Pearl engagement rings have been around for a long time. Do you possibly have one in your future? They weren’t very popular for the last half of the 20th century, but as we progress into the 21st century, more women are able to discover all of the gorgeous alternatives available (like pearl engagement rings!) by either seeing them on celebs on the red carpet or by just doing some browsing on the internet. If you haven’t seen any of the gorgeous pearl rings available lately, you owe it to yourself to do some serious pearl ring shopping!
Pearl Engagement Rings – Where Do You Start?
Before you decide to get a pearl engagement ring, you should know a few things about pearls in general. There are many different considerations that need to be taken into account, so definitely do your research before you buy a pearl engagement ring, or any pearl jewelry such as pearl strands or earrings, for that matter.
There are two very important distinctions for pearls. These two distinctions are determined by:
- Where the pearl comes from
- How it is formed
First, where pearls come from determines whether it is a saltwater pearl or a freshwater pearl. Saltwater pearls come from oysters or mussels found in oceans, bays, and gulfs. Freshwater pearls are found in mollusks that live in fresh water, such as rivers, lakes, and ponds. Saltwater pearls are generally higher quality and therefore more expensive than freshwater pearls. Freshwater pearls tend to be more irregularly shaped than saltwater pearls, so the gorgeous, smooth round pearls you see in pearl strands, earrings and rings are probably saltwater pearls.
The second distinction for pearls is how they are formed. You can get a natural or cultured pearl for your engagement ring. A natural pearl engagement ring will be extremely pricey since natural pearls are hard to come by. Many of the natural pearl beds that once provided thousands of pearls annually have been harvested out, and so the remaining ones cannot produce as many as are demanded each year. If you know anything about supply and demand and what that does to prices, you can see why the prices of natural pearls are so high. Cultured pearls provide an excellent alternative. They are genuine pearls, grown in an oyster, mussel or mollusk. They are started by inserting a small ‘seed’ of pearl material into an oyster and letting nature take its course. The pearls grown in this manner are gorgeous and result in the same beautiful organic gems we all know and love. The time to grow them is greatly reduced from the time it takes to grow a natural pearl because of the seeded nucleus. It will typically take just 3 years for 1mm of nacre to form.
So, you can have one of these four types of pearl: Saltwater natural pearl, saltwater cultured pearl, freshwater natural pearl, or freshwater cultured pearl. As discussed above, natural pearls are extremely expensive. Most pearl jewelry available in jewelry stores are cultured pearls at this time, so unless you are prepared to spend thousands of dollars for your pearl engagement ring from a jeweler who specializes in natural pearls, you will probably get a cultured pearl engagement ring.
Types of Pearls
There are many types of pearls within the two above classifications. Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls, South Sea pearls, black pearls, and Keshi pearls are all saltwater pearls. Biwa pearls from Japan, Mabe pearls, Blister pearls, and Seed pearls are all freshwater pearls. A good quality pearl engagement ring will probably be an Akoya pearl engagement ring or a South Sea or Tahitian pearl engagement ring. If you like black pearl engagement rings, you should know that the only natural black pearl is a Tahitian pearl. Most of these are not even round in shape. If you find a ring that has a black pearl in it, it is probably a dyed black pearl because not only are real black pearls very rare; they are also extremely expensive – thousands of dollars expensive.
How Pearl Engagement Rings are Judged
Pearls are judged on several criteria, including size and shape, color, luster, nacre thickness, and surface quality. Round pearls are the most valuable since they rarely form in completely round shapes. Luster or the amount and clarity of reflection that can be seen in the pearl is very important. A pearl with high luster will have clear, sharp reflections showing on its surface. The pearl’s color should be even with no mottling. A light colored pearl should have a slight pink tint showing, and a slightly green tint is evident on a good quality grey or black pearl. Nacre or the outer coating of a pearl should be at least 1mm thick. The thicker, the better. Pearls with high luster usually have a thick nacre, and will last longer.
Common treatments for pearls are soaking in silver nitrate to turn them black. This is usually not a good thing to do, however, because it weakens the pearl. Sometimes low-grade Akoya pearls and some freshwater pearls are bleached in order to make their color look more even. Buffing is done to smooth pearls, and coatings like beeswax are sometimes used. In general, these treatments are not good for pearls and will shorten their lifespan. Dyed pearls can usually be spotted by looking at their holes – a color change inside the hole indicates that the pearl has been dyed. The peacock-like iridescence on a pearl usually means it has been dyed. Dyed pearls can fade over time, so beware of these.
Caring for a Pearl Engagement Ring
Pearl engagement rings should be cared for by gently cleaning them with a soft cloth after every wearing. It is not a good idea to wear a pearl engagement ring constantly. They should be removed before doing housework, swimming or exercising. Chemicals, detergent, perfume, cosmetics, and even perspiration can affect the surface of a pearl adversely. They should be stored in a soft cloth pouch or between layers of acid-free tissue paper. Plastic bags can cause condensation on the pearl, which is not good. Never let pearl jewelry rub against other jewelry in your jewelry box, as they can be scratched easily. If you find an antique pearl engagement ring, always ask to have it examined and appraised before buying it so you can determine if it is still in good shape.
Pearl engagement rings, as well as diamond and pearl engagement rings, are absolutely stunning. They are elegant and versatile, but they must be cared for in order to ensure that they last a lifetime and beyond. If you decide to get one, do purchase the best pearl ring you can afford, after doing your due diligence and researching the best places to get one of these beauties. Remember, always shop with reputable jewelry shops, either in person or online.