After checking the return policy, I decided to take a chance and bought these Mikimotos on ebay:
I took them in to the Mikimoto store for verification and restringing. They told me they really were Mikimotos (whew). While I was there I tried on these beauties:
I really like the alternating large and small. They weren't the highest quality, but I took a fancy to them. Maybe one day! The store was quite an experience in itself -- I was doing a lot of drooling.
The strand I got on Ebay is 33" long and the pearls are 6-6.5 mm. Mikimoto has their own system of quality: A, A+, AA, and AAA. My strand is A, the lowest, but their lowest grade is awfully good. The strand I tried on, with the alternating pearls, is also A quality. The AAAs they showed me were incredible.
Getting a large and a small strand and making my own necklace is a great idea, JP. However, it will be a while before I have the confidence and ability to do justice to pearls of that quality! I'm working on knotting my first strand of pearls (freshwater, with the octobaby clasp). I'll just say that parts of it are better than others. With luck I'll post some pictures in a few days.
Linda, practice makes perfect when it comes to stringing! I am sure you will do a great job. I can't tell you how many times I strung and restrung my very first strand until it was just right. And the octo clasp is my all time MOST FAVORITE clasp. I have so many people ask me about it, whenever I wear my harvest strand (I have named the mermaid Sirena). Can't wait to see your finished work.