Pearl Earrings: The Basics & Where to Buy Them

Black Pearl Earrings

Simply classic for day and elegant for night, beautiful pearl earrings are the perfect accessory. They look appropriate in most settings, whether adorning a bride walking down the aisle or a woman browsing at the mall.

Pearls Basics

Pearls form when an irritant, often a grain of sand, becomes stuck in the mantle tissue of an oyster or mussel. In the case of cultured pearls, a technician or pearl farmer manually inserts the irritant. To lessen the irritation, the oyster covers the foreign body with nacre, the same substance it uses to coat the inside of its shell. During the next two to three years on average, the oyster applies many coats of nacre, which builds up into a nice-sized pearl.

Although perfectly round pearls are the best known, there are a variety of shapes that can be used to create pearl earrings. Other popular shapes include oval, near-round, teardrop, and ringed, which have grooved marks around them. Button pearls are slightly flat, usually oval or circular in shape, and the most common pearl used to make earrings.

When most people think of pearl earrings, they envision beautiful white, round pearls. Pearls come in all sorts of colors, however, and can often be cream, pink, yellow, black, blue, green, brown, lavender, orange, peach, or gray.

Buying Pearls

Pearl earrings are standard stock at most jewelry stores, so you will have plenty of options to browse. Even if you plan to buy online, visit at least one or two jewelry stores to get a sense for what catches your eye. Fine jewelry never looks as stunning in an online photo as it does in real life. You may discover that your favorite pearl earrings have diamond or emerald accents or that you like simple teardrop earrings with no embellishments.

Some popular places to buy pearl earrings include the following:

  • Zales jewelry stores carry pearls for any taste and budget. They have stud earrings for less than $40, pearl and diamond drop earring for less than $170, and a Tahitian cultured pearl and diamond set for around $1,000.
  • Many people daydream about getting that iconic little blue box from Tiffany & Co. When there are pearls inside, there's no limit to the quality and sophistication of the pieces. Tiffany offers an affordable earring set of cultured freshwater pearls for $150. Browse carefully, however, or you may find yourself staring at a pair of pearl and diamond ear clips that sell for $6,500, a budget-breaker for many people.
  • The Pure Kids section of features freshwater studs in pink, white, and lavender, each for only $42.
  • offers a wide range of pearls for any budget, starting at $45 for small Akoya studs. Other styles include black Akoya studs for $50 and freshwater chocolate studs from $45.
  • Pearl Paradise carries a wide selection of fine pearl jewelry for the budget-conscious and compares their prices to the average retailer. In many cases, you can purchase pearl earrings for as much as 70 percent off other stores' prices.

Caring for Pearl Earrings

Keep pearl earrings in a small fabric pouch to protect them from the prongs and clasps of other jewelry that might scratch them. These pouches often come with the pearls when they are purchased or they can be found at jewelry stores or the jewelry department in department stores. They can also be wrapped in a bit of fabric.

Pearl earrings are a great addition to almost any wardrobe, and when cared for properly, they also make a nice family heirloom that will last for generations.

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Pearl Earrings: The Basics & Where to Buy Them