BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details
Expert Shopper Fashion Accessories

Best pearl necklace

Which pearl necklaces are best?

For thousands of years, pearls have been treasured for their beautiful, luminescent quality and have come to be considered synonymous with sophistication and grace. A pearl brooch, bracelet or set of earrings lend a touch of elegance, but the most classic piece of jewelery is the pearl necklace. 

There are diverse types of pearl necklaces that have various degrees of quality and fall into different price ranges. That’s what makes shopping for the best pearl necklace a daunting task. A pearl necklace like the Pearl Source’s Japanese Akoya Cultured Pearl adds a layer of elegance to any outfit, whether an evening gown or a sundress. 

What to know before you buy a pearl necklace

Types of pearls

The four main types of pearls are Akoya, freshwater, Tahitian and South Sea pearls. 

Akoya pearls are known for their luster. Most of these pearls come in a white, round variety, though some rare versions exist in more exotic colors. They are harvested primarily in the salt waters near Japan and China.

Freshwater pearls are typically not perfectly round but come in various colors, such as peach, pink, lavender and white. Their luster is softer than Akoyas, often being described as similar to satin. Cultivated from mussels, these pearls have a moderate price point. 

Tahitian pearls hail from French Polynesia. These pearls are famous for their eye-catching, darker range of colors that give off a rainbow effect in the light. They are rare, larger than other pearls and most often irregularly shaped. 

South Sea pearls are farmed around Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. The pearls, which appear in white, silver or gold, can grow to the size of a marble. A pearl necklace made from these is rarer than any other type and thus more valuable. 

Pearl size

The most common sizes vary depending on the pearl type. Normally, Akoya pearls average 7-7.5 millimeters, freshwater pearls range from 7.5-8 millimeters and Tahitian pearls come in sizes from 10-14 millimeters. Tahitian pearl necklaces tend to have a graduated structure with smaller pearls toward the clasp and larger pearls at the front. These usually range from 8-11 millimeters. 

Pearl necklace length

Necklace size can range from a pearl choker to a rope of pearls draping around the neck and almost the full length of the torso. Often, longer pearl ropes are worn with formal attire, and pearl chokers are considered more casual. A popular mens pearl necklace is the choker or just a bit longer necklace. The women’s pearl necklace is popular in all lengths. 

What to look for in a quality pearl necklace 

Pearl origin

A pearl’s origin plays a large part in the quality and value of the pearl. Pearls are classified as natural or cultured. However, there’s a third, ubiquitous type of imitation pearls. Natural pearls are exceedingly rare, and fishing for naturally occurring pearls happens only in India. 

Cultured pearls are created the same way as natural pearls but with a little help from the pearl farmers. These are considered real pearls and are made by placing an irritant inside the mollusk, triggering the mussel to transform it into a pearl. Most of the pearls on the market fall into this category.

Imitation pearls are not real pearls. Instead, they are glass beads dipped in a fish scale mixture. They look elegant and closely resemble real pearls but aren’t as durable, and the color easily comes off with rubbing against the skin. 

Pearl appearance and composition 

Many factors play a part in determining the quality of a pearl, including the pearls’ surface, shape, nacre thickness and luster. A quality pearl will have a smooth surface free of any bumps or disfigurations. Further, perfectly rounded pearls are rare, and when found, are very valuable.

Pearls with a higher nacre thickness are considered higher quality because of their longevity. If a pearl has a nacre thickness that is too thin, then it might eventually peel. Luster is also important to pearl quality. High-quality pearls should be bright. If a pearl is blurry or dull, this indicates a pearl of low quality. 

How much you can expect to spend on a pearl necklace

The price point of pearl necklaces has quite the range. On the lower end, you can buy a low-quality pearl necklace for around $50. If you are looking for a pearl necklace of high quality, you can spend close to $3,000. 

Pearl necklace FAQ

Do pearls have an industry-standard grading system like diamonds?

A. No. No grading system is consistent across the industry. While retailers' grading systems can be informative for purchasing, they should not be the only source of determining the pearl necklace quality. 

How can I tell if a pearl necklace is made of real or imitation pearls?

A. A simple test can help you determine if a pearl necklace is real. If you rub two of the pearls together, the surface of the pearls should be gritty. This is because the pearl’s nacre causes this gritty texture. On the other hand, imitation pearls will feel smooth when rubbed together. 

What’s the best pearl necklace to buy?

Top pearl necklace 

White Akoya Saltwater Cultured Pearl Necklace

What you need to know: This necklace is made of Japanese Akoya saltwater pearls, has a 14-carat gold clasp and is 18 inches long. 

What you’ll love: This ethically sourced pearl necklace is of high quality with thick and iridescent nacre, round shape and ideal luster. The seller offers a 60-day money-back guarantee. 

What you should consider: This excellent quality makes this necklace expensive. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top pearl necklace for the money 

Akwaya 14 Carat Yellow Gold White Akoya Cultured Pearl High Luster Necklace 18 Inches

What you need to know: This pearl necklace is of great quality for the price. 

What you’ll love: The necklace is composed of hand-picked Akoya cultured pearls, and despite the reasonable price point, the pearls are still high quality and beautiful. This set also comes with a pair of pearl earrings. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. 

What you should consider: The quality is not quite top of the line. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

HinsonGayle AAA GEM Collection White Round Freshwater Cultured Pearl Necklace

What you need to know: This is a quality freshwater pearl necklace with a AAA rating. 

What you’ll love: For the price, this pearl necklace is of excellent quality. It’s amazingly smooth, boasts extraordinary luster and hints of rare orient. It’s composed of 100 percent solid cultured pearls.

What you should consider: Some buyers don’t find them appealing enough and prefer the Akoya pearls.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Morgan Freeman writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Share this post: