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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.