gemological laboratory to find out if the pearl is real.
How to check for a real pearl
You have to hold the pearl ring gold or the white gold pearl ring at 3-6 inches away from you and examine the pearl carefully.
- Check if the pearl is perfectly round or if it has variations in shape.
- Look for external blemishes on the surface of the pearl such as ridges and wrinkles.
- Hold the pearl up to a bright light source and see if there are darker areas that are visible. These areas indicate the organic build-up of conchiolin that builds the block of nacre.
- Check if the body color is the same for all the pearls in your pearl and diamond ring are the same or if they are different.
- See if the pearl possesses different rates of light return or if it has the same ‘plastic-like’ shine.
- Test the texture of the pearl with your tooth. Gently rub or scrape the pearl’s surface with your tooth. The texture should be that of a sandpaper with fine-grain. However, test with caution because pearls are very soft and have a rating of 3 on Mohs’s hardness index.
Types of cultured pearls
There are different types of pearls available and they are different in size, shape, color, and overtone. The four main categories of cultured pearls are –
- Freshwater pearls – These pearls are cultivated in pearl farms that are located in freshwater sources such as lakes, rivers, or ponds. The process is still done by hand. Freshwater pearls used in rose gold pearl ring or silver pearl rings are harvested when they are 4-14 mm in size. They are available in a variety of colors. They are dyed in several colors to a rich depth. Since pearls are porous, colors get absorbed easily and are usually permanent. China and the US are major producers of this pearl.
- South Sea pearls – These pearls are cultured in saltwater oysters. The gold-lipped oysters make huge pearls that are almost 20 mm in size. South Sea pearls used in pearl rings are usually white or golden-yellow in color. They are often called ‘golden pearls’ and are very expensive.
- Akoya pearls – Considered the finest and the strongest of all pearls, Akoya pearls are highly valued for their smooth surface and their luster with a pink hue. They are produced by the oysters called, ‘pinctada fucata martensii’ in the cool salt waters of China and Japan. Akoya pearls are prized possessions because the oysters can be cultivated only once. Akoya pearls are cultured in Indonesia and Western Australia.
- Tahitian pearls – Black-colored Tahitian pearls are stunning and sophisticated. They are cultivated in the warm waters of Tahiti, around the islands of French Polynesia. Black lip oysters are used to cultivate them. Their color can be grey to blackish grey and they can be as big as 14 mm. They have many undertones and overtones of yellow, silver, pink, and blue. Because of the multiple colors they display, Tahitian pearls are called “peacock pearls”.
Qualities of genuine pearl
- Shape – Perfectly round pearls are considered the most desirable for eons. It is the ultimate aim of cultivators to achieve this shape. However, there are many other shapes available – off-rounds, near rounds, tear drops, button-shapes, symmetric baroque, and asymmetric baroque.
- Surface – Cultured and natural pearls always have surface imperfections. The value of a pearl ring depends on the quality of the pearl’s surface. When the blemishes are fewer, the pearl has a smoother surface and it has a brighter reflection. The GIA has recommended four classifications to measure the visibility of flaws in pearls.
- Heavily spotted pearls have very obvious surface imperfections.
- Moderately spotted pearls have visible blemishes that appear as few spots on the surface.
- Lightly spotted pearls contain minor imperfections but they will be visible only to trained pearl graders.
- Clean pearls have little to no surface blemishes at all and may be visible only when scrutinized under special apparatus.
Though abrasions, spots, and wrinkles on a pearl’s surface will not affect the durability of the pearl in your pink pearl ring or your Tahitian pearl ring, be informed that its value should be much lower than a pearl with no imperfections.
- Luster – Pearls with high quality of nacre will have good luster. This is the property that shows the level of intensity of reflections from the pearl’s surface. You can gauge the quality of a pearl by looking at its luster. Always ask the seller about the origin and authenticity of the pearl before buying it.
- Color – The most common color for pearls, both natural and cultured ones, is white or creamy white. The chief color is called the body color but it is usually modified by ‘overtones’ or added colors. Pink, purple, blue, and green are the common overtones used. Tahitian cultured pearls are usually black.
What are imitation pearls?
Imitation pearls are the third type of pearls. These are man-made beads that look like natural pearls. They are created using many methods and are typically made from plastic, glass, and even original shells of mollusks. Types of imitation pearls include – Bathed pearl, Bohemian pearl, Cotton pearl, Glass pearl, Shell pearl, and Mother-of-pearl. They cost must lesser than natural or cultured pearls.
Tips for choosing the setting for pearl ring
Choosing the best setting for your pearl ring gold is an important step when you design your pearl wedding rings. You have to ensure that the pearl does not fall off.
The very basic setting has a short pin that projects from the mounting of the ring and goes through a small hole drilled in the pearl.
Though this setting is easy to make and looks good, they are not safe. The pearl could expand and loosen to eventually fall out. So, some glue is applied to keep the pearl in position.
A prong setting is preferred over a simple mounting for your white gold pearl ring or your precious pearl wedding ring. Prongs exert lesser pressure on the pearl and can hold it securely.
How to care for pearl rings
- Pearls are very soft. So make sure you don’t damage the pearl in your pearl ring gold by accidentally hitting it against hard surfaces.
- Even if your pearl ring is set with prongs, remember that prongs tend to wear down over the years. They can also break if they are too thin. Have them checked regularly by a jeweler.
- Choose a sturdy metal for making your pearl ring. Yellow gold is soft and is a good option for pearl jewelry that you will not wear daily.
- Platinum is a better choice for setting your pearl if you plan to wear your ring every day.
How to clean pearl rings
- Pearls are very soft and can easily scratch or get damaged. So, clean them only if they are visibly stained.
- Do not soak pearl jewelry in water for long as this can weaken the silk thread holding it.
- Gently wipe your pearl ring with a soft cloth after every use to prevent the build-up of oil in the pearl.
- Remove the pearl ring and wipe it with a damp cloth that is dipped in a solution of dish soap and lukewarm water.
Cost of pearl rings
The cost of a pearl is determined by a number of factors such as its type, size, color, shape, luster, and surface quality. The costliest pearl in the world was found by a fisherman in the seas of the island of Palawan. It measured 26 inches and is worth $100 million.
- South Sea pearls are the costliest, especially if they have a golden hue. These are usually large in size and are naturally produced by the Pinctada maxima oyster. A strand of these pearls can cost $1000 - $100,000
- Darker-colored Tahitian pearls cost $500 - $25,000 a strand.
- Akoya pearls are classic white pearls that are the smallest cultured pearls and they cost $300-$10,000 per strand.
- Freshwater pearls come in a variety of shapes and sizes, costing $50-$2,000 a strand. These pearls are formed by mussels, not oysters.