The famous phrase "Diamonds are a girl's best friend" may be true, but there's always a special place in women's heart for pearls - the subtle and modest adornments of femininity. Pearls have been valued and used for jewelry for centuries. Pearls were quite rare before the era of cultured pearls, so they were available for noble people only, but these days they are available for everyone. What should you know before buying pearl necklace or other pearl jewelry?

Buying jewelry might be a hard task if you are not familiar with classification of pearls and requirements applied for them. First of all, take a look at the label, it should provide all the necessary information (type, grade, shape, size etc.). You can choose between natural, cultured and glass pearls. Natural pearls are the most valuable; therefore they are the most expensive. Cultured gems are less valuable but they look just like natural pearls for untrained eye. Glass pearls are imitation used for cheap jewelry. If you choose glass pearls, you should know that the layer of dye is usually very thin and the more you wear/touch the imitation the sooner the luster fades and the dye crumbles.

Natural pearls are pretty rare and jewelry with natural pearls is even rarer. Pearls found on jewelry shop are most likely cultured ones. There are several types of cultured pearls: Akoya, Freshwater pearls, Black Tahitian, White and Gold South Sea pearls. Akoya pearls are classic beauties - they are round, they have reflective luster and they come in traditional silvery-blue, crème and rosy colors. This type is the most treasured and the most popular. Freshwater pearls come in soft pastels as well as in incredible hues. Tahitian pearls offer variety of colors as well but they are mostly known for their bold shapes. White or Golden South Sea pearls are valued for great size as they are much bigger than other cultured pearls. This type is also known for color palette: White and Golden South Sea pearls catch an eye with subtle silver and golden shades.

Unfortunately there's no grading system for all types of pearls, but many vendors have accepted A-AAA grading structure. The "AAA" valuation indicates gems with the best quality and properties. "AA" grade pearls have some comparatively small flaws like fine wrinkles on a surface. "A" level marks the lowest quality pearls that are still suitable for jewelry. These may have spots and even cracks on the surface; the luster is usually poor and there are other flaws. "A+" and "AA+" indicates gems that have better quality than average of their league.

Hanadama pearls are the best quality Akoya pearls. Reflective properties of these gems are much sharper than other pearls have. Hanadama pearls are known for this mirror-like reflection ability and silver-rose color.

Pearls that are shaped differently than standard shapes are called Baroque pearls. They are irregular but they are suitable for jewelry as well.

Why should you remember these facts when looking for jewelry? Different types of cultured pearls are valued differently; the price and the look of pearls greatly differ because of that. Akoya pearls are the most expensive of all cultured pearls although some of the white or golden South sea pearls are evaluated greatly because of huge diameter. Freshwater pearls are very popular because their price is much more affordable than other cultured pearls. Beware of jewelry shop that offers Akoya pearl strand as a bonus to Freshwater pearl strand: deals like this are too good to be true. Teardrop, rice and other no round shaped pearls are usually cheaper than classic round gems because they only become popular not so long time ago. Baroque pearls work for artistic and unique look, but they are not as popular as standard pearls therefore they are less pricy.

If jewelry shop uses A-AAA grading system, check the valuation of jewelry on a label and take a look at the pearls. If there are roughness on more that 30% of single pearl surface, the gem can't even be called "A" class. AAA level pearls have fine inner luster; if gems are marked AA+ and AAA, you should see your reflection and even some background reflection in them. There is no grading like "AAAA" or "AAA+", if gems are marked this way, it's a crystal clear scam. Rough surface of Baroque pearls may be not marked as flaws as Baroque pearls are unique. Hanadama pearls can not be rated in A-AAA grading system.

When looking for a strand or bracelet, take a look at clasps and knots on strand. Good quality pearl strand should have knots between each of gems. This serves for preventing a loss if the strand breaks; but more importantly, it prevents pearls from rubbing at each other. However, if knots are not there it doesn't mean that a strand is low of quality. Many vendors simply string the pearls without knotting as pearls are relatively cheap gemstones, therefore the buyers don't require much precision. The clasps should be strong and it shouldn't be made of cheap metals.