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From a delicate string of pears to stunning cultured pearl earrings, I love the timeless elegance of pearls. But have you wondered just how much your pearls are worth? And if you need to sell any of your pearls, do they go up in value?
The truth is, pearls range widely in value, so you could be looking at precious freshwater pearls or fake pearls, which have little value at all. In this guide, I’ll share what you need to know to buy or sell pearls and understand their true worth. From cultured to freshwater pearls and exotic pearls, here’s the truth about getting the most out of those precious gems.
Bottom Line Up Front Summary: What pearls are worth is highly dependent on several factors, including luster, clarity, color, and pearl type. Big pearls are not necessarily worth more than smaller pearls. The shell thickness (nacre) likewise plays a role. Fake or glass pearls are worth next to nothing, while natural pearls are more valuable than cultured pearls. South Sea pearls are among the most valuable pearls, along with rare dark pink Conch pearls.
If you want to sell, it’s important to carefully assess your options. Since pearls have a lower market value and demand vs diamonds, you have a few fewer options to choose from.
How to Determine Pearl Value
Before I get into the specifics about pearl value by type, I want to explain why pearls are or aren’t valuable. I think one thing that’s challenging about evaluating resale value for any precious material or gemstone is that it’s always based on several factors. For pearls, those factors include how pearls are graded, main pearl type, pearl condition, and market demand. If it sounds complicated, it can be. But trust me when I say that a little knowledge about pearls goes a long way. You don’t have to be a pearl expert to fully understand and appreciate their worth.
The most valuable pearl of all? South Sea pearls, which come in white, ivory, and gold shades.
Freshwater vs Cultured vs Fake Pearls
First things first: fake pearls (usually glass) simply don’t have any resale value or worth. They are manufactured, very common, and very cheap. That probably doesn’t come as a great surprise to you or almost anyone. You can tell a pearl is fake by price, description, and feel. A perfectly smooth pearl is a fake pearl, and a very low price and no grading details are also bad signs. There should also be a slight undertone, as well as at least some minor imperfections.
But the differences between freshwater vs saltwater vs cultured is where things get interesting.
|Type of Pearl||Main Features||Worth & Rarity|
|Freshwater||A thick nacre, often treated to achieve the luster||Fairly common, less valuable|
|Cultured||These makeup most of the market. Freshwater and saltwater pearls are either cultured (farmed/ grown) or natural||Most common on the market, but less valuable than natural pearls|
**South Sea Pearls are the Most Valuable **
|Thin nacre (up to 7mm)||Rarer, more valuable|
Takeaway: Thus, the most valuable pearl of these general categories is a natural saltwater pearl. A cultured saltwater pearl will be less valuable than a natural saltwater pearl. Fake pearls do not have much worth or resale value.
How Pearls Are Graded
The second category of how pearls are evaluated is their quality grading. For instance, a poor-quality natural pearl can, in some instances, be worth less than a high-quality cultured pearl. Luckily, it’s not too hard to understand pearl’s grading. It’s not quite as complicated as diamond grading.
Pearls are graded slightly differently based upon the type of pearl, but regardless there’s a general letter scale, expressed in “A” s to explain the quality of the pearl. This grading is based upon inclusions (imperfections that impact clarity), luster (impacts shine), and even shape (the more rounded, the higher quality). A is the lowest acceptable quality to sell, while AAAA is the most valuable.
|A||Makeup half or more of the pearl- heavily flawed||Low||Not Quite Round|
|AA||Makeup 20 to 30 percent of surface- moderately flawed||Moderate||Not Quite Round|
|AAA||Makeup 10 percent or less- minorly flawed||Notable||Nearly Round to Quite Round|
|AAAA||Makeup 5 percent or less- hard to notice||Excellent||Round|
Takeaway: No matter the type of pearl, the higher the grade, the more its worth will increase. AAAA is considered the highest grade, while A is notably flawed and worth the least.
Pearl Worth by Specific Type
To get into the nitty-gritty of pearl worth, here are some of the most commonly referred to as pearl types on the market. Please note that pearl worth can change at any time. That’s both exciting and exacerbates the reality of the jewelry market. However, I hope this will serve as a general to help you understand the worth of pearls you’re either attempting to sell or attempting to buy.
|Pearl Type||Estimated Worth (Strand)|
|Akoya Pearls||$350 to $10,000|
|Baroque Pearls||Up to 10 to 20 Times Akoya Pearls|
|Biwa Pearls||Up to 10 to 20 Times Akoya Pearls|
|Broome Pearls||$5K to over $300K|
|Clam Pearls||$350 to $1,500|
|Conch Pearls (Dark Pink is Among the most valuable and found off the Gulf of Mexico)||$300 to $10,000|
|Edison Pearls||$50 to $1,000|
|Elizabethan Pearls||Varies Greatly- Refers to Vintage-Inspired/ Style and even includes fake pearls|
|Majorica Pearls||$100 to $300|
|Oyster Pearls||$15 to $2,000 (per pearl)|
|South Sea Pearls||One of the Most Valuable, averaging $10,000K and up / Strand|
Pearl Colors and Worth
You probably most know pearls for being off-white, ivory and white. But both natural and cultured pearls come in a wide range of gorgeous colors. Pearl colors are graded based on quality, saturation, and undertones. The most valuable pearls are both rare and naturally occurring.
There are a few rare colors– see below– that fetch more. However, even though some colors are rarer, in many cases, a white pearl of excellent quality will be worth more, aside from some exceptions. It has a lot to do with market demand, even though I find other pearl colors lovely.
Natural Pearl Colors
Pearls are naturally white, ivory, gray, pink, silver, green and blue, purple, pink, and well gold and champagne. Of these, gold pearls from the South Sea and in shades of white are among the most valuable. I also must note pink pearls. If you have genuine, natural pink pearls who may be in luck, as they are quite rare. Even red pearls exist, but they are very hard to find.
Cultured Pearl Colors
Some colors are dye-treated. Anything color enhanced is generally less valuable than pearls that are naturally occurring. You’ll find an even wider range of colors for cultured pearls, and here, colors may not be as valuable.
How to Sell Pearls
If all of this seems overwhelming, I understand that. At the same time, you now are going in with more knowledge if you’re looking to sell your pearls, or buy pearls as an investment. But whether you’re evaluating pearl earrings, pearl bracelets, or a pearl necklace, the first question is actually: is it worth selling your pearls?
Step #1: Decide if Your Pearls are Worth Selling
While I know this may sound like bad news, the truth is not all pearls are worth selling. Unless you have very rare, high-value pearls, they usually are going to fetch a modest amount. Of course, if your pearl jewelry is set with precious metals or coupled with a highly valued precious gemstone, interest can increase there as well. Old pearls that are dull aren’t going to be worth much. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I sure my pearls are real? If not, would I be willing to have them evaluated?
- Are the pearls of great sentimental value to me? Would I miss them?
- Are my pearls either very unique or of exceptional quality?
- Does a very high resale value matter to me, or am I trying to clear up clutter?
There’s simply less demand for pearls vs something like diamonds. So while you may have a very rare strand of pearls, it’s best to keep reasonable expectations. Your pearls need to have minimal inclusions to be worth selling.
Step #2: Clean Your Pearls
You don’t need me to tell you that presentation and first impressions are both important. That’s true for pearls. But I learned the hard way many years ago that you have to be very careful when you’re cleaning your pearls. Pearls are easily damaged or scratched, as they have an average Mohs Hardness rating of just 2.5 out of 10, compared to a 10 for diamonds. You also cannot use any harsh cleaning agents. Real pearls can also peel when damaged.
Only use a soft cloth and mild soap. If your pearls appear fragile, stained, or damaged, first of all, they probably aren’t worth selling. Secondly, I’d take them to a professional rather than risk further damaging them.
Step #3: Do Your Research
You don’t always have to, of course, truly evaluate pearls yourself. But by making estimates about the type of pearls, you can understand if you’re being offered a fair deal or not. Before you sell anywhere, check the reputation of the business. You can sell to a pawnshop, but for pearls especially, I recommend a professional who buys and sells jewelers. There are reputable places to sell your pearls online, and you can also check with your local jewelry store.
Where to Sell Your Pearls
Where to sell your pearls is so important. As I mentioned, you can sell at a pawnshop. But selling at a pawnshop may seem convenient. Here are the pros and cons and different places and ways you can sell your pearls.
Pawnbrokers do take pearls. I like that this is a convenient way to get rid of your pearls and clear up your home. Since it’s in person, you also get more of that connection and may be able to bargain for a better price. Pawnshops are plentiful; just google “Pawn Shop Near Me” and you’re likely to find one. I recommend calling ahead and making sure they are interested in pearls. However, I think this is easily my least favorite way to sell pearls. Sadly, there are a lot of cons that outweigh the pros of selling at a pawn shop. However, for some people wary of selling online and short on other options, this could be the right choice for you.
Go in informed. Call ahead and make sure they are interested in pearls, and what kind. If you want the best price possible, a pawn shop isn’t the way to go. However, knowing the value of your pearls will give you a leg up. Presentation is important too. If you have a good experience, you could come back to them with luxury goods, but I wouldn’t recommend bringing in many at once. You’re more likely to fetch a better price with an item or two.
- Quick Solution
- More Personal
- Lowest Price
- May Not Be Interested in Pearls
I think selling at a jewelry store, if possible, is a step up from selling to a pawn shop. The trouble is, it’s also more challenging. First, you need to make sure it’s a respected jeweler. The challenge is that the demand for pearls is down from where it was even a few years ago, so many jewelry shops simply are not interested in buying pearls. Because of this, I’d call ahead and I’d also have information about my pearls ready. Jewelry stores are far more likely to buy pearls if you have certification, original boxes, and can fully describe your pearls. This is not a realistic option for everyone, but it’s still one you can explore if you feel you have especially precious pearls.
If you have vintage pearls, an antique jeweler may be a better choice. Stores that sell used jewelry are also more likely to buy pearls vs big chain stores. It’s good to do research ahead of time, as some jewelers simply specialize in diamonds. If you are prepared with full information about your pearls, they’re more likely to be accepted and you’re more likely to get a fair price. Of course, you’ll never get the price of their full worth, due to a markup. You can expect around 20 to 50 percent of the value.
- Local and Convenient
- Better Price than a Pawnshop
- Personal Experience
- Many Don’t Take Pearls
- Typical Mark Ups Mean only 20 to 50 Percent of Worth
Auctions are a way to improve the potential resale price for your pearls– if you know how to handle them correctly. Auctions can be in person or online. Some go it alone and even sell through sites like eBay. The issue is you have to know both your audience and the value of your pearls. Set your price too low and you could end up with a bad deal. Set it too high and you may find yourself at a loss for bidders. A nice thing about auctions is when you control the price — while challenging and with some risks, it’s a way to reach for potential buyers and retain control.
It’s very important to think not only about your pearls but also take a look at competitive listings. For instance, looking at Current Pearls for Sale on eBay gives you an idea as to what is being sold, by whom, and for how much. Your listing should be comparable, but also offer something unique to stand out. A rich description and high-quality photos are likewise important. Don’t forget to add target keywords so people are more likely to see your listing.
- Quickly Reach a Wider Audience
- In Control of Pricing
- Potentially Quick Sale
- Easier to Undervalue
- Most Fully Understand Market
Online Jewelry Buyers
If you’re nervous about handling an auction listing yourself but don’t love your options for in-person selling, there are a few places that will buy pearls online. Now, sadly, most of my options for the best places to sell jewelry online aren’t interested in pearls. Because of this, there are only a few options available. The plus side is that you get the ability to reach a wide audience, and you don’t have to worry about marketing or pricing. Some places will even clean your pearls for you– though I don’t recommend this. All reputable places should offer secure shipping and the ability to provide a speedy offer and secure shipping back if you refuse. The markups are fairly comparable to an in-person jewelry store. However, because you’re reaching a wider audience, there’s a bit more interest.
Investigate the company. I always check customer reviews and any professional business profiles they may have. It’s eye-opening in many ways. For instance, a company that buys pearls, I Do Know I Don’t, has a failing rating through the Better Business Bureau based upon filed complaints. Inquire and make sure they buy pearls. If you have vintage pearls, Vintage Cash Cow buys them and has a decent reputation.
- Reach a Wide Audience
- Work with Knowledgable Professionals
- Better Price than Pawn Broker
- Many Online Companies Don’t Buy Pearls
- Must Be Wary Of Scams
- Some Companies Have Poor Customer Service
Frequently Asked Questions
Answer: One tricky thing about pearls is whether or not they make sense as a long-term investment. Some pearls do indeed go up in value, most notably ones of premium quality and rare pearls. This is most applicable to Akoya pearls. However, old pearls that are in disrepair will decline in value, and fairly common freshwater pearls will decline in value as well. The type of pearls greatly impacts if they increase or decline in value.
Answer: White pearls are not considered rare. However, they are the most popular and commonly sold within the market. I must also stress that different white pearls are more common or rare than others. Thus, you cannot easily categorize all white pearls together in terms of rarity or value.
Answer: A key factor in how much your pearls are worth is how well you take care of them. For that reason, I recommend that you never wear pearls while swimming. I always remove pearls when taking a shower, cleaning, or during athletic activities. Genuine pears are quite soft and easy to scratch and fragile as a whole. Direct impact or contact and chemicals can mar their beauty and worth.
Answer: In August 2006, a fisherman made the catch of a lifetime. The pearl, which was discovered near Palawan Island (Phillippines) weighed 34 kg. He held onto that pearl for a decade, but it was eventually sold for £76million.
Selling pearls is challenging: there’s no use pretending otherwise. While I love pearls and find them timeless, the market demand just isn’t high right now. If you want to sell pearls, I recommend first assessing their worth. Weigh that against how much you use them and what they mean to you. I think pearls make a lovely family heirloom; my mother and grandmother both have passed down pearls. Ultimately, the worth of a pearl is hard to estimate, but not impossible. If you happen to have a rare strand of pearls, just make sure you don’t settle for a low price.
Final Recommendations: Pearls from Tiffany & Co
Tiffany & Co is a respected jewelry company that focuses on sleek, minimalist, and high-quality luxury jewelry. While they are known for their lab-grown diamonds and beautiful craftsmanship, they also sell gorgeous pearl earrings, pearl earrings, and pearl necklaces. These include Akoya pearls, freshwater pearls, and South Sea pearls. These pearls are worth buying and are simply beautiful. Shop Tiffany Pearls Here.
Further Reading on Pearl Jewelry: