Posted in  Buyers guide  on  October 9, 2022 by  Anisa0 comments

Pearls have been a valuable commodity and a status symbol for thousands of years. Even though cultivation has made them more accessible to the masses, high-end pearls can still fetch prices of thousands of dollars, and even the most ordinary string of real pearls requires some saving up for.

Not all pearls are worth the same, and there are actually many factors that affect how much a pearl will cost. Jewelers and appraisers have a grading system that determines a pearl’s worth and its eventual cost for the consumer.

Here is a quick guide that will help you understand how much pearls are worth.

Table of Contents

What Is Pearl Grading?

Pearl grading is the system of ranking pearls based on their value, which in turn determines their price. Most vendors and auction houses use the A-AAA method of grading and classifying pearls, with AAA being the highest.

Another form of grading is A-D grading, with D being the lowest, but this is normally used by pearl farmers specifically for Tahitian or South Sea pearls, rarely for other types of pearls.

However, there is no standard for grading across the industry, although guidelines do apply (for example, AAA pearls should have excellent luster and no damage or blemishes on the surface).

Unscrupulous auctioneers do try to take advantage of the confusion around pearl grading and pass off pearls as worth more than they are, so always do your research on vendors to find out about their practices.

What Are the Factors That Affect Pearl Worth?

When determining what grade a pearl falls into and how much it is worth, auctioneers and jewelers often look at seven factors. They are as follows:

  • Nacre Thickness. For many people, this is the most important pearl quality. Good quality pearls must have thick, well-layered nacre, and without this, the other values, such as size and luster, also fall. In fact, some regulatory bodies that issue certificates for certain types of pearls, such as Akoya, require a minimum nacre thickness.
  • Luster. Luster is the brightness and glow of the pearl’s surface. A pearl needs to have a reflective, luminous luster to be valuable.
  • Surface Quality. Surface quality measures how smooth and free from damage the pearl is. Any blemishes, such as scratches, bumps, or wrinkles, knock down the value of the pearl.
  • Size. The larger a pearl is, the more valuable it will be (unless it is of poor quality according to other value factors). Larger pearls are rarer and require more time to cultivate, adding to their value and eventual price.
  • Shape. Completely round pearls are what most people think of when they think of pearls, but perfectly round pearls are not always formed, making them more valuable than other shapes, such as pearl drops.
  • Color & Overtone. Some pearl colors are rarer than others—for example, gold pearls which are only found in certain parts of South Sea pearl production. Often more important than the shade is the quality of the overtone, which has to be saturated and bright instead of lackluster.
  • Matching. When appraising pearl jewelry, the pearls have to be as similar as possible.

Different varieties are also valued more than others. For example, South Sea pearls are some of the most valuable in the world.

Is There a Difference Between Cultivated and Wild Pearls?

Besides looking at the pearl grading and value factors, appraisers also look at the origin of the pearls.

Wild saltwater pearls are far more valuable than cultivated freshwater pearls. These pearls are rare, especially due to the problems facing wild pearl oyster populations, such as overharvesting, making them more valuable.

Some gorgeous gems have fetched prices in the millions of dollars.

How Much Do Pearls Cost?

There is no simple answer as to how much pearls will cost as each pearl is valued differently depending on its origin, cultivation status, value factors, and pearl grading system that the appraiser, auction house, or jeweler uses.

However, there are a few guidelines for how much you can expect to pay for certain types of pearls.

A gorgeous strand of South Sea pearls will cost as much as $100,000, reserving these pearls for only the wealthiest of buyers with luxurious tastes. Black Tahitian pearls are the next most valuable type of pearls, with price ranges going up to $35,000 (although those graded lower can be found for the relatively affordable price of $3,000).

The most affordable type of natural pearl is the Akoya pearl. A single pearl can cost about $150, while a strand of these pearls will probably cost about $1,000.

Freshwater cultivated pearls, which mostly come from China, are the most affordable, accessible types of pearls. A string of decent freshwater pearls can cost as little as $100. Although true connoisseurs may scoff at these varieties, they are beautiful all the same.


It’s true that pearls are an investment. They can be purchased in many different forms, and they can cost anywhere from a few dollars to thousands of dollars.

When you buy pearls for yourself or for someone else, it’s essential to do your research carefully so that you know what kind of pearl you want and how much it will cost before making a purchase decision.

About the Author


I am a pearl and oyster enthusiast who loves to share her knowledge and experiences about fashion with the world. I am neither a certified gemologist nor a reseller of pearls.

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