Common Pearl Buying Pitfalls

Common Pearl Buying Pitfalls

Buying pearls can be a wonderful experience and the end result can be amazing, with a treasure that can last a lifetime. However, the rational shopper is always interested to know about the possible risks when buying pearls. This is normal and part of the buying process.

To help you avoid some common pearl buying pitfalls we have outlined some suggestions on what to look out for when buying pearl jewellery:

Common Pearl Buying Pitfalls

Overvalued Pearls

Sometimes people use a technique called selling off the certificate, which is similar to how some real estate agents use a valuation to help sell a property.

Selling off the certificate starts with finding a valuer to price an item of pearl jewellery and there are sometimes some intricacies involved with this. A valuer could find ways to value a pearl higher (such as basing the value on items in a shop in a very high rental area, or with excessive workmanship). If the pearl jewellery is valued at $1,000, a seller might offer it at $500 and say you are saving 50%.

Sometimes, some sellers will perform a whole song and dance routine about how much you are saving based on the valuation. However it might be that the pearl is regularly available at $750 or $500 or less and the valuation was massaged to make the price seem higher than it would be at a normal retail location.

Many valuers will only value their pearls based on the price that was actually paid, especially if it is for insurance purposes. Which gives rise to the old adage, “an item is valued at the price you paid”. In other words, its value is the value to you as a customer. That is, the value you receive from your pearl jewellery is how much it is worth to you.

Overpriced Pearls

The flip side of selling off the certificate is buying overpriced pearls. Often retailers will go through many layers of wholesalers to buy their stock. This can have the effect of pushing up the price unnecessarily. Try to buy from retailers that specialise in pearls and/or reduce their prices by going direct to main suppliers.

Poor Workmanship

This is especially true of pearls bought overseas. While people think they might be saving money, a pearl necklace or bracelet might break quickly because of poor workmanship.

For example the wrong thread has been used, the endings have not been secured properly, the findings are cheap and break easily or the thread is poorly tied and just makes the necklace or bracelet look ugly.

For pendants, earrings and rings, problems can occur if the metal is not glued very well, the butterflies might be loose and fall off easily or the metal might be flimsy and break easily.


This situation is especially true when the pearls are purchased online.

Some seller use a AAAA rating to describe their pearls and from what we can tell this rating level has only appeared since the Internet trade took off. Now, every second piece of jewellery seems to have either a AAAA or a AAA rating. Given that only 5% of pearls under Mikimoto received a AAA rating, it’s hard to believe that so many pearls at such low prices have such a high rating.

Our advice is to have a very good relationship with an online seller. One way to do this is to buy lower priced items first and gradually let the pearl retailer build a trusting relationship with you. For higher priced items, judge them by their actions, not the flowery words that appear on their product descriptions.

Treated Pearls

Some pearls do go through some treatment process.

For example, freshwater pearls can be dyed to look black and seawater pearls can be dyed to cover marks or where the nacre is thinner. This is not always a bad thing with some dyed freshwater pearls and can look quite beautiful.

The important point is to make sure that you are aware that they are freshwater pearls and not freshwater pearls being passed off as seawater pearls.

Protect Yourself

While there are pitfalls, a good knowledge helps to overcome these pitfalls. Hopefully, we have helped you understand more about pearls, the different kinds of pearl jewellery and the common pitfalls.

And of course, if you are going to buy expensive pearl jewellery, we always advice getting advice from a trusted jeweller or valuer before you finalise any purchase.

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