Buying Tips / Jewelry

How Much Are Pearls Worth?

Kathy Kathy 16 Jul 2019 327

If you are wondering how much are pearls worth, this article will give you a complete overview with all the details you ever wanted to know about pearls. Pearls are referred to as “The Queen of Gems” for good reason.

They have been around for centuries, have a long history, and are formed in a very unique way. Pearls are a true “classic” when it comes to jewelry. However, they are not only used as jewelry, but they are also symbolic in religion and myth. The world’s oldest gem is timeless and sought after by many.

A Pearl’s History

In ancient Rome, as early as 2300 BC, pearls were used as gifts when presented to royalty. Initially, pearls were such a status symbol and only the ruling class were permitted to wear them. Pearls are considered the world’s oldest gem and they have been treasured for ages.

It is not known who discovered the pearl, but the belief is widely held that people were looking for food, along the seashore, and found them. With no real proof as to the first discovery and where pearls originated, it is no wonder so many myths and stories have developed concerning their beginnings.

The pearl has been worn, for ages, like jewelry. In 420 BC a jewelry fragment was found and now is being displayed at the Louvre, in Paris.

In the Arab culture, legend has it, dewdrops fell from the sky and were gobbled up by the oysters. But primarily, pearls were harvested in the Persian Gulf, until they began to be farmed. They were heavily traded and brought great wealth to those harvesting them.

The pearl has been a valued trade commodity since Roman times. The “Pearl Age” evolved in the 15th and 16th centuries with the discovery of pearls in both Central and South Americas. There was an enormous demand for pearls because the noble and royals would wear elaborate jewelry.

As a result, by the 19th century, oyster supplies began to dwindle. At this point in time, divers harvested pearls and it wasn’t until the 20th century they began to be cultured.

Formation and Harvesting

A pearl can form both naturally and be man-made, or cultured. The pearl is not mined, however. Instead, they are actually formed in a living organism. The formation of a pearl is, quite honestly, an accident.

It used to be thought a pearl was formed when a grain of sand entered a clam. This, however, is not so. A natural pearl is formed when something like a parasite gets into an oyster, muscle, or a clam. The creature tries to coat the irritant and forms layers and layers of nacre around it. Nacre is a crystal substance.

Eventually, the pearl is formed. A cultured, or man-made, the pearl is formed when a foreign substance is introduced by man. A pearl formed by man is called either cultured or farmed. They can be cultivated in either fresh or salt, water. The first cultured, or farmed, the pearl was made in 1893 by Kokichi Mikimoto.

It used to be, a pearl was harvested by divers who would retrieve the oysters. This type of harvesting was very dangerous. Harvesters would dive up to 100 ft. for the oyster.

All this and there was no guarantee a pearl would even be in the oyster. Even if they did find oysters, a ton of them only yielded three or four pearls with any quality.

Today, a natural pearl is extremely rare and are very scarce. Some people say they are almost extinct. The price of a natural pearl is extremely high, because of that fact. The pearl must grow in a sea that is clean and has stable temperatures.

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Empress Eugenie’s pearl earrings

Pollution and the inconsistent water temperatures now being experienced puts an extreme strain on natural pearl formation. As a result, a pair of natural pearl earrings, worn by Empress Eugenie (wife of Napoleon Bonaparte), sold for a record high of $3.3 million at an auction, recently.

Typically, natural pearls can only be found on the coasts of Bahrain and Australia. This adds to their rarity and drives the price of a natural pearl even higher. Cultured (farmed) pearls were discovered in Japan and by 1935 there were 350 pearl farms.

Although people thought the pearls were fake, the cultured pearls had the same properties as the natural ones.

Various Varieties, Grades, and Colors

Akoya, Tahitian (from French Polynesia and Tahiti), South Sea (from Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines), white, cream golden, and black (includes grey, blue, green, and purple) are varieties of pearls.

how much are pearls worth - types of pearls
Types of pearls

A “Baroque” pearl is one that is not perfectly round, or non-symmetrical. Abalone pearls are some of the world’s rarest and most sought after gems. They are not cultured and almost never found.

So, How much Are Pearls Worth?

The value of a pearl can widely depend on many factors. First, there is a type. Then size and color are considered. After that, the surface quality, whether it’s natural or cultured, the luster, and so on. The value of a typical pearl can range from $300.00 to $1,500.00.

Natural pearls are found in the sea and a diver seeks them out. A cultured pearl is farmed and created. South Sea pearls are the most valuable pearl. The most expensive pearl, in the world, was found by a Filipino fisherman. It was 26 inches and valued at $100 million dollars.

The South Sea pearl comes in many colors and the most expensive ones have a gold hue. Tahitian pearls are exotic, dark-colored and depending on the size and quality, range from $500 to more than $25,000.

Akoya pearls are classic, round and white. They were the first cultured pearl and are often smaller in size. Akoya’s are produced by oysters. Generally, the price range of these pearls lands between $300 to $10,000.

The freshwater pearl is less expensive, Typically it ranges from $50 to $2,000. They come in a vast array of shapes and sizes and look similar to Akoya pearls. They are cultivated in freshwater, by a mussel, as opposed to seawater.

As far as jewelry is concerned, typically, pearl earrings are less expensive because there are only two gems in the set. Pearl necklaces, however, have more pearls and price can vary based on the length and how many pearls are used.

Pearls hold their value through time and vintage pearl jewelry is worth a lot of money. If you make pearls an investment and you care for them correctly, you can safely give them to the future generations of your family without the worry of loss in value.

Caring for Pearls

To keep the lustrous property of a pearl, it must be cared for correctly. A pearl is cared for differently than other gems. This will ensure they hold both their value and their beauty.

To take care of your pearls, there are some quick and easy things you can do:

Don’t ever just throw them in your jewelry box and expect them to survive. Instead, place them in a jewelry pouch, or soft bag.

A pearl will, over a period of time, absorb the acid from the skin of the person wearing them. It will not lose its luster, but instead, become a barrel shape instead of the beautifully round shape it once was.

To slow this process, or prevent it from occurring, after wearing them, wipe them with a soft cloth.

They can be damaged from other elements as well. Things like vinegar, lemon juice, perfume, cologne, and other chemicals can crack them or turn them brown. Avoid direct contact with these when wearing pearls.

Pearls can also be damaged by heat and dry air.

When removing them, always grab the piece by the metal to which it is attached. Never grab the pearl itself. If the necklace has a lobster claw closure use it.

When wearing pearl earrings, grab the earing nearest the ear lobe and behind the ear.

how much are pearls worth - cleaning pearls

Get the Hagerty pearl cleaner here

Clean pearls with “pearl safe” cleaners only and never steam them or use ultrasonic cleaning machines on them. Do not use detergents, dishwashing liquid, cleaners like Windex (ammonia based), baking soda, powdered cleaners, or bleach.

Pearls worn a lot should be restrung yearly and if they ever get wet, lay them flat, on a towel; do not hang them to dry. Above all, remove pearls, when going swimming, applying cosmetics or hairspray, or spraying perfume.

They can be cleaned by wiping them off after use. They get skin acid and dirt accumulated on them, after a period of time. Wiping them will reduce that.

A pearl cleaner can be used to clean them, but they can easily be taken to a jewelry shop and cleaned by a professional.

However a pearl is cared for, the words to remember are “with great care”.

Pearls are Worn by Many

Historically, King Henry VIII, Mary Stuart Queens of Scotts, Marie Antoinette, Queen Elizabeth, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others loved pearls.

Taylor’s famous La Peregrina 16th century pearl brought a price of $11.8 million US dollars.

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“La Peregrina” worn by Mary Tudor, (1553) left and Elizabeth Taylor, right (1970)

They often adorned Coco Chanel and she rarely went without them. She believed “a woman needs ropes and ropes of pearls” and thought pearls should be a foundation in any and every woman’s wardrobe. Another pearl wearing icon was Jackie Kennedy.

Although hers were not real, her triple strand necklace is a signature piece. When mentioning pearls, Audrey Hepburn’s name comes to mind. She often used them to accentuate her playful, mischievous, facial features.

Pearl lover, The Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton), Grace Kelly, and of course Princess Dianna frequently wore them. Recent Pearl wearing notables include Rihanna, Michelle Obama, Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Mirren, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Rita Ora, Oprah, and Katy Perry.

how much are pearls worth - Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn

There is such an abundance of pearl fans there are too many to mention. Recent pearl designers include Gucci and Miu Miu, Dior, Celine, Sophie Bille Brahe, Delfina Delettrez and Gaia Repossi. They are even using pearls on their models.

Pearls are not only fashionable for women. Men have begun wearing them as well. A1 Bently wears pearl stud earrings and ropes of pearls around his neck.

They have been worn by Pierce Brosnan, Elton John, Kanye West (on his jacket), Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Pharell Williams, and Alice Cooper to name a few.

Fashion History

Primarily, pearls entered the fashion industry in the late half of the 1900s.

Though they were seen as early as the 1920s in very minimalist design. The pearls were strung in long strands and were called sautoirs.

Sometimes, the sautoir would be as long as 30 inches and had a tassel attached for added decoration. During the 20s, all the flapper dress needed was a string of pearls to bring out the free-spirited dancer.

how much are pearls worth - pearl sautoir
Pearl sautoir

In the 30s, the depression hit and cheap but glamorous jewelry became popular. Pearl necklaces became shorter, bulkier and had more than just one strand.

The 40s saw war and the amount of fabric for clothing and the materials used for jewelry was restricted. Costume jewelry was cheap and it was all most people could afford.

how much are pearls worth - Ava Gardner
Ava Gardner, 1940s

In the 50s, femininity was in vogue. Jewelry was simple and often only a single strand of pearls was all it took to add a touch of class.

In the 60s, wealthy celebs, favored fake and bright as opposed to the real thing.

In the 70s, the hippies didn’t want fake anymore, but the real thing. So, ethnic jewelry became popular and pearls took a backseat in fashion.

The 80s was an experimental decade in history. Things like bright colors, big hair, and bold design were popular. But, along came Princess Diana and made pearls popular again.

Pearls have never really gone “out of style” especially with the wealthy and the rich. When it was first used for fashion, it implied superiority and class.

While it does that still, with the onset of the cultured pearl, they are affordable to the masses and not just a select few.

They became “cool” in 2013 when Alber Elbaz used the pearl in conjunction with an imitation pearl and stacked them on chains to spell “love” and “hot”.

Suddenly, pearls became unconventional and all kinds of people were re-imagining them in different ways. They are now used in costume jewelry, oversized cocktail rings and even in-ear jackets.

Pearls are now fashionable and designers across the globe are creating statement pieces for their top models. Today, anything goes and there is freedom to do as you please and it pleases us to wear pearls.

Pearl Jewelry

They can be fashioned into many types of jewelry and accessories. Pearls are both the birthstone for people born in June and also the gem associated with a 30th wedding anniversary. It is thought to be the stone of sincerity.

A pearl can be: in a set of earrings, a pearl ring, a necklace, in a broach, and on a bracelet. Pearls can also adorn shoes, gloves, jackets and coats, and hats. The uses of pearls are endless and unlimited.

A pearl rope necklace is 40 inches or more and, typically, has two or three strands. A pearl Opera necklace is 30 inches to 36 inches long, usually two strands and worn for formal occasions.

A Matinee necklace is about 20 to 124 inches in length and worn during the day.

Then, there is the pearl Princess necklace. It is 17 to 18 inches long, looks like a choker, and is the most popular necklace style. But then, there is the actual pearl choker necklace, which can be worn daytime or for evening wear. It is approximately 16 inches in length.

Pearls Symbolism and Religion

Freshwater pearls vary in unusual shapes and varieties. But, the primary shape is round and, in many cultures, the shape symbolizes the moon. As a result, cultures have associated the pearl with the moon.

In Vedic manuscripts, pearls are fashioned from the earth’s water and the powers of heaven. then fertilized by lightning. The pearl is strongly associated with the planet Venus, in Western cultures.

White pearls, in some stories, are tears shed by Gods. In one legend, Eve cried tears which turned to pearls when she was banished from Eden.

When it comes to Christian theology, they are mentioned in the Bible. In Matthew, chapter 13 and verse 45, it states the kingdom of heaven is like a trader, or merchant, who is looking for the best pearls.

When he finds the most valuable one, he sells all he owns to purchase it. The interpretation is that Jesus is the merchant and He paid the great price of His life to buy the pearl. The individual He is looking for.

A Pearl’s Power Properties

It has long been a symbol of elegance and good taste. They are worn by Monarch’s, Kings, Queens, Hollywood stars, the common person and everyone in between. It is thought pearls exude presence and power. Pearls are worn in: the political arena, journalism, the arts, and in sports.

However, it is also thought that wearing them brings a sense of calmness and feeling centered. They are also thought to promote: faith, loyalty, truth, purity and personal integrity. Pearls are worn in many cultures so women can connect to their inner goddess and maximize feminine energy.

It has long been thought to contain healing properties as well. Pearl powder, in Asian cultures, is believed to have both physical and metaphysical healing powers. Pearls have treated digestive tract disorders, the skin, and muscular systems.

from admirablejewels.com

They have been made into powders and potions to aid in fertility and ease the birthing process. Pearls have also treated eye ailments, bleeding, fever, and indigestion. It is still being used as a skin whitener and cosmetic. People use the pearl to treat skin conditions such as rosacea and acne.

Pearls come in a wide variety of colors and each color has its own message. A cream colored pearl promotes success. The gold color denotes wealth and lavender is for love, while the rare black is thought to bring luck. Pearls of other colors include white and pink. A white pearl symbolizes health and the pink brings happiness.

Pearls of all colors are believed to help a person open up and find the meaning of their true self. They enlighten and inspire the mind and mood and help the person wearing it to love self and others more.

Whether these things are true, or not, these thoughts are wonderful and inspiring. When you focus on them, they will no doubt bring positive change.

Our Jewelry Picks for Pearls!

The Pearl Source Genuine Freshwater Cultured Pearl Necklace

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This is our favorite pick! This gorgeous necklace is simple enough that you can wear it during the day, but it can also make the jump to evening wear. It is a designer pendant and boasts a 9-10mm freshwater cultured pearl.

The pearl has a thick and beautiful nacre. It is nestled in .925 Sterling Silver and hangs elegantly from a 17” chain.

This piece, because of the moderate price, makes it a great gift. It is perfect to give to your wife on Valentines Day, your daughter for her birthday, or a graduation gift. Your imagination is the limit.

Juliane White 6-7mm Double Strand A Quality Freshwater Cultured Pearl Set

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If you are looking for a complete set, look no further. This set includes a double-strand necklace, a pair of earrings and a double strand bracelet. The necklace is also offered in various lengths at corresponding prices.

These little beauties are 6-7 mm in size and strung by hand on double knotted silk thread. Being knotted between each pearl keeps the pearls from rubbing together which minimizes wear and keeps the entire set from slipping off the string should some type of accident occur.

A Certificate of Authenticity and Appraisal is offered with this set.

THE PEARL SOURCE 14K Gold AAA Akoya Stud Pearl Earrings

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Look no further for that classy dress up, or dress down pair of Akoya earrings. This set is offered in various sizes from 4.5 -5.0mm to 9.0-9.5mm sizes. There is eight sizes in between as well. If you need earrings for a casual occasion, here they are.

If you want a classic pair for evening wear, this is your set. You can even get them set in white gold or yellow gold. There is a notch on the earring post so the back does not fall off; a very thoughtful touch.

As far as price is concerned, it reflects the quality of the set and they will be considered a great investment!

PZ Paz Creations 925 Sterling Silver Ring

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This cocktail ring is sure to make a statement and be a collection favorite! Set in .925 Sterling Silver, it has the stamp to prove it. We love the vintage look of this ring and the halo of beaded prongs surrounding the 10mm white, cultured, freshwater pearl.

To add to the uniqueness of this gem, it is handcrafted and manufactured in Israel, by Israeli artisans. The ring is offered in six different sizes to ensure your comfort and the perfect fit. It’s hypoallergenic and free of lead and nickel.

Give this as a gift for almost any occasion. We like it as a bridesmaid gift, Mother’s Day gift, or Valentines Day gift, or a gift to celebrate yourself.

Your jewelry box will love you for it!

CHAULRI Authentic South Sea Tahitian Black Pearl Pendant

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An almost hypnotizing Tahitian black pearl necklace and sure to be a favorite in your collection! This gem is thought to bring abundance, prosperity and luck to the wearer. Wouldn’t that be nice?

It’s especially special, not only because it comes from Tahiti, but the setting and chain of 18 inches, are 18k gold plated .925 sterling silver. The lobster claw clasp makes putting on and taking off extremely easy. It is hand-finished in the United States.

Which makes it unique and one of a kind. You can also purchase this in both white and gold plated silver giving you more of a choice. Speaking of choice, how about when you can wear your piece. It’s great for the working professional and translates to evening wear without missing a beat.

Your satisfaction is guaranteed to make this a very affordable piece.

Yinahawaii Blue Sea Glass Necklace

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Aloha! This pretty piece is made and shipped directly from Hawaii. The creator makes these by hand and pairs the sea glass, hibiscus and freshwater pearl charms with a 20-inch chain and a lobster claw catch. If you’d like a longer chain, that is an option as well.

Making this pretty necklace even more special is the cultured seal glass included in the setting and custom gift card and ribbon wrap. Definitely, a budget-friendly and casual piece that will make you smile every time you wear it.

If you’d like matching earrings and bracelet, you can get those as well. If you are looking for an inexpensive, yet lovely, gift this it. This is a trendy piece and a perfect low budget and buying friendly option.

Throughout the decades, the pearl has maintained a stigma and a reputation of class and quality. Pearls went through an evolution in history and in the fashion industry itself.

The pearl has gone from a status symbol to an accessory affordable to all.

So when wondering how much are pearls worth, now you know everyone can afford a pearl piece of jewelry. We are grateful!