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  1. #1

    Default Need Advice... Best Pearls & Reputable Online Dealers

    Hi everyone... I'm new to this site, I've never purchased pearls, and my wife doesn't have any pearls. I'm looking to buy my wife a pair of pearl stud earrings for our 3rd wedding anniversary. I've read enough online now about pearls just to be dangerous to myself! LOL I'll apologize in advance for the length of the post and will say thank you in advance for any and all help!!

    While price isn't a concern... it's always a concern. I want to make sure I get a good quality product and I'm not against paying for it! My wife is about 5'3" and small to medium build. Visiting a local jeweler he advised that a 7mm-8mm pair of studs would best fit proportionately. I'm looking to go towards the 8mm-9mm size I believe.

    With that said why are the prices so much higher in the jewelry store than the online retailers? I've seen Laguna Pearl, The Pearl Source, Pearl Paradise, Pearls of Joy, Pure Pearls, American Pearl etc. Are the pearls offered by the online retailers sub-par compared to what you find in the brick & mortar stores or is it due to no/low overhead & the online retailers specialize in pearls with higher volume and larger discount opportunities? Are there any of the online retailers that are better than others or any that you should stay away from? I don't mind paying good $ but I want to ensure I get good quality!!

    Type of pearl... A lot that I've read states that South Sea Pearls are the best. The jewelry store said that freshwater has gotten much better and that really no one can tell the difference when looking at pearls anymore. At their prices the price really escalates quickly if you go to anything other than freshwater. Is South Sea the better pearl? Is Akoya? Is Hanadama? I think Pearl Paradise offers a "Freshadama"? I'm wanting great quality but why overpay if not necessary either!? Why does two sites Laguna Pearl & The Pearl Source reference a AAAA quality when I thought pearl grading only goes to AAA?

    Again, at the size I'm looking to buy it's not going to break the bank, if South Sea is the best quality, on a good pair of studs as I think I've seen as low as $299 and as high as $435 for the pair of 8mm-9mm depending on the online retailer. I originally thought "bigger was better" and was looking more at 11mm-12mm (there's a pair on Laguna Pearl for $998 11mm AAAA quality) but the jeweler really talked me out of larger sizes stating they'd look gaudy on my wife at her size unless that's her personal preference in jewelry. I did visit in total 3 jewelry stores for other recommendations and they all stated the smaller size was more of what I should go with.

    Apologies for the length of this post, however, I figured its easier to get it all out in one post then drag out the conversation... Thank you in advance for any and all help!!!

  2. #2
    Museum Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert
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    Lower overhead. Jewellery stores are paying a high price for that Mall or Street side location. Rent, Insurance etc

    As for size..it's all about what she is comfortable wearing. My future daughter in law wears some 11 mm Tahitians that I bought in for her and she loves them. I'm now getting in some Australian White South Sea for her wedding and they are 12.3mm . She is about 5'5 and med build. But she loves a statement.

    Quality is a key in price. You have to look at pearls carefully to see why one pair might cost more. It's about the shape, the size and importantly the lustre. In South Sea pearls, if you get high quality it's not going to be cheap. Get the highest quality you can afford..the sharpest lustre and you won't go wrong.

  3. #3
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    Lots of questions! You came to a great place for answers.

    1. Prices. You got it right about online prices being lower because of higher volume and lower overhead. How many pearls do you see in a typical B&M jewelry store? Not many. It's also often true that many jewelers do not know much about pearls. Some have admitted to me as much.

    2. Size. Does your wife have small lobes? Does she tend to wear daintier jewelry? Does she have to spend much time on the phone? If so, she may be happier with smaller studs. On the other hand if she has (or if you plan to get her) a pearl necklace at some point, you won't want the studs to be smaller than the necklace; it looks best if studs are at least as large as the necklace pearls, and larger is even better.
    Also, there is PSS to consider. PSS is Pearl Shrinkage Syndrome. We ladies seem to need larger pearls as we get older. Best to not buy too small at first.
    On the other hand, who says these must be the only studs you will ever get her? There will be future anniversaries and birthdays and other holidays. You can start smaller and buy larger later. I own studs in various sizes, myself.

    3. The A-AAA grading system is the most common and widely accepted in the industry. AAAA is the outlier and IMO seems to exist to make the pearls sold by other vendors appear to be inferior. In fact, there is no standard for pearl grading, unlike diamonds. Each vendor decides how to grade his or her own pearls. I recommend buying from vendors who clearly state their grades and what they mean. Also, look for an excellent no-quibble return policy, in case you change your mind or want to exchange for something else.

    4. There is a grade of freshwater pearl that is better than AAA; it's loose grade. Most FWP are strung into temporary strands right at the factories in China. But the best FWP are not drilled. They are sold to vendors loose, to be drilled later by the vendors and used for earrings, pendants, brooches, rings, cufflinks etc. Freshadama pearls (brand name of Pearl Paradise) and similar loose grade pearls sold by other vendors have been drilled and made into strands. They are more nearly round and of higher overall quality than even the AAAs. They are lovely pearls! And they are solid nacre-- no bead inside.

    Top quality akoyas generally have higher luster than the top grade freshwaters. They are cultured in colder waters and the aragonite crystals are smaller. (Think more and smaller pixels = sharper resolution). They cost more because they are more expensive to produce than FWP. They are also fully round because they have a bead inside. For some ladies this is important.

    SSP are wonderful also. They usually have a softer luster than akoyas. They tend to be a cooler white than freshwaters. SSP are more rare and the price reflects that. They also have a bead inside.

    You may also consider button shaped FW pearl studs if you think your wife might like a larger look but not have the pearls protrude as far. Button shaped studs are less expensive than round ones. But round is a more classic look.

    Now for my personal note...I am 5'4" and have large lobes. My favorite size for studs is 10-11mm, but I also love a 9-9.5mm pair I own, and a metallic luster white freshwater pair that are 7.5-8.0mm. They are all comfortable to me. So, odds are she will love whatever you get her.

  4. #4
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    Pure Pearls has a section on their website showing how each size looks on the ear that is a good guide. Take into consideration whether your wife has large or small earlobes. Large pearls can be heavy and require supportive earring backs which don't always come with the earring. You want them to be of a comfortable size and appearance so that she can wear them everywhere from the grocery store to a special night out. I have 8-9mm AAA akoyas frim Pearl Paradise that are my go-to white pearl studs. I find them much easier to wear than my 10-11mm studs.

  5. #5
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    Just looking now at Pearl Paradise, I see they have 8.0-9.0mm metallic white FW studs in stock:
    https://www.pearlparadise.com/collec...-stud-earrings

    The luster on the metallic whites is unbelievable! And they are so affordable. Lots of bang for your buck. No bead inside, but the 3 pairs I own are round enough to look round.

    Here are my 7.5-8.0mm metallic white studs:


  6. #6

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    Welcome Cory!

    Chiming in as a short woman - 5’2 to be specific, though not by much. I have three pairs of plain studs, one from Pearl Paradise and two from Pearls of Joy (This is not counting my two sets of “sunburst” pearl studs), in three sizes and love them all, but find the two smaller pairs (AAA freshwaters, a lavender pair of about 6.5-7mm and a black dyed pair about 7.5-8mm, I believe) more comfortable. My white South Sea pearl studs are 8.0-9mm and while I adore them - WSS lends the loveliest glow to the face - they slightly irritate my ears, giving me a good reminder that pearls should be the last things on and the first things off. . However, I’ve only ever worn very lightweight studs (drops are a different story!), so someone used to bigger earrings might not have the same issue. Good luck with your decision!

  7. #7
    First-graft Pearl
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    Hi Cory-
    You don't mention your wife's age or her profession. The older I get, The smaller my 8 mm pearls look-- what Pearl Dreams calls PSS. ( It happens with diamonds, too!)
    If your wife normally wears dainty jewelry, she's not going to be happy with large studs. You should look at what she normally wears and go just slightly larger, IMO. She will grow into them.
    Today, you can get freshwater studs with a quality that rivals akoya. South sea pearls tend to have a more satiny luster compared to akoya or freshwater. You can get beautiful quality freshwaters economically.
    I'm 5'2", but I think height is more of an issue for necklace length- not earring size. 9mm is a nice size to start with for first earrings. Especially for everyday wear. Does she have more than one piercing in her lobes?
    Don't waste your time at a store. I would never pay those prices again. The nice thing about buying from the online stores you mention--- they all have a return policy. brick and mortar stores do not as much.

    Other people have come on here with similar questions and have bought several different sizes and styles ( ie akoya, South Sea) and compared them at home, making a choice and returning those that were unwanted.

    I wish you good luck-- I am sure she will be thrilled with whatever you decide on. It is so nice that you care enough to do the research.

  8. #8
    purveyor of pearls Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert pearlescence's Avatar
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    Some shop jewellers will know a bit about pearls, sounds as if your jeweller did. But the specialist pearl websites travel the world and select the best direct - thereby cutting out two or three levels of wholesale.
    Look at the earrings your wife already wears to see what she prefers. I do not believe there are any rules about this size for this height or whatever
    Yes, different types of pearls attract different prices because their production costs are very high. But sometimes only experts can tell the difference. I prefer great lustre to perfect shape or perfect flawless surface. (anything over AAA is a bit over-excited, although most online shops have a 'brand' name for the really whizz-bang outstanding pearls
    Did the shop jewellers actually have larger pearls in stock. Pearls never look gaudy!
    Tip - if you go larger you might want to consider button pearls - they are like a half circle, flattened at the base, so sit closer to the ear which means less droop. A good supplier will have already fitted them with big backs as well to stop droop

  9. #9
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert BWeaves's Avatar
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    Pearl Shrinkage Syndrome is a real thing, but I've discovered that my earlobes have a weight limit where after a certain size, the earring start feeling too heavy. Plus the smaller pearls will sit higher on her lobe than the bigger pearls.

    8 mm is a nice size. 9 mm is my limit for studs.

    Every 1 mm you increase in size, doubles the weight of the pearl, roughly. So 9mm pearls weigh almost twice what 8 mm pearls weigh.

    I also make sure to get really big (monster) earring backs for the larger pearls. It helps them sit up better on the earlobe, and are easier to to hold on to.

  10. #10
    Third-graft Pearl Senior Guide Member Lady_Disdain's Avatar
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    I am the exception to the rule - I prefer small, dainty pearls even though I am 1.69m tall and not small in any measure. My round akoyas are 6mm. I'll go larger for keshi, due to their irregular shape, but, even so, my keshi studs are around 9mm and I think they are large!

    This is consistent, however, with my usual choices for earrings. My studs are all small while I will go larger on drops. So I echo the advice to follow what your wife usually wears.

  11. #11

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    Hi all.. I'm greatly appreciating all the advice and information and enjoying reading everyone's replies!! My wife is 37yrs old and works as an office manager for a doctor's office. She's not going to wear much jewelry to work. She has a wide range of earrings from large and dangly to smaller ones etc. We also have a 10 month old in the house so I'm thinking studs is the way to go to keep from our child's hands a little easier.

    I'm thinking for this first pair I don't want to over do it and can either return them for a larger size if that's what she'd like or I can easily buy larger ones later. For now I do believe I'm going to stick w/ that 8mm-9mm size.

    I'm sure this is subjective, however, what is the best looking pearl in general? I don't mind paying for them (exept mikimoto as that's just CRAZY expensive!)... but in general are the South Sea white pearls better? Are Akoya? Freshadama? What's the better pearl? I'm wanting to ensure I get great quality and a fantastic looking pair. Quality means the most to me and I don't mind paying for the South Sea pearls if they are going to give me the best look and the best quality.

    Thanks to you all I now have more faith in the online dealers seeing so many positive comments about them and do not feel the pearls are subpar due to the price differences between online and in store. I've noticed people have mentioned Pearl Paradise, Pearls of Joy, & Pure Pearls. Are these the best sites or most reputable in most people's experiences? According to BBB Pearl Paradise has been around for 17yrs w/ a 90 day return policy, The Pearl Source for 19yrs w/ a 60 day return policy, Pearls of Joy for 12yrs w/ a 100 day return policy, & Pure Pearls for 14yrs w/ a 100 day return policy. Are all of these reputable? Is any one better than another? It's always a cautious feeling when purchasing online but these all seemingly have been around for a long time w/ A+ ratings on BBB so I would feel they would have been out of business if they weren't reputable?

  12. #12

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    Is South Sea the better pearl? I'm not opposed to paying the price for them if they are the better pearl. I do not have the knowledge to know if they are better than Akoya, Freshadama, etc or if they are simply just a different pearl and they are all equal in quality.

    Do you have any experience with any particular online pearl sites? I'm wanting to ensure I use a reputable site...

    Thank you for your advice and for making me feel more comfortable on the understanding of price difference between brick & mortar store versus online...

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pearl Dreams View Post
    Lots of questions! You came to a great place for answers.

    1. Prices. You got it right about online prices being lower because of higher volume and lower overhead. How many pearls do you see in a typical B&M jewelry store? Not many. It's also often true that many jewelers do not know much about pearls. Some have admitted to me as much.

    2. Size. Does your wife have small lobes? Does she tend to wear daintier jewelry? Does she have to spend much time on the phone? If so, she may be happier with smaller studs. On the other hand if she has (or if you plan to get her) a pearl necklace at some point, you won't want the studs to be smaller than the necklace; it looks best if studs are at least as large as the necklace pearls, and larger is even better.
    Also, there is PSS to consider. PSS is Pearl Shrinkage Syndrome. We ladies seem to need larger pearls as we get older. Best to not buy too small at first.
    On the other hand, who says these must be the only studs you will ever get her? There will be future anniversaries and birthdays and other holidays. You can start smaller and buy larger later. I own studs in various sizes, myself.

    3. The A-AAA grading system is the most common and widely accepted in the industry. AAAA is the outlier and IMO seems to exist to make the pearls sold by other vendors appear to be inferior. In fact, there is no standard for pearl grading, unlike diamonds. Each vendor decides how to grade his or her own pearls. I recommend buying from vendors who clearly state their grades and what they mean. Also, look for an excellent no-quibble return policy, in case you change your mind or want to exchange for something else.

    4. There is a grade of freshwater pearl that is better than AAA; it's loose grade. Most FWP are strung into temporary strands right at the factories in China. But the best FWP are not drilled. They are sold to vendors loose, to be drilled later by the vendors and used for earrings, pendants, brooches, rings, cufflinks etc. Freshadama pearls (brand name of Pearl Paradise) and similar loose grade pearls sold by other vendors have been drilled and made into strands. They are more nearly round and of higher overall quality than even the AAAs. They are lovely pearls! And they are solid nacre-- no bead inside.

    Top quality akoyas generally have higher luster than the top grade freshwaters. They are cultured in colder waters and the aragonite crystals are smaller. (Think more and smaller pixels = sharper resolution). They cost more because they are more expensive to produce than FWP. They are also fully round because they have a bead inside. For some ladies this is important.

    SSP are wonderful also. They usually have a softer luster than akoyas. They tend to be a cooler white than freshwaters. SSP are more rare and the price reflects that. They also have a bead inside.

    You may also consider button shaped FW pearl studs if you think your wife might like a larger look but not have the pearls protrude as far. Button shaped studs are less expensive than round ones. But round is a more classic look.

    Now for my personal note...I am 5'4" and have large lobes. My favorite size for studs is 10-11mm, but I also love a 9-9.5mm pair I own, and a metallic luster white freshwater pair that are 7.5-8.0mm. They are all comfortable to me. So, odds are she will love whatever you get her.
    Pearl Dreams - Thank you for the amount of information and education!! - Quick follow up... What's the best pearl or is it simply personal preference? My wife doesn't have any pearls so there's no preference. If the South Sea whites are generally best I have no problem paying the price for them. I'm probably going for the 8mm-9mm size for initial and can return for larger if she'd like or buy larger the next time. Any particular online site better than another? Or are the handful I mentioned all reputable and I won't go wrong with any of them?

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by pearlescence View Post
    Some shop jewellers will know a bit about pearls, sounds as if your jeweller did. But the specialist pearl websites travel the world and select the best direct - thereby cutting out two or three levels of wholesale.
    Look at the earrings your wife already wears to see what she prefers. I do not believe there are any rules about this size for this height or whatever
    Yes, different types of pearls attract different prices because their production costs are very high. But sometimes only experts can tell the difference. I prefer great lustre to perfect shape or perfect flawless surface. (anything over AAA is a bit over-excited, although most online shops have a 'brand' name for the really whizz-bang outstanding pearls
    Did the shop jewellers actually have larger pearls in stock. Pearls never look gaudy!
    Tip - if you go larger you might want to consider button pearls - they are like a half circle, flattened at the base, so sit closer to the ear which means less droop. A good supplier will have already fitted them with big backs as well to stop droop
    Thank you for your response Pearlescence... Thank you for the help in rationalizing the pricing differential of online versus in store! different types of pearls attract different prices, however, are their truly better pearls? Are the SSW pearls better than the Akoya etc? I'm okay paying the price difference if they are but I don't have the knowledge to know? The jeweler had up to 10mm if I'm not mistaken but I do believe I'd want my wife to say she'd like larger after seeing them in person in her ears. I'll have no issue sending back to get her larger or buying her larger if that's the case. Thank you so much for all the help!

  15. #15
    Pearl Enthusiast Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Pearl Dreams's Avatar
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    Good idea avoiding dangles when there is a toddler! No tugging on earrings!
    Also I think 8-9mm is a very good size.

    I have bought from and recommend Pearl Paradise (many necklaces and earrings), Pure Pearls (my WSS necklace) and Pearls of Joy (studs for a friend).

    As to "better", I have to ask, better in what sense? There is no one definition of better; it depends on what qualities you value.

    If perfect roundness is your primary goal, then akoyas and SSP are completely round because of the bead inside, while FWP may be very slightly off round. But top of the line FWP studs can also be round.

    If highest luster is your goal, hanadama akoyas are the way to go. Metallic FWP will also have very high luster (see my photo.) Some SSP also have high luster, but as a whole akoyas are the most lustrous. Freshadamas are lustrous but the best akoyas are more so.

    If rarity is your goal, then SSP are the ones. But the natural white handama akoyas (which are neither bleached nor pinked, unlike other akoyas, including regular pinked hanadamas) are also uncommon pearls.

    If whiteness is your goal, SSP and natural white hanadama will fit the bill more than other pearls. Regular hanadamas are pinked as are all other akoyas, and freshwater pearls tend to be a warmer white, although you can request silver overtones which will be whiter than rose overtones or cream overtones. But very white isn't necessarily the best look for everyone. Many women prefer a warmer or pinker tone against their skin. After all, there is a reason why almost all akoyas are pinked; it's flattering.

    If beautiful overtones are your goal, look at the natural white hanadamas. See the photos in this thread: Hanadama pearls from Pearl Paradise.com
    SSP by contrast seem to be a "flatter" white; there's not so much in the way of overtones.
    Freshwaters tend to be warmer white, although you can ask for whiter ones (ask for silver overtones.)

    I know you said money is not the primary consideration, but if you plan to buy her a necklace and/or bracelet at some point, do you want the studs to be the same type of pearl? Round SSP necklaces will be considerably more costly than round akoya necklaces, which in turn are considerably more costly than round white freshwater necklaces. (Also, if matching a necklace later is key, don't buy the metallic white FW studs-- metallic white necklaces are hard to find and usually off-round.)

    As to size/weight, a 9mm round pearl is 43% larger and heavier than an 8mm pearl (not double). The math is based on the volume of a sphere. For more on this arcane topic see my thread here: Comparative pearl sizes-- how much difference does 1mm larger really make?

    Whatever you decide, I suggest you communicate directly with the vendor about what you are looking for. Phone them, discuss it, so you get exactly what qualities you want. You can ask for photos of a few pairs of studs and choose the ones that you like best.

    Now I'm going to give you my personal opinion. If you are looking for the wow factor when she opens the box, go for the highest luster. And that will be hanadama akoyas. How can you go wrong with highly lustrous pearls? What are pearls about anyway, if not luster? Price wise they are mid-range for all pearls, and if you ever want to get her a matching strand, it won't break the bank.
    Last edited by Pearl Dreams; 07-15-2018 at 03:44 PM.

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