Pearls of Wisdom: What Every Woman Should Know About Buying the Classic Strands

While diamonds may hold the title of a girl’s best friend, pearls are definitely a close pal. With Mother’s Day and graduation season fast approaching, Dru Smyth, owner of Jewels of Lake Forest, has some tips on buying pearls.


“Shopping for pearls is almost as complicated as shopping for diamonds,” says Smyth, who adds that the first step to buying pearls is choosing a jeweler you trust. “Because there are so many production methods used in creating pearls, you want to make sure that the pearls you’re purchasing are accurately described.”

When Smyth talks production methods, she’s referring to cultured pearls, which are real pearls, grown inside oysters just like natural pearls. The difference is that a pearl farmer inserts a “nucleus” into the oyster, which takes the element of chance out of making a pearl.

This variety in production methods allows for a range of price points—making pearls more accessible than ever before. “When people think of pearls, they often think of the traditional,” Smyth says. “They’re surprised when they see all the colors and variation in shapes. Long strands are also very popular right now because of the different ways you can twist or layer them,” she adds.

Smyth explains that pearls are classified by origin (for example, Tahitian or South Sea) and then graded by luster, surface, shape, size, color, and matching factors:

  • Luster, perhaps the most important factor in evaluating the quality of a pearl, separates the inferior from the superior
  • Surface refers to any imperfections on the pearl (or lack thereof)
  • Shape speaks to the form of the pearl, from perfectly round to free form
  • Size is the diameter measured in millimeters
  • Color can range from rose to black—rose or silver/white pearls typically look best on fair skins, while gold-toned pearls tend to look better on darker skin tones
  • Matching refers to the combination of pearls strung together

“It really comes down to what you like,” says Smyth. “There’s something for everyone.”

Jewels of Lake Forest
Lake Forest

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