Are you looking to buy the best pearl earrings for yourself or your loved ones, but don’t know where to start? Or have you been searching for ways to dress up your ears? Or do you simply wish to understand this beautiful accessory better as you’re ready to refresh your collection? Whatever the reason, you’ll find all the essential information in the guide below about choosing and wearing this stunner.
Why pearl earrings?
We love all pearl accessories equally, but pearl earrings definitely deserve an award for being the little black dress of jewellery. Why? Because not only do pearls embody class and sophistication, but they are immensely flattering to your complexion. Their tenderness and sensuality are truly special. But before you head into the first jewellery store and buy the first pair of earrings you see, why not make sure your purchase is worth it?
I know what you’re thinking: Don’t they look all the same? Well, you’ll be surprised at how different and wonderful these gems are. Pearl earrings are one of the best jewellery investments. They’re a true staple in your collection and you won’t have to worry that they’ll go out of fashion or that they won’t match all your outfits. Regardless of your age, complexion, style, or size, they simply fit and can add instant glow to your face.
Never compromise on quality
When it comes to buying pearl earrings, you probably have noticed that there’re tons of options to choose from with a wide range of price point. Pearls are so magical because they are the only gems produced by a living organism. Every pearl is unique and forms a special bond with the wearer. Imitations can’t do that. The irresistible charm and the long-lasting beauty of a real pearl of fine quality can never be replaced with low quality pearls either.
So it’s very important that you choose the best possible quality real pearl earrings made with the finest materials in gold, silver or other precious metals so you can wear them for many years to come and never have to worry about losing the shine from the metal or the pearls. Plus you can always count on them to give you that extra radiance and sparkle when you want it.
But wait, aren’t pearls too dressy? Not if you don’t want them to be. Here’s a little secret between you and your accessories. It’s all about finding the right style for you and the occasion.
Know your earring styles
Once you have a budget in mind, where do you start? You know your studs from hoops, but what other types of earrings are there? Well, pearl earrings, as you’ll see below, come in more styles than you’d imagine. Most women have this preconceived notion that pearl earrings are something you’d borrow from your mother’s jewellery box, but they’re so much more than that.
- Pearl stud earrings are a classic, understated option for women who want a versatile accessory that goes with anything, from jeans to little black dresses. Because they are quite small, pearl studs are appropriate for any occasion and dress code.
- Pearl drop earrings have the simplicity of studs, with a twist. Earrings in this style hang a little bit below the earlobe and there’s a pearl that “drops” at the base. Drop-style earrings are appropriate for daytime, but they can also be worn with an elegant outfit for a sophisticated evening event.
- Dangle pearl earrings are similar to drop earrings, but are usually longer. For an understated look, opt for dangle earrings that only feature one delicate pearl. To glam up a simple outfit, choose a pair with several large pearls.
- Chandelier pearl earrings have an elongated drop in the shape of chandeliers that dangles below the ear, which makes them the perfect accessory for formal occasions such as weddings and a gala dinner.
- Climbers/crawlers give classic pearls a fresh modern twist. Earrings in this style “climb” up the ear lobe when worn, but only require one single piercing. Lately, Megan Markle has been spotted wearing crawler earrings and this style has become even more popular.
- Hoop earrings can be round or oval and, depending on their size, you can wear them for casual, corporate, and social events. Small hoop earrings are more appropriate for the office, while large hoop earrings add a playful touch to an elegant outfit.
Each pearl type has a story
Buying pearl earrings isn’t just about finding the right style, but also about understanding the differences between different types of pearls depending on their characteristics and where they are from:
Freshwater pearls – these are the most popular and affordable type of pearls. They have the widest size and shape range out of all pearl types. They come in lustrous white, pink, peach, and lavender. When dyed or treated, they can be blue, chocolate, purple or even black. Their quality can vary significantly from low quality used in inexpensive fashion jewellery to gem grade quality used in high end fine jewellery. Freshwater pearls are almost exclusively cultured in China.
Akoya pearls, a type of saltwater pearls grown mainly in Japan, are perfectly round, white and highly lustrous. They’re rarer than freshwater pearls because Akoya pearl oysters rarely produce more than two pearls per harvest. Akoya pearls are typically small, but have the highest lustre and shine out of all cultured pearls. Most pearls are white or cream, with subtle rose or ivory overtone, which makes them the gem of choice for classic stud earrings.
Tahitian black pearls – a rare, mysterious and exotic variety, Tahitian black pearls are actually cultivated around the islands of French Polynesia. Apart from the fact that they are naturally dark and have an irresistible metallic shimmer, these pearls are also some of the largest and most coveted in the world. Tahitian black pearls are renowned for their vibrant natural colours. Highly prized colours include peacock, pistachio, aubergine, brown and purple.
South Sea pearls are some of the rarest and most valuable pearls on the market today. They come in two colours: white (originating mainly from Australia) and golden (the Philippines, Burma and Indonesia). Unlike Akoya and Tahitian pearls, South Sea pearls have a satiny lustre that is softer. Known for their large sizes, South Sea pearls average at around 13 mm, which makes them the largest varieties in the world.
Pearl shapes – they are more than just round!
Each of the pearl types you read about can come in various shapes – which, believe it or not, are more than just round!
When picturing pearls, most people imagine a perfectly smooth, round surface, but did you know that round pearls are actually the hardest to find? Because pearls are organic gemstones, they naturally occur in a variety of shapes:
- Round – the most iconic, but also the rarest pearl shape out there. Out of all the pearls harvested in a farm, less than 5% are perfectly round.
- Oval , or drop pearls, are symmetrically extended and look like a teardrop. They are one of the most popular options for earrings thanks to the way they flatter all face shapes.
- Baroque pearls have the most irregular shape and you can’t find two pearls exactly the same. They are all asymmetrical, with shapes that can vary from nearly round to curved or lumpy shapes.
- Button pearls, like the name suggests, are similar to buttons in that they appear to be squashed. This shape is more common in freshwater pearls.
- Circle – this is a subset of baroque pearls, with the only difference that they have circles around the diameter of the pearl. This is a unique and distinguishable shape, typically found in freshwater, Tahitian black pearls, and South Sea pearls.
There’s a pearl colour for every personality
Another myth about pearls is that they only come in shades of white and ivory. Pearls actually come in all colours of the rainbow, from white, pastels to dark green and black. You really don’t have to limit yourself to only one option, because with this gem, there’s always more than meets the eye!
- Freshwater pearls are usually white, but you can also find natural pastel shades such as peach, pink or lavender.
- Akoya pearls, the classic pearl type, are available in timeless shades of white, cream and silver.
- Tahitian pearls are darker in colour and, apart from black, you’ll also come across grey, peacock, aubergine, pistachio or purple shades.
- The precious South Sea pearl is either white or golden; the deeper the shade of gold, the more the gem goes up in price.
What’s a good size for a pearl stud earring?
Is bigger always better? Not necessarily. There’s no such thing as right or wrong when choosing the earring size. It’s all up to you and how dainty or statement you want your outfit to be.
You will, however, need some ground rules on how pearls are measured:
The round shape is the easiest to measure, because the size is basically the pearl diameter (with a 0.5-millimetre approximation). In the case of oval or baroque pearls, which are irregular, the size is expressed in width and height, again, with a 0.5-millimetre approximation.
Pearls have a wide size range, from as little as 6mm all the way to 20mm, each conveying a certain statement:
- Small pearls, between 6 and 7 mm, have a more delicate feel, and they are the perfect accessory for women who prefer subtle, dainty earrings. This size is the most versatile, you can count on it for every occasion.
- Pearls between 7 and 8 mm are viewed as iconic and they are the most classic for pearl stud earrings. More noticeable than small pearls, they frame your face with immediate radiance and are the perfect accessory for work or any occasion.
- Pearls between 8-9mm and above are harder to find, which makes them a statement reflecting success and sophistication. Special events such as galas or weddings are the perfect events for pearls of this size, but if you want to incorporate them to an everyday outfit, they look great too.
Shop like a pro – tips for picking the best quality pearls for your earrings
In an age where pearl jewellery is now accessible to all, it’s important to know what quality you are getting for your money. Can you spot the difference between real pearls and fake ones? Here’re some easy-to-use steps you can follow for this. How do you figure out what quality is best for the budget you have? Don’t assume hyper-expensive stores always have the highest quality jewels on offer as they often have to build additional costs into their pricing structure.
The best way to find out what kind of quality you’re dealing with is to inquire, simply and directly. Whether you’re buying online or in stores, ask the seller and look for details on their website about the quality of their pearls and as to where they’re originated and how they have been treated. Check if the jeweller is open and transparent about explaining the differences in the pieces they offer.
Just like the 4Cs, the industry standards created by GIA (Gemological Institute of America) for judging diamond quality, you can use the 7 Pearl Quality Factors pioneered by GIA as a reference to determine a pearl’s quality.
- Surface quality
- Nacre quality
- Matching (for two or more pearls)
Out of these 7 factors, lustre, or shine, is perhaps the most important. When a pearl’s lustre is excellent or very good, the reflections appear light and sharp. An average quality pearl has bright reflections, but they’re hazy around the edges, while a low-quality pearl has dim and diffused reflections.
Apart from lustre, surface quality is another important factor to consider. A high-quality pearl has little to no irregularities (wrinkles, creases, pits) or, if they exist, they should be hardly noticeable. The fewer and smaller the blemishes are, the more valuable the pearl is. If the pearl has chips, gaps, and cracks, it could peel or break in time, which diminishes its value.
To get a more comprehensive view on the different pearl quality grades, you can check out the pearl guide in the GIA education section.
Precious metals and pearls – a match made in heaven
By now, you’ve learned a lot about the pearl and it is, without a doubt, the centrepiece of any pair of earrings, but its beauty and elegance must also be complemented by the finest materials, such as gold and silver.
Why precious metal? Because it is the only metal that is highly attractive and will guarantee durability for a life time. In addition, you certainly want to match the pearl’s elegance and quality with something just as beautiful. Plus, many women actually have trouble wearing earrings made from non-precious metals. Irritation, itchiness, swelling, even infection, these are all problems that you can avoid by wearing pearl earrings with gold and silver.
Here are your options:
Sterling silver or 925 silver (92.5% pure silver) – not only is this an incredibly durable precious metal for jewellery, but it’s also very affordable. The only downside you might have with plain sterling silver is that it tends to tarnish over time, and you’ll have to polish it more often to return it to the shiny surface. So If you don’t want to do that, opt for sterling silver with rhodium finish. Rhodium is part of the Platinum group of precious metals. Thanks to its durability, it is often used with sterling silver to ensure the piece is highly lustrous and tarnish-free. Rhodium plated sterling silver earrings are the best type of sterling silver jewellery to buy because it will never tarnish and remain shiny for a very long time.
Vermeil gold (a thick layer of gold plated on sterling silver) – A fantastic option without the pure gold price tag. The gold portion must be 10 karats or above for a piece to be considered vermeil in the U.S., but most high-quality pieces are 14, 18 or 24 karats depending on the thickness of the jewellery.
18ct yellow gold (75% pure gold) – one of the most popular precious metals if you want to go for a classic, vintage look. Pearls combined with 18ct yellow gold give off a romantic and timeless vibe. Gold is the most valuable and sought-after precious metal for thousands of years. 18ct gold is very durable, with a very high wearabilty factor. It has that wonderful bright yellow colour and lustre which is so highly attractive and this is why it’s often used in high end jewellery.
18ct white gold (75% pure gold) – if you don’t like yellow gold, but don’t have the budget for platinum, 18ct white gold is an excellent alternative.
Platinum – this is the ultimate choice that will satisfy your strictest requirements. Platinum is one of the most precious metals in existence, having an elegant, durable silver finish that is harder than gold. It is also much rarer than gold, so the price is much higher compared to gold jewellery.
All the precious metals above are safe for people with allergies, so you can wear them without worrying about getting a skin reaction.
Tips for picking the perfect pearl earrings for your face shape
After analysing all the “technical” bits about pearls, such as style, size, and colour, you’re probably wondering how you can choose the right pair for your face shape.
Whether your face is round or square shaped, the pair of pearl earrings you choose should emphasise your features and complete your natural beauty. Here are some general tips to help you find the perfect pearl earring for your face shape:
Distinguishing features: Circular face, round chin line, the face is widest at the cheekbones.
Celebrities with a round face: Emma Stone, Beyoncé, Mila Kunis
Best style for you: Choose dangle or drop pearl earrings to elongate your face and make it look slimmer. Avoid large pearl studs or hoops, because they will make your face look rounder.
Distinguishing features: You have a well-rounded jawline and the forehead is slightly wider than the chin.
Celebrities with an oval face: Jessica Alba, Charlize Theron, Rihanna
Best style for you: You can wear any style of pearl earrings you like, but your natural symmetry is best emphasised by classic pearl studs.
Distinguishing features: Your jawline and forehead are similar in width, you have a straight or square chin.
Celebrities with a square face: Olivia Wilde, Demi Moore, Sandra Bullock
Best style for you: Choose oval pearls and hoop pearl earrings to soften your face contour.
Distinguishing features: Pointed chin, your forehead is wider than your jawline.
Celebrities with a diamond face: Reese Witherspoon, Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson
Best style for you: Balance the angles around your chin by wearing dangling or chandelier pearl earrings.
Distinguishing features: Your face is narrow, but long.
Celebrities with a long and narrow face: Liv Tyler, Sarah Jessica Parker
Best style for you: Round earrings are the best for this face shape, so you can’t go wrong with pearls. You can wear all types of pearl earrings, especially studs, because they make your face look fuller.
Distinguishing features: Your face is widest at the forehead and you have a narrow, pointed chin.
Celebrities with a triangle face: Megan Fox, Victoria Beckham, Jennifer Aniston
Best style for you: Go for pearl earrings that create the illusion of width at the jawline, such as chandelier or teardrop.
Dress to impress: how to choose the right pearl earrings for every occasion
Pearl earrings are a classic, timeless and versatile accessory that can be worn on a daily basis or for special events. Whatever the occasion, they will always highlight your beauty and wrap you in an aura of charm and effortless style. Try not to think so much about rules. Instead focus on what vibe you want to send when wearing earrings.
- For every day: possibilities are endless! Choose small, dainty pearl studs for an understated look, or a pair of large chandelier earrings to make a statement. Pearl earrings can instantly boost a simple everyday outfit and wrap you in an aura of elegance.
- For the office: if there’s an accessory for the confident she-boss, Tahitian pearl earrings are the one. Incredibly supple, sophisticated and appropriate for meeting clients, they light up your face with that beautiful glow. And did we mention that they go incredibly well with smart and casual smart outfits?
- For an evening out: let your inner goddess glow by matching your little black dress with a stunning pair of pearl drop earrings. Whether you choose the classic freshwater pearls or the golden South Sea pearls, you will turn heads.
- For weddings: pearls are the perfect wedding accessory, no matter if you’re the bride, the bridesmaid, or the guest. Pearls pair perfectly with large princess gowns, champagne wedding dresses, pink mermaid dresses and everything in between. Go for pearl and diamond earrings with a matching necklace for a contemporary and sumptuous bridal look.
So, if you’re wondering what to choose next time you reach out to your favourite earrings, think of pearls. Whether you feel flirty, sophisticated, or classy and elegant, the pearl is your best friend. It simply represents a woman’s best qualities: confidence, radiance, strength, grace and elegance. Far from being yet another accessory in your jewellery box, pearl earrings can be a unique personal statement and a celebration of femininity.