Here's a chart that compares common pearl sizes to a dime.
Some quick guidance:
Having said that... if you're like us, it can be hard to 'visualize' what a 4mm or 8mm or any "mm" pearl size really looks like. And posting an image online isn't so good since they vary in size based on your monitor/resolution.
So here we're going to list some common pearl sizes compared to 'real world' objects that may be easier for you to picture:
From short choker pearls to pearls that wrap around and around and around....
Pearl necklaces come in five basic lengths: Choker, Princess, Matinee, Opera and Rope. You may have heard of some of the names but probably have no idea how long each is and, more importantly, how it sits on the neck and below.
Choker - 16 in
The pearl choker is the shortest length circling the neck. While a pearl choker can be worn with almost any neckline and looks great with every style, from casual to formal, make sure it doesn't swallow the neck. Pearl chokers draw attention to the neck but if you have a particularly short or long neck, the attention should be drawn away from the neck to the shoulder line or below. As such, stay away from chokers. For everyone else, a choker is great classic, suitable for every occasion.
Princess - 18 in
A princess strand falls slightly below the neckline and compliments every neck-style from high to low. It's great for office-wear as its length sits just above a blouse neckline and won't be hidden like longer lengths.
Matinee - 24 in
The Matinee strand is most popular for formal occasions and is the perfect length for any little black dress event. It's also the best length for those who are well endowed in the chest region as it highlights the neck and shoulders finishing just above the cleavage.
Opera - 32 in
Falling just below the bustline, the Opera strand is great for eveningwear and compliments every body shape. For less formal occasions, it can be doubled over and worn as a twin choker ? a true day into night piece.
Rope - 46 in
If it's versatility you're after, then a pearl rope is the style for you. By itself the strand generally falls somewhere around the waistline and is perfect for those that like to stand out from the crowd. Its length means you can play with styles from triple, or quadruple rows of a choker, to doubling it as Princess and Opera style together. Or try simply knotting it for a chic look that's perfect with everything from jeans and a tee shirt to an elegant evening gown.
Pearls.com is committed to selling only accurately-graded, true gem-quality pearls. Here's what that means:
While many factors affect pearl quality, two of the most vital are luster and surface quality. Roundness is also a key factor.
- Pearls of AAA quality have mirror-like luster with metallic sheen. They exhibit a 'depth' to their luster (often called 'orient') that makes them seem as if you are looking deep into the pearl.
- Pearls of AA quality have very good luster with a near-metallic/mirror-like effect. Though slightly less reflective and deep than AAA, they are still stunningly beautiful and shiny
- Pearls of A quality have good luster without variation or 'chalky' areas. They are highly reflective and exhibit "depth."
- Pearls below A quality level will have "milky" or "chalky" area and uneven luster.
- AAA quality pearls have virtually no surface blemishes and exhibit a very thick, even coat of nacre. Any blemishes that do exist will be tiny and barely noticeable, if noticeable at all, to the untrained eye.
- AA quality pearls have very slight surface blemishes with a very thick, even coat of nacre. Very small dimples or spots that are difficult to notice without very close examination
- A quality pearls have some surface blemishes, but most of the surface is clean and exhibits thick, even nacre. The blemishes that exist will not create any chips or breaks in the surface, nor be noticeable at conversation-distance.
- Pearls below A quality have blemishes that are noticeable at any distance. ANY break in the "nacre" surface is sub-A quality no matter how nice the remaining surface may be.
- AAA quality pearls will be perfectly round
- AA quality pearls may be ever-so-slightly off-round, but difficult to detect to the untrained eye.
- A quality pearls may be near-round to the trained eye or upon up-close examination, but will typically appear totally round from conversation-distance
- Pearls below A quality are off-round in shape, at a level to be noticeable at 'handshake" distance.
- Note that for pearls presented as button, baroque, fireball, or other 'fancy' shape, roundness is not part of the quality grading: In that case the quality rating would refer to the luster and surface of the pearl, not the roundness.
PLEASE NOTE: Pearls.com does consider pearls below our "A" quality rating to be jewelry-grade pearls, and we do not sell them.
Just need a quick understanding of different pearl types? Here you go:
Akoya - Lustrously Delicate
- Cultured Pearls farmed in Japanese and Chinese ocean water.
- Created by a type of oyster called Pinctada fucata martensii: The "Akoya Pearl" Oyster
- Because this type of oyster is not especially large, typically found in sizes of 2-8mm with 8-10mm being considered very large for Akoya pearls.
- Known for their white to cream coloration. Some cultures, especially Japan, value a very slight pink tinge to the pearl.
- Valued for their mirror-like luster and depth (orient).
- Shop for Akoya Pearl Jewelry
Tahitian - Black and Bold
- Cultured pearls farmed in Polynesian ocean water
- Created by a type of oyster called Pinctada margaritifera: the "black-lip oyster".
- These oysters are larger and can produce pearls as large as 16mm, though 8-10mm is more common
- Colloquially called "black pearls" they range from light gray to very dark gray.
- They exhibit greens, blues and purples, with the most valued examples showing an "oil slick" type spectrum of colors. Tahitian pearls showing a variety of all these hues with that 'oil slick' effect are often called "peacock" color and are among the most prized.
- Shop for Tahitian Pearl Jewelry
South Seas - The Big Kahuna
- Cultured Pearls farmed largely in Australian ocean waters, but some in other south seas locations such as the Philippines and Fiji.
- Created by a type of oyster called Pinctada maxima: the "gold-lip oyster".
- These oysters produce the largest pearls with examples over 20mm being known. More typical is 10-12mm
- They are often white, but also often come in a golden-yellow color most often called "golden pearls". Other colors such as pink are found, but are rarer. Australian Farms tend to produce White Pearls, While Golden Pearls most often come from more easterly locations such as the Philippines.
- Shop for South Seas Pearl Jewelry
Freshwater Pearls - Affordable Elegance
- Cultured mostly in Chinese freshwater rivers and lakes. Some are cultured in Japan and other locations as well.
- Generally created by freshwater mussels.
- Freshwater pearls were cultured in Japan starting in the early 1900's, but production was limited, peaking at 6 tons in 1971, before pollution wiped out most Japanese production. Large-scale freshwater pearl farming started in the 1970's and 80's with current production levels over 1,500 tons annually.
- Freshwater pearl culturing is advancing rapidly. Pearls produced early on were mostly rice-grain shaped. Later a "potato" oval shape was produced, and more recently near-round and round pearls are being produced.
- Freshwater pearls come in a broad variety of colors. Many are bleached to produce white coloration, or dyed to mimic the gray or golden hues of other pearls. As pearls are porous, the dyes are absorbed deep into the pearl and are relatively permanent. Dying of pearls has become widely accepted - when properly disclosed.
- Freshwater pearls have been increasing in size as cultivation techniques improve. Today, they rival Tahitian and South-Sea pearls in size and examples of 12mm and larger are beginning to appear.
- Freshwater pearls, while beautiful, typically do not achieve quite the same luster or roundness as saltwater pearls, and prices are thus more affordable. But as quality increases, prices have been rising too.
- Shop for Freshwater Pearl Jewelry
For more info, visit our full Pearl Guide.
Pearls.com sells only true A-grade or higher pearls.
Pearls.com is committed to selling only accurately-graded top-quality pearls. While many retailers offer "the same" pearls for less, it's not legit.
Click here to learn about our true pearl quality commitment and why not all pearls are created equal.
Or Click Here for a message from our CEO about pearl quality and why we're different