Pearls are one of the most iconic and beloved natural gems to be found anywhere across the globe. A string of them can range in price from a mere $100 all the way up to thousands, hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions of dollars, pounds or Euros.
But how much are pearls worth, how much do pearls cost, and how exactly is this value determined?
You will need to understand the true value of pearls, how this value fluctuates, and how different pearls are priced in various ways in order to answer the question.
Here is everything you should know about the value of pearls.
How Much Are Pearls Worth?
The value of a pearl depends on numerous different factors and how they interplay in the final product. In many cases, natural pearls are worth more than cultured pearls, but this is not a rule written in stone. Pearls actually tend to be valued for their aesthetic value and beauty in most scenarios.
This beauty relies on numerous factors, including shape, color, luster, size, surface quality, matching, and the quality of the pearl’s nacre. These 7 value factors were created by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) to standardize pearl grading systems. Pearls may also be more valuable if they have cultural or historical significance or have belonged to high-profile owners like designers, celebrities or wealthy moguls.
How Much Are Real Pearls Worth: Natural Vs Cultured Pearls
So, how much are pearls worth when they are wild as opposed to when they are cultivated in farms?
Firstly, it’s important to note that only real pearls have true value. Fake pearls made out of glass or resin are essentially worthless compared to the genuine article.
Natural pearls are usually far more valuable than their cultured counterparts. For example a strand of 53 natural saltwater pearls sold for a hefty US$2.9 million back in 2014, and four years later, a natural pearl pendant that belonged to French Queen Marie Antoinette auctioned for US$32 million at Sotheby’s, smashing previous records.
Cultured pearls are significantly more affordable, ranging anywhere from $50 to $175,000 in price. Interestingly, both natural and cultured pearls are real pearls, and are grown from pearl-bearing oysters in either freshwater or saltwater in a nearly identical process.
The key difference lies in the external irritant that encourages a pearl to form within the oyster’s shells. A natural pearl is the result of a grain of sand or a parasite entering the shell and is formed without human intervention. Cultured pearls are created from irritants such as oyster tissue or beads that are deliberately placed into oysters’ shells by pearl farmers. This means that natural pearls occur far more rarely than cultured pearls. Virtually all of the real pearls found today are cultured.
How Much Are Freshwater Pearls Worth?
There are many different types of pearls as well. These pearls are the most readily available in the world, and are widely used for jewellery purposes due to their affordability. Freshwater pearls are often grown in Hyriopsis cumingii oysters in lakes, ponds and rivers in China and Southeast Asia.
Low quality freshwater pearls can be bought for as little as $20, while average quality pearls sell for anywhere between $30 and $50. Fine quality freshwater pearls can fetch between $65 and $5,000, or more in certain cases.
Natural saltwater pearls are grown in Pinctada radiata and Pinctada margaritifera oysters in the Arabian Gulf and are incredibly rare and sought-after. Their values can vary widely between $500 and $2,000 or more per pearl!
How Much Are Akoya Pearls Worth?
If you picture classic round, white pearls when you think of these oceanic gems, you would be thinking of Akoya pearls. These pearls are primarily cultivated in China and Japan in the saltwater oyster species Pinctada fucata martensii. Natural Akoyas grown in this species of oyster are exceptionally rare.
Low quality Akoya pearls can cost as little as $100, while average quality pearls will usually be sold for between $150 and $300. Fine quality Akoyas can go for between $400 to $6,000 or more, especially if they are the rare natural specimens mentioned above.
How Much Are Tahitian Pearls Worth?
Tahitian pearls are widely considered to be the most exotic variety of pearl in the world, and they also come in the broadest range of naturally dark and rich colors. They are also known as black South Sea pearls, or simply black pearls, and are grown by black-lipped oysters (Pinctada margaritifera cumingii), a species endemic to Fiji, the Cook Islands, the Sea of Cortez, and French Polynesia.
Low quality Tahitian pearls may be sold for as little as $200, while standard grade pearls can range from $200 to $600. The finest quality Tahitian pearls can fetch anywhere between $1,000 and $36,000 or more from the right buyer.
How Much Are South Sea Pearls Worth?
These cultured pearls are the most prized on the planet. They are cultivated in Pinctada maxima oysters, the largest of the species, in Burma, Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines.
Low quality South Sea pearls can fetch up to $200, and average quality pearls may be worth between $250 and $450. The finest quality pearls can fetch between $1,200 and $35,000 or more for exceptional specimens.
How Do You Determine The Value Of Pearls?
How much are pearls worth? Regardless of how a pearl is grown, most harvested pearls have a low or average quality. Fine, top quality pears are exceedingly rare due to the nature of how they grow inside the oysters. Each oyster secretes nacre in a slow process that coats an irritant with layers and layers of the substance, which is the same substance that forms the mother of pearl.
Because these gems are organic, these nacre layers are not always distributed evenly or in a visually appealing way. This means that the quality of any given pearl varies significantly from the next and that most natural pearls do not have the qualities that make them highly valuable.
In most cases, the most valuable natural pearls will only be found in top-tier auctions or museums due to their rare qualities and historical significance. When it comes to learning how to tell if pearls are real, it’s also very difficult to tell if your pearls are cultured or natural without lab tests and the help of a gemological expert. Testing methods such as Raman spectrometry, laser, X-rays and energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence are used by specialists to tell the two variants apart.
Which Color Pearl Is The Most Valuable?
The highest value pearl colors belong to Tahitian pearls, and include blue, brown, purple, peacock and aubergine. Next is Akoya with white and silver, followed by freshwater pearls in shades of white and lavender. South Sea pearls in silver and gold are also very valuable and sought after by collectors.
How Much Are Oyster Pearls Worth?
How much are pearls worth when they are produced by oysters? Some of the most expensive oyster pearls in history have included The Pearl of Lao Tzu ($3.5 million), the La Peregrina Pearl ($11.8 million) and the Beauty of Ocean Pearl ($139 million).
The typical price range for oyster pearls can range anywhere from $20 to $5,000 or more per pearl, based on various factors. Natural pearls will fetch a higher price range, as will those of exceptional quality or ulterior significance.
How Much Are Clam Pearls Worth?
How much do pearls cost when they have been produced by claims instead of oysters? Clams also produce pearls in order to neutralize irritants that end up within their shells.
The value of clam pearls can also vary widely according to factors like size, type, surface quality and color, and just like oyster pearls, natural clam pearls are more valuable than cultured ones. On average, the value of a clam pearl ranges from $300 to $1,500 depending on its quality.
Are Antique Pearls Worth Anything?
Unfortunately, the vast majority of inherited pearls turn out to be imitations, especially if they were not passed down from particularly wealthy owners. The most valuable antique pearls will be wild, natural pearls as opposed to cultured varieties, large pearls in excellent condition, and those featured in jewellery pieces created by iconic or particularly well-known jewellers.
The best way to assess the authenticity and value of your antique pearls is to have them evaluated by a pearl laboratory or a qualified expert in the field.
Are Pearls A Good Investment?
Experts tend not to recommend investing in jewellery but a well-made piece of pearl jewellery can last for generations and be passed through your family as a potentially valuable heirloom.
It’s best to buy pearls for the love of them, but if you do choose to invest, you may be better served purchasing a rare and sought-after variety like South Sea pearls, Tahitian pearls or natural pearls, which will have a higher resale value in the future.