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Pearl Sizes

Pearl Size

What Pearl Size is Good for Her?

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Hope Diamond but did you know there is an equally famous pearl? The Hope Pearl is not round but an irregular pear shape with uncommon coloring from white to dark bronze. It’s one of the largest saltwater baroque pearls in existence.

Pearl shapes and sizes depend upon the scale of the mollusk and its place of birth. The most embraced pearl size is 7-8mm. This diameter is typical for Akoya and Freshwater pearls.

The word pearl brings to mind a perfect round little sphere, but they’re not. Some are round like a sphere, some are symmetrical like an oval, and some are irregular, referred to as baroque.

A pearl’s shape and size factor influences its value. Perfectly round pearls are rare and carry the most value. Symmetrical are generally more valuable than baroque but not always, as demonstrated by the Hope Pearl.

With all of the options available today, consumers are faced with a staggering number of questions before they can make an educated purchase. Pearl lovers are no different and among the number one question they face would be – What size of pearl is right? After all, the size and color of the pearl are two factors that immediately draws attention and may increase the cost of the jewelry drastically.

While there’s no right or wrong answer as to which size of pearl is right, we believe that an informed consumer is a happy customer. We’ve put together a cheat sheet for you to use while you shop.

Akoya Pearls

Akoya pearls range from 2-9mm. Since they begin life as tiny round beads in the mollusk, they’re almost always spherical. Baroque Akoya pearls are extremely rare and valuable. Akoya Pearls are the most sought after due to the perfectly rounded shape and its white, shiny reflective luster. These lovely pearls are cultured in Japan, China and Vietnam and are small as they grow in a small size oyster. They can grow up to about 9mm or just over a third of an inch in size. They range in size from 2.0-3.0 mm up to 9.0-9.5 mm. With the most popular sizes around 7mm or 8mm.

Akoya Pearl Sizes

Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are quickly becoming the new substitutes for cultured pearls such as Akoyas, Tahitians, and South Sea pearls for their wide range of sizes, unique shapes and beautiful colors. Freshwater pearls range in size from 2.0-3.0mm up to 11.0-12.0mm, with new experimental Freshwater pearls can grow up to about 11 or 12mm in size. While they can occasionally grow to almost half an inch in diameter, most freshwater pearls sold are between about a quarter of an inch and a third of an inch in size. Very tiny pearls are also seen. Freshwater pearls range from 2-12mm, although the larger sizes are rare. A piece of mantle tissue initiates growth so these pearls emerge in a variety of shapes.

Freshwater Pearl Sizes

Tahitian Pearls

Tahitian pearls are the most widely known naturally black cultured pearls in the world. The gorgeous Tahitian pearls are usually between 8mm and 16mm in size, somewhat larger than the classic small white pearls but don’t grow quite as large as South Sea pearls. Average Tahitian pearls range between 9.0-10mm to 12.0-13.0mm and any size above 15.0mm are considered rare and very expensive. Tahitian pearls range from 8-16mm. Like Akoya, Tahitian pearls start out from a small round bead. Planted in the hefty black lipped oyster means this pearl emerges as round but considerably larger than an Akoya.

Tahitian Pearl Sizes

South Sea Pearls

South Sea Pearls are the largest and most luxurious pearls of all cultured pearl types and can be found in White or Gold. South Sea pearls grow in very large mollusks and can grow anywhere between 9.0mm (picture over a third of an inch) to a whopping 20mm (over three quarters of an inch). The average sizes for South Sea pearls range between 9.0-10.0mm through 14.0-15.0mm, with sizes above 15.0mm considered very rare and expensive. South Sea pearls originate in the Pinctada maxima oyster and range from 9mm to an astounding 20mm. These enormous oysters take a not so tiny round bead and turn it into a colossal round pearl.

Golden South Sea Pearl Sizes Golden South Sea Pearl Sizes

Facts About Pearl Sizes

An average pearl will take two to three years to develop, with larger pearls can take up to 5 years to fully develop. With time comes the difficulty for the pearl to develop into a symmetrical gem. As a result, very large, round or near round pearls are extremely rare and can command a high price. High quality pearl necklaces composed of perfectly round pearls are very valuable.

International standards for sizing strands of pearls provide for a 0.5mm tolerance between Akoya pearls. In other words, where a strand has been advertised as 6.5mm, the actual finished size will be between 6.0mm and 6.5mm. Freshwater pearl standards provide for a 1.0mm tolerance so an 8.0mm necklace would range in size from 7.0mm to 8.0mm. South Sea Pearls and Black Tahitian Pearls are a little more exacting in that each pearl should be measured to the 0.1mm. For example, a Tahitian pearl strand could be sized from 8.3mm to 10.8mm.

Let’s use a necklace as an example to better understand the standards set: If strung correctly, a necklace, say 6.5mm, will be strung in the center of the strand while the slightly smaller ones, 6.0mm, will be strung closest to the ends or clasp. Even though the size is slightly graduated from the middle to the ends, it is not considered a graduated necklace since it is within the tolerances of a uniform strand. This slight variation in pearl size is not normally noticeable to the untrained eye.


Achieving the look

If you’re new to buying pearl jewelry or is buying it as a gift and do not have the time to research, keep in mind that the most popular, classic and versatile pearl necklaces are in the 7.0-8.0mm size range. You can’t go wrong!

The 7.0-8.0mm size is age-appropriate for young ladies from 16 to women in their 50’s. This pearl size is considered perfect for a day at the office or a night on the town.

  • Young and very slender ladies who like a dainty look would find the smaller sized 6.0-6.5mm pearls appropriate.
  • More mature ladies wanting a sophisticated look would prefer slightly larger pearls.
  • When in doubt, most women would prefer the pearls a size larger than a size smaller.
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