Pearl jewellery: a Q&A with our expert Jane Best

By Jane


Pearl jewellery: a Q&A with our expert Jane Best

Pearl jewellery is one of our favourite trends of the moment, however unless you have all the knowledge you need shopping and caring for this beautiful gem can be somewhat overwhelming.

Stephen Einhorn co-founder Jane Best (and wife of Stephen!) is our resident pearl expert and creates and designs all of our pearl jewellery here at Stephen Einhorn. We sat down with her to find out all you need to know when you decide to invest in this very special gem.

Are pearls expensive?

It really depends on what type of pearls they are and whether they are freshwater, cultured, nucleated pearls or shell pearls

 How can you tell if a pearl is real?

Firstly only buy from people you trust. You are not expected to have to become an authority on pearl quality just because you would like to buy some lovely pearl jewellery.

However, one of the most obvious ways to tell if pearls are genuine is price. If you are offered a string of perfectly round evenly shaped pearls and they are suspiciously cheap. They aren’t real. A string of genuine pearls that are perfectly round and even in shape and colour would be extremely expensive. Most pearls that are available to buy for an accessible price have very slight flaws in them. Either on the surface or they aren’t perfectly round. This makes them no less lovely and doesn’t take away from their natural glory.

If you rub two fake pearls together they will feel very slippery as the surface is unnaturally perfect. If you rub two genuine pearls together there should be resistance between them. You can also tell by the size of the hole that’s drilled. In very expensive pearls the drill hole is very small as these pearls are sold by weight. You can also look through the hole with a magnifier to see if you can see a line between the bead nucleus and the nacre. Or if you are buying a very expensive string of pearls it would be worth getting them certificated.

 What is so special about pearls?

 They have a very long and elevated history being favoured by Royalty and film stars alike. The only pearls that were available to Queen Elizabeth the first would have been completely natural and are very rare therefore also very valuable.

Pearls are a wonderful natural gem. Really good pearls have a lovely lustre. If you wear pearls often they get an added warmth and glow to them. After you have worn them rub them with a dry soft cloth. They are very flattering as they mostly come in natural colours.

 What is the cost of 1 pearl?

One pearl can cost absolutely anything. It depends on the quality. It can be from £1.00 to £1000. It depends on what type of pearls it is.

 What are pearls?

A pearl is often called a pearl gemstone. It is formed inside an oyster or a muscle when a foreign body is inserted into the shell which can either occur naturally with a grain of sand or it can be introduced on purpose. With freshwater farmed pearls a nucleus of mantle from another muscle or a bead is introduced into the pearl. The mollusc then coats this foreign body in nacre which is calcium carbonate. The thicker the layer of nacre the lovelier the pearl. This is the difference between natural and cultured pearls. A natural pearl has nothing added to it to force the mollusc to form a pearl. Natural pearls are far rarer and more expensive.

 What are fake pearls?

Fake pearls are made in factories and have a very small resemblance to the real thing. They can be made from shell beads that are sprayed with nacre ( shell pearls) or they can simply be made from plastic and sprayed with paint. If your pearls are extremely uniform in colour size and shape chances are they are fake. Fake pearls are often much lighter than real pearls. Quite often you can tell by looking at the hole in the bead you will see a wrinkle in the paint or even a slight pealing where the string has been and rubbed the bead.

 What should I look out for when buying pearls?

Pearls should always be individually knotted. This is a sign of good pearls. It means if your pearl string breaks you won’t lose all of them. You also want to look out for a good lustre on your pearls. This means there is a nice amount of nacre around the pearl. Sometimes pearls have a lovely iridescence as well and that is an added bonus.

Can pearls last forever?

Pearls can last a really long time if they are looked after. They need to be stored in a soft cloth but not in anything airtight. They need to retain moisture. If they become dehydrated they can dry out and will then look very opaque and unpleasant. Some people say that the pearl has ‘died’. It hasn’t because it is not a living thing but it can look very white its then worth having your string of pearls restrung and the dehydrated pearl replaced.

 Where are pearls made?

 Pearls come from lots of different places.

Akoya pearls come mainly from Japan Vietnam and China.

South Sea pearls come from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Tahitian pearls come from French Polynesia and the Cook Islands.

Freshwater cultured pearls mainly come from China.


What is the difference between a Natural and a cultured pearl?

A Natural pearl occurs in nature. It is not interfered with in any way. These pearls are very rare and therefore very expensive. The pearl is formed because a foreign body has entered the pearl a bit of grit or sand and the oyster tries to get rid of it by covering it in nacre thereby creating a natural pearl. Natural pearls are grown in seawater.

Cultured pearls are grown in Muscles. A foreign body is deliberately introduced into the pearl by either introducing a bit of mantle (natural material from another muscle) or a bead. The bead can be made of plastic or shell. There are three words to describe this process. Grafting, seeding or nucleation. The muscle then covers the foreign object in nacre. The thicker the nacre the better the pearl and the more luscious the depth of colour. Muscles can grow quite a few pearls in each shell whereas an oyster only grows one pearl.

Cultured pearls are grown in freshwater and seawater.

What size pearls are there and what are their colours ?

 Cultured freshwater pearls go from 1mm-20mm. These pearls can come in cream peach pink or lilac and can also be dyed.

Cultured Akoya go from 2mm-10mm. They are white or cream.

Cultured South Sea pearls go from 8mm-20mm and are also white or cream.

Tahitian pearls go from 8mm-18mm. they are in blacks, greys and browns.


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Ah pearl jewellery, your granny has it, your mum has it, and hopefully you have it too. To my mind pearls were always synonymous with old ladyish type ‘sty