Pearls: A Modern Passion

White Orchid Studio: magic with pearls

People have adored pearls for centuries (see The Enthusiast).

The Gemological Institute of American’s (GIA) explains the allure as: “Perfect shining spheres. Lustrous baroque forms. Seductive strands, warm to the touch. Pearls are simply and purely organic.” This blog opens a door into how pearls are priced, including how shapes influence price.


Pearls develop spontaneously in saltwater and freshwater mussels in the world’s oceans, lakes, and rivers. We refer to these as natural pearls.

Quality natural pearls are rare. The probability of finding a pearl appropriate for the fine jewelry market is about 1 in 10,000. So, imagine the price of a matched, natural pearl necklace or earrings. According to GIA, in 1917 Pierre Cartier traded a double strand of natural pearls for a mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The price of natural pearls has not decreased since then.

Pearl pricing began to change in 1893 when Mikimoto Kōkichi successfully cultured a pearl. While it took decades to perfect the technique, today cultured pearls dominate the market, bringing prices down so the public can enjoy wearing pearls every day. Mikimoto’s first step led to the development of his luxury pearl company.


Like other gems, the price of cultured pearls is determined by their size, shape, and color. Unlike other gems pearls are priced according to nacre quality, surface blemishes, and luster. A later blog explores these terms more in-depth. This blog focuses on a few of the better-known shapes.

Round is probably the best-known, and the historically coveted pearl shape. All things being equal, round is the most expensive shape. White Orchid Studio creates designs with round pearls, but we also love working with semi-rounds as well as ringed pearls. Our Fire and Ice necklace and earrings are great examples.

Our Falling Water bracelet celebrates freshwater round pearls (see below)

Organic, less than perfect aesthetics resonate with our passion for gardens while creating unlimited opportunities for expressive jewelry. They also help customers by reducing prices.

Baroque refers to an ornate style of architecture, music, and art that emerged in Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries. Versailles is a baroque style palace, Bernini exemplifies the baroque style by grouping figures in exuberant, highly detailed sculptures, Vivaldi, Bach, and Handel created baroque compositions that paint pictures in music.

High fashion is again celebrating baroque pearls, for good reason. While round pearls are ethereal, baroque pearls broke that mold in exuberant ways.
Hello Gorgeous is a perfect example of why thinking outside the box rewards us all. Baroque pearls, like the artistic period, combine with so many other gems beautifully. Their shapes and undulating colors expand the artistic pallet of any piece of jewelry.

Keshi pearls are a special case born of the culturing process. When an irritant is introduced into a mollusk, the mollusk layers the irritant with nacre over and over thus forming a pearl. But sometimes excess nacre escapes and is deposited along the lip of the mollusk to form keshi pearls. Rather than having a round shape, keshi pearls exhibit a variety of shapes not seen in other types of pearls. Add exuberant shapes to the layering of pure nacre and the result is light reflection that enhances the glow of our skin. White Orchid Studio’s necklace Strawberry Stars demonstrates how Keshi pearls stand out.

With so many types of pearls to choose from, and such a variety of prices, customers today can indulge in our passion for pearls with little to no guilt.

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1 comment

  • Carol

    Fascinating. My mother believed every girl should receive a stand of pearls on her 16th birthday but this information goes far beyond that. Thank you for the info.

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