I am an artsy crafty type, so I am not quite a retail customer, because I don’t usually buy finished products, I buy beads to make my own jewelry designs. I have handcrafted necklaces for many years as a major sideline, rather than as a full time professional, so I am not a true pearl merchant as are so many of the major contributors to this site, and I am not likely to become one. But, I do want to know my pearls better and this seems to be a great place to do that! I am doing this series of posts as a kind of journal of my own education in pearls. I hope my findings will help others learn about pearls and how to buy them.
I am educating myself so I can discern the best choice of pearls for me to invest in for my daughters. I live near Tucson and thus, can attend the one of the best Gem and Mineral Shows in the world held here every year. I will attend again this February. Most years, I have bought beads, findings, and “estate” jewelry. I have often bought the freshwater rice pearls and have them in about every color. This year I hope to get a real feel for the pearls-as-beads market so I am doing some preliminary scouting before I go.
In another post, http://www.pearl-guide.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64 I reviewed 2 different strands of freshwater pearls I bought at 2 local bead stores. Because neither strand was very good. I decided to start looking at some best quality retail strands.
First, I sent off to Pearl Paradise for one strand each of Freshwater pearls 7.5mm & 26”, no clasp and Akoya pearls 6.5mm & 22”. I thought they would be good teaching tools because they come with certificates stating what they are. Both of them rate as AA+ strands, so that gives me a basis of comparison.
I can wear Jeremy Shepherd’s AA strands to the Gem and Mineral Shows and have them right there to compare with others’ pearls! They came last Wednesday. I have been wearing them, holding them, and looking at them for a mere four days. They have, indeed, increased my pearl education. The freshwater pearl strand is very regular in shape to the eye and has a beautiful luster, but when it is put right next to the Akoyas, the Akoyas do look brighter and more spherical. The subtle but distinctly pink glow to the Akoya pearls makes my mouth water. I love the 6.5mm size and regret only that I did not get the longer strand! I am having a fantasy of owning ropes of these pearls to drape around my neck!
If I remove the Akoyas from direct comparison to the freshwater pearls, the fw pearls are very beautiful on their own. They are not as iridescent as my strand of potato pearls, but they do have a play of color on them that is lovely. They have little spots of turquoise and pink, rather than the diffuse but engulfing pink of the Akoyas. I really do like the slightly smaller size of the Akoyas, but I can be happy with this size. For the price, I can afford to wear these pearls everyday and I plan on doing so!
Yesterday, I checked out both the Wal-Mart and Target. I just looked at the necklaces they had on display for between $29.95 and $39.95. They were about 6-7mm & 16”-18”, white, and quite round to the eye. They did not have much surface blemishing such as dimples and bands, but they were truly boring. I believe “lackluster” was coined for these babies. No hint of iridescence like my Grade ‘B’ potato pearls. No over or undertones. Boring. They were the same boring white as the grade “d” round bead store pearls at $4-$5 a strand, though the bead store pearls were covered with bands and blemishes.
Then, I went to a local good quality 2nd hand furniture store in Tucson (Annabelle’s Attic in Foothills Mall). I saw some pearls in the jewelry case and looked closely at them. There was a strand about 24” long of fairly large- maybe 8.5-9mm fw potato pearls- for $395! Granted, they were charming and had the same liveliness as my bead store potato pearls, but I now knew that this price was not in line with the current market. They also had some “cultured” pearls about 7.5mm and 22”. The clerks were not familiar with the word “Akoya”, but the pearls looked old and yellowish. Ho Hum.
Next, I plan on visiting some high-end jewelers in Tucson and I will be looking at their selections of pearls. I look forward to sharing what I find here and hope you find it helpful or interesting.
I also keep a close eye on ebay sellers and can share some reviews of their wares too.
Happy New Year!