Pearls come in every size and color imaginable and accessorize jeans as often as evening gowns.
If you're looking to get in on the trend, take some advice from Peter Cashman, founder of Moon River Pearls. "Updating your wardrobe with pearls doesn't have to cost a fortune, and you don't need to settle for fakes when real cultured pearls are very affordable," he says.
According to Cashman, there is no international grading system for pearls, but there are vast differences in quality. Here are his suggestions for finding quality pearls:
Size counts. Pearls are measured in millimeters. A larger pearl takes longer to form, and the chances of finding a perfectly round, large pearl are slim. After the 7.5-8.0 mm mark, prices rise dramatically. A 6.5 mm strand is lovely and affordable.
Look at luster and surface. Pearls should have a high luster, or surface sheen, meaning they reflect light well. They should also be free from large blemishes.
Check for roundness. To check that pearls are uniformly round, roll the strand on a table. Matched pearls will roll smoothly.
Thickness is important. Most pearls sold today are cultured pearls, and the best ones are formed in oysters or mussels that have been implanted with small, mother-of-pearl beads and left in the water for many years. This results in a durable pearl with solid nacre, the organic coating that makes up the pearl. Avoid pearls that have been implanted with large plastic or glass beads; they will flake and peel easily. Ask about thickness, as it is difficult to determine by looking.
Pay attention to uniformity. Make sure that pearls in a piece of jewelry are the same size, the same color and have a uniform luster.
Choose color carefully. Pearls look best if they flatter the skin tone of the wearer.
When in doubt about what to buy, keep in mind that classic pearls are always in style. Women today are wearing pearl strands twisted with necklaces made of gold, silver, or other gemstones. Colored pearls are currently in fashion, as are irregularly shaped pearls. When in doubt, classic pearls are always in style.
Cashman said that no woman should be without a simple, elegant strand of pearls and pearl stud earrings to accessorize her wardrobe. He has yet to hear of a woman who wasn't thrilled to receive a gift of classic pearls.