The Ultimate Guide to Pearls

Timeless. Elegant. Classy. Pearls are a jewellery box treasure no woman should be without. Whether dressed down for brunch or carefully selected to add grace and charm to your wedding look, pearls are a beloved gem that work for all occasions. Read on to discover all you need to know.


They look stunning and are gracing the skin of everyone from royalty to rockstars. Pearls are a fashion must-have that can change the look of any outfit. In recent times, pearls have become a huge hit with men as well as women and their popularity has soared generation wide.

Once a staple of Queen Elizabeth II’s wardrobe, pearls are a truly timeless fashion accessory. And with so many ways to wear them, and so many outfits they can complement, we want to give you the ultimate guide to pearls to help you pick the perfect pearl earrings, necklace or ring to complement your style.

But let’s start from the beginning and answer all the most frequently asked questions about pearls.

Pearl stud earrings and pendant necklace

What are Pearls?

Pearls are exquisite gemstones formed inside the shells of certain molluscs, such as oysters or mussels. They’re created when an irritant, such as a tiny particle or parasite, enters the mollusc's shell and triggers a protective response. The mollusc then secretes layers of nacre, a combination of calcium carbonate and protein, around the irritant, gradually forming the lustrous gem known as the pearl. Prized for their natural beauty, they look stunning set in jewellery, the most loved being pearl necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Like other precious gems, no two natural pearls are the same which makes them every bit as special as their wearer.

What Is The Difference Between Saltwater and Freshwater Pearls?

Saltwater and freshwater pearls are both beautiful gemstones, but they have several key physical differences. These differences occur depending on the type of water in which they’re formed: saltwater or freshwater.

Key Features of Saltwater Pearls

  1. Cultivated in oysters living in oceans
  2. They tend to have a more spherical shape, with a smooth, round surface
  3. Usually known for their high sheen and iridescence, they reflect light beautifully.
  4. They often have a white or cream colour, but can also come in shades of silver, pink, and gold
Pearl necklace

Key Features of Freshwater Pearls

  1. Created in mussels found in rivers, lakes, and ponds
  2. Come in a variety of shapes, including round, oval, button, and baroque and have a slightly more textured surface, giving them a unique appeal
  3. Though beautiful, have a slightly lower sheen and opulence
  4. Can exhibit a wide range of colours, including white, peach, lavender, and even darker hues like black

What is Mother of Pearl?

Mother of pearl, also known as nacre, is a beautiful iridescent substance that’s produced by the pearl-creating mollusc. It acts as a protective layer inside the shell and is made up of layers of calcium carbonate and a protein called conchiolin. Mother of pearl is highly regarded for its lustrous appearance, displaying a range of colours that shimmer and change when viewed from different angles. It’s often used in the creation of jewellery and watches, decorative items, and musical instruments, as it creates a unique and elegant effect. Mother of pearl gets its name from the way in which it surrounds and protects the beautiful pearl being created inside the mollusc.

Are Pearls Expensive?

In terms of price, freshwater pearls are generally more affordable than saltwater pearls. This is due to the difference in cultivation methods and the fact that freshwater mussels can produce multiple pearls at a time, whereas saltwater oysters usually produce a single pearl, making them more of a rarity. The price point of pearl jewellery depends on the brand and any other gemstones that make up the piece. A stunning pearl bracelet or necklace doesn’t need to be expensive, but if it’s been crafted with rare gemstones such as diamonds, the value will increase. As far as precious gems go, pearls are considered both beautiful and offer excellent value for money, especially when you consider that with the right care, they can last a lifetime.

If the price point seems too good to be true, it probably is. Unusually cheap pearl jewellery may well be synthetic, so be careful to check for authenticity.

Pearl stud earrings
Pearl bracelet

What Is the Difference Between Real and Fake Pearls?

There are several key differences if you’re wondering how to tell if pearls are real or fake. They include:

  1. Real pearls have a unique sheen and an irregular surface, whereas fake pearls may appear ‘too perfect’ and have a uniform shine and perfect roundness.
  2. Another key indicator is the weight of the pearls. Genuine pearls tend to be heavier than their synthetic counterparts because they’re made of organic matter.
  3. Real pearls often feel cool to the touch, while fake pearls may feel warmer due to their synthetic composition.
  4. Under a microscope, real pearls will have organic growth lines known as ‘nacre layers’ visible on their surface. Fake pearls, on the other hand, lack these growth lines and reveal a smooth surface under magnification.

It's always important to verify the authenticity of pearls before you buy them and to ensure you buy from a trusted jeweller offering aftercare and a product guarantee.

How to Care for Pearls

Pearl care is essential to maintaining their natural beauty and longevity. Here are some tips to help you keep them beautiful for life:

  1. Handle with care: Handle pearls gently to avoid scratching or damaging the surface. Put on your pearls after applying makeup, perfume, or hairspray as certain chemicals can damage them and alter their appearance.
  2. Store properly: Pearls are delicate and easily scratched, so it's important to store them properly. Keep your pearls in a soft pouch or jewellery box, separate from other items to prevent any potential damage.
  3. Avoid exposure to chemicals: Chemicals like detergents, chlorine, and even some cosmetics can harm the lustre and surface of pearls. Remove your pearls before engaging in activities that involve harsh chemicals.
  4. Clean with care: Use a soft, clean cloth to gently wipe your pearls after you’ve worn them. Avoid using any harsh cleaning agents or ultrasonic cleaners as they can damage the pearls.
  5. Wear often: Interestingly, pearls benefit from being worn as the natural oils from your skin help keep them radiant. When worn frequently, pearls retain their shine and continue to look beautiful.

Pearls are organic gems that require special care. By following these guidelines, you can ensure your pearls remain stunning for years to come.

Pearl drop earrings
Pearl hoop studs

Should Brides Wear Pearls?

To us, this is a little like asking should a bride wear a wedding dress. And of course, being in love with the tradition of marriage and all things wedding-related, we’ll always answer with a resounding ‘yes!’

What better gem to complement your breathtaking ivory gown than classic and elegant ivory pearls? The way they shimmer in the light and reflect the gleam of both the sun and the moon. The fact they look stunning whether set amongst silver, platinum, white gold, or yellow gold. The way they’re both minimalistic yet captivating. What’s not to love? Wedding pearls, whether it’s a matching set or a gorgeous, minimalistic pearl necklace, will perfectly complement any bride’s look.

Pearl Meaning: What do Pearls Symbolise?

Pearls have long been regarded as symbols of elegance, beauty, and sophistication. Known for their rarity and natural iridescence, pearls carry a sense of classic charm and timelessness. They’re often considered as symbols of wisdom and spiritual growth. The spiritual meaning of pearls varies in different cultures. For instance, in ancient Greek mythology, pearls were believed to be the tears of gods. In Chinese culture, pearls symbolise wealth and prosperity. In many wedding traditions, pearls are a symbol of purity, love, and happy marriage, so they make for the perfect wedding jewellery when your big day comes.

Pearl double layered necklace

Whether you dress them up or down, pearls are the jewellery gem of the moment. The perfect everyday staple, or a special purchase for the moment you say ‘I do’, pearls with give you everlasting enjoyment and a timeless elegance that can’t be denied.

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