How Much Do Real Pearl Earrings Cost?
Charming, elegant, and sophisticated, it’s no surprise that pearl earrings have served as a status symbol for centuries. During the Renaissance, it was hard to find two quality pearls of matching color and luster, so the cost of real pearl earrings was considerably high. For a while, only the nobles and wealthy could afford pearls.
While jewelry-grade natural pearls are still rare, the methods for procuring pearls have improved significantly since the 16th century. Pearl earrings remain timeless luxury accessories, and they’re a big jewelry trend right now, but the average cost of pearl earrings has decreased. So, how much does a pair of pearl earrings cost? How much should a good pair of pearl earrings cost?
Let’s look into the different pearl earring cost factors, types of pearls, and pearl earring styles. Here’s our guide on finding out how much are pearl earrings by the different price factors.
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Cost Factors of Pearl Earrings
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If you want to know how to buy pearl earrings like a jeweler, it’s important to know what factors to look for in a good pearl. Pearls are graded differently than other gemstones, but like diamonds, pearl grades have an effect on the overall cost of real pearl earrings. Here are the pearl quality factors for pearl grading.
The ideal shape for a pearl is a symmetrical round shape. This is generally the rarest pearl shape and the most expensive. That being said, well-formed pearls of other shapes are also highly sought-after. After perfectly round pearls, the next best shapes for pearls are perfectly symmetrical semi-baroque shapes (such as tear-drops and ovals).
The third best pearl shapes in terms of value are circled baroque pearls. The last pearl shape category for real pearls is free-form baroque pearls, which are totally asymmetrical. Ultimately, no matter what the shape is, the pearl should ideally be well-formed.
The larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. Large, perfectly round pearls are rare and highly valued. Teardrop-shaped pearls are often used in pendants, and buying large pearls in shapes other than perfectly round is a more cost-effective way to buy larger pearls in your jewelry. That being said, a large, well-formed oval pearl is often going to cost more than a small round pearl.
Pearls can range in size from tiny seed pearls at 1mm to giant South Sea pearls at 20mm. 6 - 7.5mm is the most common size for cultured pearls, and anything above this pearl size ranch will have a rapid price increase, especially with each half-millimeter from 7.5mm and above. The largest pearl ever found is a 26.95mm baroque south sea pearl.
Pearls come in every color of the rainbow. Natural and cultured pearls come in warm hues—like yellow, orange, and pink—as well as cool hues—like violet, blue, and green. Pearls can have different tones ranging from light to dark.
Pearl color can have three parts:
- Bodycolor: The pearl’s main color overall.
- Overtone: One or several translucent colors that are layered over the body color.
- Orient: An iridescent shimmer of rainbow colors either on or just below the surface of a pearl.
All pearls have a body color, but only some pearls have overtone colors, orient colors, or both. How pearls get their color depends on the mollusk’s shell, pigments in the mollusk’s nacre, and environmental factors of the mollusk’s origins.
Few real pearls are flawless, but pearls with a smooth surface are the most desirable. Pearls can have flaws such as scratch-like abrasions, flattened sections, or creases/ridges. How much do real pearl earrings cost with flaws? These pearls can still be quite valuable, but the price will depend on the severity of the flaws.
If surface characteristics are numerous or severe, they can affect the durability of the pearl and severely depress its value. Surface characteristics have less effect on the pearl’s beauty and value if they are few in number, or if they are minor enough to be hidden by a drill hole or mounting.
Pearls with small inclusions are more affordable, and the inclusions may not be too noticeable. Pearls with uneven surfaces that affect the shape, or have multiple noticeable inclusions are the least valuable and are often the cheapest.
Among all other attributes, luster is the most important differentiator of pearl quality, according to jewelers. A pearl’s luster is what makes it look so glamorous.
Luster refers to the way that light reflects off the pearl. A pearl’s luster can be graded according to the following:
- Sharp and highly reflective
- Soft and blurry
- Dull and minimally reflective
The sharper and more reflective the pearl’s luster, the more valuable it is.
What is pearl’s nacre? Nacre is the smooth surface of a pearl that forms when an irritant enters an oyster. It is the same process that produces mother of pearl.
The nacre quality of a pearl will have an effect on how much pearl earrings cost. Luster and nacre are closely linked qualities. If you can see the nucleus under the nacre, or if the pearl looks dull and chalky, dull, the nacre is most likely thin. A pearl with a thin nacre is less durable and less valuable.
Combination of Qualities
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So, how much does a pair of pearl earrings cost? The answer is determined by a combination of the luster, color, size, lack of surface flaw, and symmetry that are appropriate for the type of pearl under consideration. This varies depending on if it’s a natural pearl or cultured, and where the pearl’s origins are/what type of pearl it is.
Additionally, the quality of the overall elements in the jewelry (craftsmanship, purity of gold, real sterling silver, design elements, designer or brand, etc) plays a huge role in the price of pearl jewelry. The average cost of pearl earrings will also depend on if the pearls match each other closely or not.
Types of Pearls
The answer to “how much are pearl earrings?” will not only depend on the pearl’s grade but what type of pearl it is. Different types of pearls have different origins and appearances, which can play a role in their value. Here are the main types of pearls and their estimated average earring prices:
Japanese Akoya pearls
Cultured Japanese Akoya pearls are one of the most popular types of pearls in the world. They are often called the “classic white pearl.” The most valuable Akoya pearls can have a perfectly round shape, a reflective luster, and close-to-perfect matching in earrings and necklaces.
Ranging from 6–9mm in size, Akoya pearls tend to be smaller than many other cultured pearl varieties. The average price of Akoya pearl earrings ranges from $150–$1,260, but considerably high-quality Akoya pearl earrings can cost more than $10,000.
South Sea Pearls
The largest and generally the most valuable types of pearls, South Sea pearls are known as the "Queen of Cultured Pearls'' or the “Rolls Royce of Pearls.” Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Myanmar supplied the pearls to jewelry in this variety.
South Sea pearl colors can range from white to gold. The size of a South Sea pearl ranges from 8 mm–16 mm and up. The average price of South Sea pearl earrings ranges from $220–$5,200, but they can cost upwards of $100,000 if the pearls are exceptionally large or perfect.
Rare and unique, Tahitian pearls (also called black pearls or black Tahitian pearls) come from the French Polynesian islands, and are famous for their large sizes and wide array of colors, from gray to green and even dark purple.
Tahitian pearls don’t need color treatments to achieve their deep iridescence, so Tahitian pearls are naturally colored. Tahitian pearls are often smaller than South Sea pearls, but with average sizes ranging from 8 mm–14 mm, they can grow quite large. The average price of Tahitian pearl earrings can range from $250—$3,000, although some fetch for much higher prices.
Cultured Freshwater pearls are the most popular budget-friendly pearl. Round freshwater pearls look nearly identical to Akoya pearls but are far less expensive. They come from China and can be found in many colors.
Freshwater pearl colors include white, pink, peach, purple, and black hues. The size of freshwater pearls ranges from 6 mm–10 mm and up. The typical price of freshwater pearl earrings ranges from $55–$800, but flawless or unique freshwater pearls can cost a lot more.
Pearl Earring Styles
The average cost of pearl earrings not only depends on the pearl’s grades and type of pearl, but the earring design and material as well.
Here are some of the different styles of real pearl earrings for sale:
- Pearl Stud Earrings
- Pearl Hoop Earrings
- Pearl Dangle Earrings
- Pearl Drop Earrings
If a pearl earring has other gemstones, such as diamond pearl earrings, obviously the price is going to increase, depending on the cut, color, clarity, and total carat weight of the diamonds.
Platinum pearl earrings are the most expensive metal type, followed by gold (18K pearl earrings are the most expensive, followed by 14K, then 10K) then sterling silver pearl earrings. Non-precious metal pearl earrings are cheap but aren’t as desirable.
Pearl Earring Buying Tips
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Here are some final tips in our pearl jewelry buying guide to help you figure out the best pearl earrings to buy for your budget.
- Choose a reputable seller that responds to questions with complete transparency.
- Ask questions before buying pearl jewelry to make sure you’re getting the real deal, and that the seller is knowledgeable about pearls, fine jewelry, gold, and silver.
- Check for matching pearls You want to make sure that the two pearls in your earrings match each other. Feel free to ask the seller for more pictures of the earrings to determine if the pearls have good matching.
- Choose precious metals in your pearl earrings. Platinum pearl jewelry, Gold pearl jewelry and sterling silver pearl jewelry are easier to repair and keep your pearls secured.
- Look for unique designs. This is a good way to choose pearl earrings that suit your personality and stands out from lesser-quality jewelry.
Here at ItsHot, we take care to provide the latest pearl jewelry styles. We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee return policy and a 1-year warranty. We sell authentic gold, silver, and platinum jewelry with real diamonds and pearls. If you have any questions about pearl jewelry or custom jewelry, contact us.
Founder of ItsHot.com
Denis Stepansky is a founder of ItsHot, a diamond jewelry and watches store based in NYC. He has been in the jewelry business for about 20 years and owns such high-end jewelry brands as Luccello and Luxurman. As a jewelry expert, he has citations on well-known magazines and newspapers like Insider and Daily Mail.
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