Any information about these pearls?


New Member
May 11, 2024
My uncle came across these pearls and we know nothing about them. Any help is appreciated.


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It's hard to tell from the photos. They could be akoyas or they could be imitation pearls.

• Can you take larger photos, and also in better focus? The white background is good.
• Check the clasp for any marks that indicate the metal (e.g. sterling, 925, etc.)

Do this before taking more photos-- wipe them with soft, damp cloth, to remove surface grime.
Gently rub a few of the end pearl together. What do you feel? Smooth or gritty?
OP messaged me that they are gritty.

If they are gritty they are cultured akoyas. Imitation pearls do not feel gritty.

Graduated strands like that were common in WW II / Korean War era. Because they weighed less than straight-size necklaces (pearls being sold by weight), they were priced affordably for purchase by wartime personnel stationed in the Far East. Men would buy these momme strands, as they were called, to bring home to their sweethearts. (Momme is a unit of weight; typically they were 3.5 momme and graduated from 3mm to 7mm.)

As that generation has been dying off, these graduated strands are being passed to their heirs, who may not be interested in wearing them and often don't know what they are worth or what to do with them. Paying someone to restring them can be costly and would eat into any profits if they sell them. Years ago I was quoted $78 to restring an 18" necklace; $3 or more per inch is common. (That is why I do my own restringing; more on that below.)

These old graduated pearl necklaces often get consigned and sold for a pittance. Necklaces that are nice and clean and have been restrung achieve a higher selling price on eBay or if consigned with a local jeweler, but they are still not a big money maker. If you consign, the shop takes its cut-- 50% is common-- and of course eBay takes fees.

People are often surprised to learn that pre-owned pearls do not tend to hold their value (except for historic pearls or Mikimoto.) Pearls that have grimy silk (like the necklace your uncle found) have obviously been loved & worn a lot, and have thus been exposed to sweat and body oils and often lotions or other cosmetics-- or worse, perfumes or hair spray. All of this can thin or yellow the nacre and reduce luster. Yellowing is particularly common in older akoyas, but the fashion now is for whiter pearls, not cream colored, as many older pearls are.

That being said, if you or your uncle wish to sell the necklace, you can get an idea of what it might sell for by searching on eBay for SOLD necklaces that look similar. A lot of the selling price depends on their luster and condition, and of course the clasp. With gold prices being so high now, a necklace with a gold clasp will naturally be worth more than one with a silver clasp. Some people buy old pearl necklaces just for their clasp, if it's especially nice.

If you plan to sell them, at the very least give them a bath. This is easy and will show the buyer their luster. After all, the appeal of pearls is their luster. Use warm distilled water (to avoid hard water minerals that combine with soap to make an impossible to remove scum-- I learned the hard way about that) and add a bit of mild soap to the water. Let them sit for 15 minutes in the bath, then wipe away the grime with a soft cloth, using swabs to get into tight spaces. Use a soft brush on the clasp. I don't think I'd do anything to remove the tarnish if selling; the patina shows its age. Rinse in more distilled water and lay them to dry on a towel for 24 hours.

If they look really nice at that point, you might consider restringing them yourself as it isn't hard and doesn't cost much. Synthetic thread like Serafil and flexible wire needles are cheap and you don't need special tools. Restringing will likely fetch you a better price.
Here is a link to my restringing tutorial with information about sourcing thread and needles etc.:

If you want to wear them, they really need to be restrung after being washed. Old silk is weak silk, and can break, resulting in the loss of the necklace.

I hope this helps.