Beautiful Pearls and Italy
Pearls and elegance go together. They have an undeniable appeal and celebrities have been seen wearing them recently, celebrities young and old. Not only are the classic pearl necklaces back, we are also seeing the resurgence of pearls as funky accessories. They are being won in various colors to jazz up an outfit, they are being worn in long strings to create a look of bohemian elegance---in short, pearls are back in the mainstream. Whether you are a woman of mature elegance or of abundant youth, pearls must be included in your collection of accessories.
To make sure you shop for decent pearls without burning a gigantic hole in your purse, you need to know how pearls are evaluated and priced. You need not be an expert either. With a few handy tips you would be ready to hit the jewelry boutiques. The priciest pearls have some pretty common-sense characteristics. For one, they are natural, bigger and shinier. Second, they are almost flawless, no surface dents and marks. And most important, they have a thicker outer layer, or nacre.
You don't need to be especially gifted to see if a pearl is big or shiny, and a natural pearl is always more vibrant than a cultured pearl. But to see if the pearl is truly blemish-free, carry with you an extra-white piece of fabric. Place the pearl against it and any marks it has will jump out at you. To check the thickness of the nacre, you have to examine the pearl in bright sunlight, and use a magnifying lens. If the pearls you are considering fail these tests, they are not the best quality. Your seller certainly cannot demand a high price. Fortunately, most of these defects are not easily visible when the pearls are worn.
So if you buy your pearls knowing about small defects but at a lower price, you can still proudly show them off. Always remember that where the pearls come from has a large bearing on how much they cost. If it is a genuinely natural pearl from the depths of the sea like an Akoya or South Sea pearl, it would definitely cost a fortune, and with good reason. But freshwater cultured pearls which look quite similar are usually much more affordable. This is because they are grown primarily in China inside mollusks that thrive in lakes and ponds. They are smaller and less symmetrical, of course, but not to the untrained eye. These cultured pearls also come in pretty pink tints, which can be very attractive.
If you are a younger woman, you can afford to wear smaller pearls close to the neck. Smaller pearls look gorgeous on a youthful neck, and cost much, much lesser. If they are irregular or funky, and strung well, they are even cheaper. They also make you look stunningly trendy. Colored pearls could also be a great idea for you, because other than Black Tahitian pearls, most colored pearls tend to be cheaper. Stay away from classic pearls unless you are wearing a single one as a pendant, not a strand. Classic pearl strands not only cost an arm and a leg, they make you look precocious. Try pearl bracelets instead of necklaces, or just wear pearl earrings instead. Italian jewelry brands to check out if you are comparatively younger and shopping for pearls: Miluna, Perle Utopia and Kiara.
If you have more years on you, go for bigger, more expensive pearls: you want to imperceptibly distract the viewer's eyes from your neck and on to the pearls. Stick to classic pearls, because with your grace and experience, you are expected to go for the real thing. Yes, you do need to part with more cash, but the best part is you can invest in a single string of awesome pearls and they will go with most of your formal outfits. For example, a piece from Exeter might be the buy of a lifetime. Exeter Jewelers is a brand that creates Italian designer pearl jewelry at non-designer prices, and they also sell online.
If money is no object, go for Damiani, of course. They have the best Tahitian black pearls and some of the best pearl jewelry available in Italy. Alfieri & St. John, also owned by the Damiani group, have a versatile pearl collection great for someone looking for quality pearls. Again, if a necklace from any of these brands feels out of reach, there are always the bracelets and earrings that are way more affordable. They also add just as much style to your personality. Buy the best your budget can afford, and closely examine the pearls using our guidelines.
Don't wear fake pearls if you are an older woman and want to wear them for a serene, dignified image. Fake pearls always always look much too uniform when strung together, and never last as long as the genuine ones. Italian brands like Oripreziosi are great for sterling silver pearl jewelry, they use good quality pearls and their bracelets, rings and earrings are handmade by experienced silversmiths. In Italy, Nimei pearls in colors like white, lavender and peach are famous too, because they come with a signed guarantee of high quality.
Whatever the sort of pearls you end up buying, to make them last you have to take good care of them. They are pearls, not diamonds, and tend to get easily damaged. Pearls get moisturized by our body oils, so the best thing you can do for your pearls is to probably wear them as often as possible. To prolong the life of your pearls, wear them just before stepping out. You should make it a point never to put perfume or body spray with your pearls on.
Pearls get corroded by minerals in sea water, by chlorine from swimming pools and the salts in human sweat. Remember not to go swimming in your pearls, and don't wear them to a place where you might sweat. Never toss your pearls on to a counter or shelf. Instead, wrap them carefully in soft tissue or cloth so the pearls don't rub against each other, and store in a suitable box. Twice a year, clean them by washing in warm water with mild soap, and dry them in soft cloth. Get them restrung after a few years if you wear them regularly.
It is possible to wear pearls within your budget, you just have to look for the right pearls at the right price. Now that you know how to examine pearls, that should be easy. And if you take good care of them, they will probably make you look elegant for a lifetime.
By Damyanti Ghosh
Edited and updated by Damyanti, November 2008