Graduated Strands?


Community member
Sep 21, 2007
Hi everyone, I'm new and love this board! Anyway, I've been noticing how difficult it is to find a strand of graduated pearls. I've looked at the websites recommended and other ones, too. On one website there was a graduated strand in the "wedding collection" - and other than that, pretty much nothing. Is this because it's a more "dated" mid-century look, or the poor man's pearl necklace? I know larger pearls are favored, but I would think there would still be at least one graduated strand on a pearl website, just as there are other less popular items like pearl pendants and rings advertised. Personally, I think a graduated strand is really elegant and beautiful (although I'm hard pressed to find a strand I don't like and covet). I asked a similar question in the Ebay forum, but no responses yet and I thought this might be a more appropriate place for full thread on the subject. Anyway, I was just curious what everyone on this board thinks about the graduated look - do you like it or hate it? Do you own a graduated strand? Any thoughts? I'd love to hear some opinions!
I have a graduated strand I just made a couple of months ago. It immediately became one of my daughter's favorites. I was just lucky enough to have the right sizes and color of pearls from Jeremy, else I don't know how I could have made it......This one ranges from a 7+mm-10+mm-


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No idea if graduated strands have any 'bad' image. There are so few on offer, that I wonder if they could even have any image at all! I even thought that graduated strands disappeared for being uneconomical for sellers ('cause hanks are not graduated, and retailers might come at a loss rematching), but not so... see the thread linked below.

Not that long ago there was this monster thread about making / buying graduated threads. Jeremy Shepherd of Pearl Paradise volunteered and made a few.

THIS is the thread. It spans a few topics. See pages 3-5 especially.

Apparently, you can have such things strung on order.

IMO, in any length but rope, strongly graduated strands just fall better. By 'strongly graduated' I mean variation of 30 to 50% of the largest pearl's diameter. Personally I prefer those where the largest stands out a bit - i.e. there's a bit of a 'jump' in size between the largest and the side-pearls. It doesn't hurt if said center is something great in its own right ;)

My 2c

Glad to see one more fan of cascading pearls around! :cool:

PS. Sort of related. You may want to see THIS! ;)
Thanks for the links, very interesting! I just bought this on Ebay - graduated from 3 to 7mm. I love a strong graduation, it looks very classic to me. I'm glad to know I'm not alone!


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Haven't seen one of these in a while! The looks and size (3-7mm) fits earlier Akoya strands.

How did the pearls survive wear? Some of these get their nacre pealed away wit wear, with patches of 'naked' MOP nucleus showing. I cannot see if this could be the case, and hope it is not, of course.

Amazingly, some do not seem to mind - either buyers or sellers of vintage Akoya. And then, some old strands appear to have survived very well...
Yeah, I haven't received the pearls yet so I am hoping that they are in good condition, as advertised. The seller said it looked like the pearls had been worn very little if at all, so I'm hoping that's the case. Otherwise I can always return them, but it seems like there's no way to find pearls like this unless it's through Ebay or an antique store these days. I actually prefer smaller pearls, too, since I am only 5'1" and anything too large dwarfs me, which isn't the most popular stance these days. I'm crossing my fingers!
olivia24 said:
I actually prefer smaller pearls.

Right! Same here. For some reason, I am stuck with the look of natural strands. There's still time for that to change, but for now... My 'look book' of pearls goes something like this:


And a modern example:


Old fashioned? You bet! Much of whatever the fashion wheel of luck brought out for pearls these years treats them like gum balls (I think): just throw in some round pearly marbles here and there among chains, stones, charms and trinkets. No respect whatsoever. :eek: Phew!

Of course, that's just between me and my mirror. If I've decided I can't pull off the bold stuff, that doesn't mean others shouldn't be trying, of course ;)
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Beautiful! Wow Valeria, you have a great "look book" collection! I completely agree with you - the gum ball look isn't for me. I'm a lot more interested in a classic, chic little string of pearls or a simple single pearl ring in a nice unobtrusive setting. I love old fashioned, classic chic... which is probably why I love pearls so much in the first place!

Pearl Outlet - Thanks, it's great to know that there are still some new options for a classic look. I was beginning to give up hope! Why not an Akoya graduated strand, though?
Hi Olivia,

I agree, that the graduated strand look is very classic; and regaining in popularity among many of our clients looking for a "traditional" pearl strand.

The reason why graduated strands are so hard to find, and therefore available "by request only", is that the are sorted and matched into 1mm graduated strands before vendors import them from overseas... Creating graduated strands would mean much more labor involved on the part of the vendor to select matching strands in different size ranges, cannibalize them for the proper sizes and then rematch an entirely new necklace to meet the client's requirements.

Most vendors will definitey do them "On-Request" though! :D
Hi Ashley, thanks for enlightening us. I wondered if that was the reason initially, but then once I discovered that graduated strands became popular because they were less expensive due to being made up primarilly of small pearls, I wondered if that made them less desirable. It's interesting that what was once the go-to pearl necklace for those wanting something cheaper now is usually a costlier, custom made item!
Hi Olivia,

Actually, graduated pearl necklaces got their start due to the fact that jewelers were using Natural pearls- not the cultivated pearls that we rely on today.

In using Natural pearls, there is no guarantee of supply in a certain size, no guarantee of a match in a certain size or color, in short: It was not wholly due to a cheaper production cost for the jeweler, but really a very large issue of supply. There were no processing centers in Hong Kong to churn out 1mm perfectly matched strands by the ton back then, and even during Mikimoto's era, it would have been difficult to predict for certain a harvest of a particular size range, quality and color to ensure enough supply to create the non-graduated strands available so easily today.
Thanks Ashley for the explanation. It makes a lot of sense.

Olivia, I also really like strongly graduated strands and am seriously considering that option when I finally put together my long coveted Tahitian strand.
I agree -- great explanation Ashley.:)

I love the Valeria Look Book! If only I had a swan-like neck so I would look as good in a choker as that high fashion model....<sigh>
GemGeek said:
If only I had a swan-like neck so I would look as good in a choker as that high fashion model...

Man! I can't stand to wear those either! So uncomfortable... Never knew how a human's neck moves when eating and drinking until I tried such a thing. Cannot imagine how one would get used to them. :eek: Even if anyone did look good in them...

Add a small pearl or two in the back, and I'm game ;)It was the idea of a graduated short choker ('Ras de cou' - in English?) that appealed.
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Hi Olivia, Actually, graduated pearl necklaces got their start due to the fact that jewelers were using Natural pearls...
Just to add one bit of argument for graduated in naturals - it certainly was also a matter of rarity and cost. Much as it happens for diamond necklaces today - non-graduated ones with large stones are never done. And I suspect that there are more diamonds available today then there ever were natural pearls ;)
I love the look of the one very graduated choker (or is it a longer strand twisted to look like 2 chokers?) on the woman in the big hat. I have a similar look with a 16 inch baroque golden SS strand from Pearl Paradise that I love, but it rests at the collarbone instead of on the neck. I may have to look into getting it in white, probably in CFWP. I would also probably stick with the 16 inches as I?m not a fan of tight stuff on my neck.

I think my SS strand is 8-9mm to 11+mm in the center pearl. I?m guessing the ones in the photo are pretty big, but to get the same look today with let?s say 11-12mm as the largest pearl, what do you think the smallest should be?
aerinha said:
I love the look of the one very graduated choker (or is it a longer strand twisted to look like 2 chokers?)

Hm.. I've been wondering the same, but if it was one strand doubled onto itself, there should have been a clasp right infront. And there is none. Invisible clasps are a rather recent invention.

'Guess we have the same preference against tight things... The shortest I still find effortless rest at the base of the neck, with the largest pear lodged in the nook. Google pictures produced a reference for the precise look, just not in pearls: HERE. No difference in how they feel on then any other length - only if there is effectively pressure on the neck I'm starting to feel claustrophobic :eek:

The strands tend to fall rather well that way, I believe: if the front per has support, the clasp tends to fall down in a soft downward curve rather then climb up the neck and pull.

aerinha said:
... to get the same look today with let’s say 11-12mm as the largest pearl, what do you think the smallest should be?

I would think that 12mm for the largest pearl would fit the look in the picture well. Would guess that the strand starts with 5-6mm, and there is a jump towards the largest few pearls in the middle.

A drawing might help planning the distribution of the pearls. What length should a chain be for you to have it fall at the length where the pearls should be (in inch or centimeters)?
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