First Basic Strand Purchase


Well-known member
Dec 1, 2013
Hi everyone,

I am new to pearls but became obsessed with them after a not-so-satisfying Black Friday impulse buy at a local department store which I plan to return. This incident made me determined to be better informed about making a purchase and spend a little more for good quality. I find pearls especially fascinating gemstones as someone who loves and works in the life sciences because of their origin.

So after browsing around online about the various types of pearls there are, how they are made, (with great videos from PP) as well as these forums (adorable Octavia!) I have come to some conclusions about what I would prefer for a good, first buy as a newbie that wants a classic necklace fit for every occasion: a 16" strand of white freshwater pearls. I do know I prefer the lack of nucleus conceptually.

So far I have looked at this particular one from PP "6.5-7.0 mm White Freshwater Pearl Necklace" with YG clasp AAA quality". I am trying to resist immediately making the purchase without getting some advice from you all first. For starters if someone could point me in the direction of some visual comparisons between AA+, AAA, and freshadama quality strands, and what to consider for each. I am leaning towards AAA since it seems like less of a price leap from AA+ as opposed to freshadama.

Also, in terms of sizes, I saw that at least in the US there might be some sort of convention as to one's age and the "appropriate" size. Is it true? I would think wearing something that suits one's style is most important..that being said I would still want to know if there were formal settings in which wearing the wrong size could be seen negatively. As a 22y/o at 5'3" with conservative style, do you guys think 6-7mm would be most suitable just by the proportions? The impulse buy was 8.5-9.5 and it clearly looked like the too-large necklace was "wearing me" instead of the other way around.

What do you guys think? Do you have recommendations for other online retailers? (I am growing fond of PP because of their videos and online presence, but I would still be interested in seeing what is out there.)

OK, a couple of years (?) back, around the time of the PP photo spread with Mia wearing 100" rope, there was also a post of about 4 photos of a young woman wearing a different mm size strand in each photo. A member here cut and pasted the 4photos into a single spread. Can anyone remember the tag of that thread?

Also, right now in the thread Pearls for the bride and mother ​there's a photo of 16" strand on a petite KauaiAnne, 8-8.5mm.
Here is a link to my post with side by side photos of 7-8mm Freshadamas and 6.5-7.5mm AA/AA+ pearls from

And a link to what my 7-8mm Freshadama strand looks like on my neck:

The 6.5-7.5mm ones are a bit small on me (I'm 5'4", in my late 50s) but I like to wear them twisted with some tourmalines:
AA+ will be less nearly round than AAA, which are slightly less round than Freshadamas. AAA would be my choice, in your shoes.

Think about 7.5-8mm AAA if you can afford them. You may find the 6.5-7mm pearls a bit on the small side.
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I am no pro (by far!), but I think you should definitely go with the size you feel most comfortable in. I'm a huge fan of smaller pearls myself - I think they are very feminine and pretty, especially if your style is on the delicate side.

Lisa, I think this might be the post you are referring to: Those images of different size pearl strands are from the American Pearl website.
However, the trouble here is that we have no idea what size the model is (I presume she's pretty tall and broad shouldered, judging by the way the smaller pearls look, but I could be mistaken), and even if we did it's so hard to predict how much that would relate to our personal physique... For example, I know that 7mm studs are considered small, and they look that way on many model photos, and yet when I tried on a pair they felt and looked so much bigger!
Apart from age, height and style, I believe the "build" of the person also needs to be taken into consideration.

IMHO, a big strand of 15mm+ SSP would probably dwarf the eternally petite and delicate Ziyi Zhang, whereas it may suit Ricki Lake at her fullest, just two actresses of similar height with very different build that spring to my mind.

I am only 5'2 however I weight around 11.5st/161lb/73.18kg and am chunky. A 6-7mm strand will be insignificant on me regardless of my age.

My day to day strand that I wear with a collared shirt is 8-9mm. The biggest strand that I currently have is a baroque Tahitian with the largest pearl being over 14mm, and I am going bigger for my 50th birthday present for myself that I nicknamed my Wilma Flintstone necklace.

I also believe the size of the pearls should increase as one gets higher up in her career path as well as age so as to signify her achievements/status in work as well as in life. Just Google the likes of the Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Thailand, former First Lady Barbara Bush, Condoleezza Rice etc., small pearls would just look out of place on them.

Cheaper car insurance is not the only perk for getting old IMHO.

Happy shopping for your first strand of pearls, and I am sure you'll have plenty more strands to add to your collection for years to come.

DK :)
Hi all,

Thanks for the great advice and help with photo references. Your impressions about the size/style/etc. affirmed my decisions...with lisa c's reminder about Cyber Monday deals I basically caved at the end of a long workday yesterday and went with a 6.5-7.0 mm White Freshwater AAA 16" necklace with YG clasp! I think the yellow gold will compliment my skin tone better as a tanner Asian, and I am definitely on the smaller side at 5'3" ~100lbs/45kg so I think the size will be ok. (If not, more of an excuse to get another strand, right? )

I can't wait for the necklace to arrive. Let me know if you want photos once I get it to add to some sort of inventory of size reference, though you would probably think it trivial compared to the pieces I have seen on here

Unfortunately making the purchase has not stopped me from thinking about pearls and looking at awesome photos online despite having loads of projects at work and two final me from this obsession (you guys won't). I am already eyeing some of the more luscious colors out there even though it will be some time before I buy something (visually and financially) adventurous. A girl can dream!
I have an additional question for you experts :)
How common is it for pearls to have been treated chemically and polished? This is something I saw in those Youtube videos Pearl Paradise has posted, so I was wondering if it was very typical for pearl producers (or only to specific pearl types/grades) and whether it would be mentioned by the seller. I mean, beyond the obvious color-treatment in a strand of black freshwater pearls, is it general practice to put say, white freshwaters through a bleaching and polishing process? Are even the best pearls "enhanced", or can this process actually diminish their beauty?
Good question on treatment. Most treatment, like bleaching or pinking (tinting), are assumed so not disclosed. As for polishing, I've never seen a seller disclose it. South Sea pearls often come out of the shell looking perfect, but it's always possible that they have been buffed or undergone nacre-tightening and there is little chance that it will be obvious. The time to worry is when a pearl looks chalky. If the pearls look great, they will probably remain that way. :)
Oh dear, after considering it for a while I decided to order a Freshadama strand as well, so that I can have them both in hand to compare and decide which to keep.
/\ You're going to keep both of them. Been there, done THAT.

Although I sincerely hope your willpower and decision-making ability is better than mine. That way you'd at least have a chance of escape!

I'm sure the pearlies will be gorgeous. :)
Haha, I hope I have the will to pick just one strand, it "helps" that I have been eyeing a matching set of stud earrings!
But what I don't really understand is, the price of a Freshadama necklace compared to a pair of earrings. If they are both composed of gem quality pearls, why are the earrings so much more expensive in terms of say, a per-pearl price (really simplifying it here). I would imagine a lot of work would be placed into selecting and making the earrings and the necklace, so why is it that on PP just as an example, four pairs of earrings would nab you one necklace (many more pearls of same quality than eight?).

I guess I am asking for someone to break down what goes into the pricing in greater detail. I want to get a better look into the economics of it, I'm already looking at Tears of Mermaids as a holiday read :)
I am not associated with PP or any other pearl sellers. These are just a few observations I'm made.

If you actually compare prices, you will see that the relative cost of the necklaces goes up per size of pearl. Whereas 6.5-7mm 18-inch Freshadama strands cost 4.2 times as much as studs of the same size, and 7.5-8mm 18-inch strands cost 4.5 times as much as matching studs, when you go up to 8.5-9mm the necklace costs 8 times as much as the same size studs. That is, the cost of the earrings is proportionately less as the pearl size increases.

From this I conclude that much of the cost of the studs is in the finding and the labor.

If I may suggest a better book than Tears of Mermaids, Renee Newman's Pearl-Buying Guide (5th edition) is very informative and beautifully illustrated.

And if you like something with more people stories, I simply love People and Pearls: The Magic Endures. I read and re-read this one, and the photos are great too. And my word, what a bargain the book is now!
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Do not give money toward Tears of Mermaids!!! It is full of untruths, typos and BS - my personal, heart-felt opinion. The Renee Newman book is excellent, as is People and Pearls. :)

Pearl Dreams has made a great evaluation. The cost of the findings in earrings is a much higher proportion of the whole, than is the necklace. Imagine there was a finding for each pearl in the necklace - you would have a handful of them. :)
GG, you are such a Lady. ​ "Un-truths", otherwise known as Lies.
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Pearl Dreams and GemGeek, thanks for the tip. I will be adding Pearl Buying Guide to my list of reads, there are so many yummy photographs! Do you have any thoughts on Secrets of the Gem Trade: The Connoisseur's Guide?
I am also raiding the local library this weekend :)

Your answers on the pricing of earrings vs necklaces makes a lot of sense. I hadn't thought of it that way!
I agree with Pattye on the books. Richard's book is a great all-around book on gemstones and the trade - very interesting. You can't go wrong with any of Renee's books. They are eminently readable and fact-filled. :)
I got Pearl Buying Guide in the mail and now I just have to resist reading it because I'm saving it for a camping read this holiday vacation. What I couldn't resist is getting this --> AHHH
I haven't even seen the original AAA that I ordered, I am waiting for the Freshadama to arrive so I can have a good comparison seeing them both for the first time instead of having goggle-eyed over one of them while the other has yet to arrive. But I do know that I want a classic white basic strand and with that in mind I really wanted a colorful, non-round (but not entirely baroque, though the fireballs I have seen on this forum are absolutely gorgeous, I don't think I would be able to pull that off just yet) with really great orient for a more unique option on playful occassions. So when that necklace sprung up on PP after coincidentally seeing all the pictures in this thread: I was floored. I am hoping that the strand I just purchased has similar color and luster. I originally wanted additional photos and to be able to select for a particular shape since they appear to vary from teardrop to more symmetrical oval but with the limited stock I felt like I couldn't wait. Does anyone have photos of a similar necklace or pearls that would probably be like the ones used for it?
Do you guys think this is a problem? I am hoping with these purchases (and a pair of earrings to match the white strand once I decide on the quality) I will have satisfied my urges for a while with a sobering credit card statement, but I am afraid this is only the beginning....
Thanks, all!