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Pearls today are receiving as much attention as any other stone, and with the renewed interest in pearls, you might be wondering how much your pearls are worth. Pearls can range in price from a few hundred dollars to $100 million. Most pearl jewelry, however, ranges from around $100 to $2000.
Not all pearls are created equal, so the answer to how much are pearls worth depends on a number of factors, including origin, type, size, and color. Let’s try to break down how to evaluate the value of your pearls.
Pearls can be either natural (wild) or cultured. Needless to say, a wild pearl will be worth much more than a similar cultured pearl. We see this across the board in the jewelry industry, especially in synthetic diamonds. Wild pearls are rare and valuable, and each pearl is valued on a case-by-case basis. A string of wild pearls can cost exorbitant prices and are not within the reach of most of our budgets.
You may come across gemstones listed as Wild Pearls in the product description, but may in fact be cultured pearls, so take care and check for authenticity when purchasing any jewelry claiming to be wild pearls.
The largest pearl ever found was harvested in a wild clam by a Filipino fisherman. This massive stone, measuring over 66 cm across, was valued at $100 making it the most expensive pearl in the world.
How Pearl Types Impact on Price
Most pearls on the market are cultured, meaning that they’ve been grown and harvested in special pearl farms. The art of culturing pearls not only brought pearl jewelry to the masses, it most likely has saved natural pearls from going totally extinct. Cultured pearls, like lab-grown diamonds, are 100% real pearls and can be indistinguishable from wild pearls. However, they’re much more affordable and available. Even so, there are many varieties of cultured pearls.
1. South Sea Pearls
These are the most expensive of the commercially available pearl varieties. This type of pearl grows very large and is known as the Rolls Royce of Pearls. South Sea Pearls come in two colors – gold and white and can grow to impressive sizes.
A loose South Sea pearl can range in price from $150 to $4000 but note that is this just an approximation and can vary depending on various other factors. A strand of South Sea pearls can range from about $1500 to $15,000.
2. Tahitian Pearls
As the only natural dark-colored pearls available, Tahitian pearls are naturally more costly than dyed black freshwater pearls. Tahitian pearls also grow very large and what makes them stand out is their oil slick-like overtone of colors that can be seen on the surface of the pearl. The more pronounced this peacock feather effect, the more expensive the stone.
In general, loose Tahitian pearls range in price from $70 to about $1500.
3. Akoya Pearls
The least expensive of the saltwater pearls, Akoya pearls are the most abundant and the most well-known. These gemstones were the first to be cultured and have gained the reputation of being classy and sophisticated yet affordable and easily available. Akoya pearls with silver or blue overtones are much pricier than the normal varieties.
The average Akoya strand ranges in price from about $300 to $3000.
4. Freshwater Pearls
The least expensive of all pearl varieties, freshwater pearls are farmed in freshwater sources, unlike the other pearl varieties. This makes them less expensive than saltwater pearls because of reasons such as shorter growth time, less complicated farming techniques, and so on.
Also known as the fashion-forward pearl type, freshwater strands range from about $80 to $2000.
What Other Factors Affect Pearl Price?
While the pearl type has the most bearing on the price, these other factors also play an important role in pearl prices:
1. Pearl Size
Pearl sizes can range from 2mm to 20mm or more. Larger pearls are worth more than smaller pearls, which is why South Sea pearls are the most expensive.
2. Pearl Color
Color refers to the body tone as well as the overtone of the stone. While pearls typically come in white and cream varieties, rarer colors like blue, gold, and black are often more expensive.
3. Pearl Shape
Typically, the roundest pearls are considered the most valuable. However, baroque pearls are gaining popularity too and some baroque pearls can cost much more than similar round pearls.
4. Pearl Luster
The luster refers to the shine that pearls have. Pearls with higher luster are more valuable and sought after than those with minimal luster.
5. Surface Blemishes
If a pearl has little blemishes on its surface, it invariably loses some of its value. The best pearls are those that appear perfect with no visible flaws.
How Can Jewelry Settings Affect Pearl Jewelry Prices?
The type of jewelry you choose will also affect how much you spend on your pearl jewelry. For example, choosing a pearl pendant instead of a pearl strand will cut down your costs and still give you a beautiful pearl accessory.
Pearl earrings are also often inexpensive as they usually contain only two pearls. However, pearl strands are the most expensive because they typically require a large number of identical pearls.
The metal you choose also adds to the price of the piece, with platinum and gold settings costing the most. Branded and designer pearl jewelry also come at a premium, even though the pearls may not be any different from something you buy at a smaller store.
The good news about pearl jewelry is that they come in a variety of prices. You can find pearl earrings that cost a mere $66 on renowned sites like Blue Nile. It’s easy to get carried away when shopping for pearl jewelry, so setting a budget will help you in finding the right piece at the right price.
Are Pearls a Good Investment?
While experts typically don’t recommend investing in jewelry, a high-quality piece of pearl jewelry can last a lifetime and be handed down as an heirloom. A quick search on estate jewelry sites will bring up results of expensive pearl jewelry. However, note that the quality and craftsmanship of the pearl and setting are essential if you want to retain the value of your stone.
While most pearl jewelry will not hold its value, pieces that are rare or exotic may continue to hold their value. However, generally, it’s a good idea to simply buy your pearls for enjoyment and to wear and not as an investment.
Where to Buy Pearls
There are many places you can purchase pearls online, from high-end brands like Mikimoto to specialist shops. Many of the top retailers like Blue Nile and James Allen also carry exclusive pearl collections at excellent prices.
Amazon and Etsy are perfect especially if you’re looking for artisan, handcrafted jewelry. Most specialist pearl retailers also offer their products on Amazon making it an excellent place to find your pearls.
Read our article on the Best Place to Buy Pearls Online for more detail.