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Help with 1st-ever pearls purchase for my wife

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
Hey all - Would sure appreciate a bit of advice. Our son is graduating college next month, and I’ve had this planned for four years... I’ve wanted to buy my wife her first-ever strand of real pearls and give them to her as a gift on the day of his commencement and basically say “hey, good job, you know, with the raising of the kid and everything”. :)

The pandemic put a big crimp in my plans to visit a lot of stores and do in-person research but thankfully some very nice and helpful online sales people have gotten me up to speed and I kind of feel like I’ve learned a bit. My wife has a 16” strand of fake pearls she wears a decent amount, so I‘ve decided on a single-strand of Akoya 18” pearls ... in 7.0-7.5 size. And of the online retailers, I feel most comfortable with Pearl Paradise at this point.
The issue I’m having is this:
7.0-7.5 Akoya 18” pearls with their current pricing are $728. The same pearls in Hanadama are $1480.

I think both prices are good... but I have issues justifying doubling the price for one set over the others, but of course I’m only seeing PHOTOS of these pearls. I understand from all that I’ve read that these pearls look much different in person. I’m not 100% sure I swing the upgrade but if it’s really a big noticeable difference in that size pearls then, being this is her first and only set of pearls, I’d sure like to do it right.
So I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks so much and sorry for such a rambling post!
Frank
 

molinePDG

Shiny_Rock
Trade
Joined
Mar 28, 2020
Messages
138
The issue that is Hanadama in general is... it depends. They'll be nice pearls, no doubt.
But, some information about Hanadama. The Hanadama designation can be found on a certificate issued by the Pearl Science Laboratory in Tokyo, Japan. One can send pearls to them and they will offer their thoughts, grading on a scale for luster, blemishes, and so forth. If an Akoya pearl single, necklace, etc. meets a certain standard, it is a "Hanadama certified" pearl, per PSL.

Most importantly, there is no standardized grading for pearls. Any vendor can call whatever they want A, AA, AAAAAA++++++omg.

Some info about Hanadama: The Hanadama designation is still a range. Hanadama certifies that a pearl has met a minimum quality, but it does not mean that all hanadama type pearls will be equal. There are plenty of pearls without any certificate at all that may look nicer than a particular hanadama certified pearl (but would obviously pass the Hanadama "test" if they were submitted for the certificate). Let's say there was some "sports car" designation, and that a car must have a top speed of at least 100mph to be a "sports car." A car that could top at 110 and one that could be 135 would both be "sports car," but one is still faster. This is a rough analogy but similar to how Hanadama works. It's a minimum.

You should obviously go for the best quality pearls you can swing within a certain budget, but whether or not the Hanadama certificate is important to you as an issue of mind cleanliness varies by person.

Since I'm trade, I can't comment on any specific vendor's pearls, anyway, but in general I always recommend that folks go for the best quality that they can afford in the biggest size that they can -- and ask for comparison pics between strands you're considering.
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
I'm not an expert or vendor but just a regular person who has lots of pearls so just my personal opinions here.

I'd go with a trusted vendor and get their top in-house grade rather than pay extra for hanadama certified pearls. I've purchased many times from Pearl Paradise and also returned a few things through the years with no problems so I think your choice there is just fine and I'd go with their top grade, which they call AAA.

If you like, they will advise you on overtone colors and can email you pics of a few strands side by side to compare.

You'd also want to consider if you want a white or yellow gold clasp. What clasp color is on her fake pearls now is a good clue, or the metal color of her wedding rings or the color of the other metal jewelry she usually wears.

And just my opinion of course but since she wears her fake strand a decent amount, I'd definitely use that as a guide to what she likes.

If she wears and likes her 16 inch strand and didn't say anything about wishing they were longer, then I'd get her a 16 inch strand. Though possibly with some kind of extender that she could put on to make it longer if she wanted to since 18 inch is the classic and also sometimes ladies like longer pearls as they age and the neck begins to sag lol. (Or just get the extra 2 inches of matching pearls at the same time but leave them loose, so she'd have them if she ever wanted them. Pearls typically need to be restrung every couple-few years anyway so she could have them added on then if she ever wanted to).

The reason I suggest the same length she wears now is that we ladies tend to wear necklaces that go with the necklines of the clothes we like to wear. So, an 18 inch strand can lie awkwardly on a top's neckline that a 16 inch strand lies neatly above.

And, if possible I'd go up from the 7.0-7.5mm pearl size. This opinion is from personal experience plus years on a pearl forum (called "The Pearl Guide"), listening to many women say they soon felt that the most popular size, 7.0-7.5mm, started to seem too small right away.

Finally, and again using the fake strand she wears frequently as a guide since you know she likes that, if those pearls are substantially larger than the akoyas you're considering, I'd seriously consider getting her a larger, top quality freshwater strand instead (you might want to surreptitiously measure the fake strand's pearl size). For ex., Pearl Paradise's top freshwater line is called "freshadama." Freshwater pearls don't have quite the mirror like luster of akoyas but they're very, very nice. Their luster is a bit more satiny, like that of South Seas pearls. Personally, I'd rather have larger top quality freshwater pearls than smaller top quality akoyas. With your budget, you might be able to get a 9.0-9.5mm or 9.5-10.00mm (woo hoo!) freshadama strand.

On the pearl forum, we talk a whole lot about "PSS" or "Pearl Shrinkage Syndrome." It is a strange yet extremely common thing where very soon, your "starter pearls" seem dinky and you want BIGGER ones! I say this sort of tongue in cheek but it's still true. Older women especially tend to wear larger pearls. Not sure if it's the same idea as how many of us trade up for a larger diamond ring or because we tend to get larger ourselves (haha).

Another idea, for more wow factor is to get a double strand of the 7.0-7.5mm AAA akoyas if you're set on the akoyas but do decide you want something with a little more presence. Pearl Paradise does currently have a 20% off sale for mother's day. (Or you get a double strand of freshadamas).

So, just my thoughts, for what they're worth. Very sweet idea. Good luck! Please show us whatever you get, if you don't mind. :)
 
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fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
So helpful, thank you!!!

Andrew - I totally understand/appreciate you not wanting to comment on another vendor, but you still gave me exactly the kind of info I was looking for.

As did you seaurchin!

Now... of course, I'm MORE confused! LOL No, actually I think I'm more set on sticking with the AAA pearls (which is where I was leaning), but I will look into the larger size perhaps. I really have no concept of size when it comes to pearls, so I was just leaning towards 7.0-7.5 because they seemed to be the most common size of Akoya... so I figured it was the safest bet.

As for the length? I was torn about the 16/18 thing... but she's had that necklace for a long time... and I think that she'd appreciate the slightly longer length if she had it. I feel pretty comfortable with this.

Great tip on the clasp too. But I think I'm spot on by going with the white gold there as that seems to be her favorite.

We are "older" (I just hit the speed limit, and she's right behind me!) but at least we're not getting bigger...

I was at 400 lbs a few years ago, and today I'm down to 225. She had far less to lose but has lost like 65-70 lbs as well. So that part is good. :)
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
Wow, congrats to you both. :)

So it sounds like you're getting it nicely narrowed down.

18 inch, AAA akoyas (?) and a white gold clasp. That's great progress!

Something I forgot to add in my last post is to mention possibly getting her matching pearl stud earrings. If you do, getting them at the same time ensures a good match and it's another way to add some extra wow! factor to the gift as well. If you do, personally I'd get the earrings a little larger than the strand pearls. To me, it just looks a little better, like the earrings are extra special rather than just plucked off the strand or something, but as always just my opinion.
 

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
Thanks so much! Good idea on the studs... I was thinking about that. If I can swing it, I'll look into doing that. i know she'd love those.
By the way, I'd post a link to my blog with lots of recipes, tips, tricks and some interviews I've done on my weight loss journey in case anyone was interested... but not sure if it would be a violation here or not. So I'll just say if anyone is interested just send me a message and I'm happy to share it!
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
I bet a lot of people would be interested in your blog, fmaz. There is not a private message function on this site and I am not sure about the rules on stuff like that but I have noticed that a few people have a link listed on their profile, so I assume that's allowed, anyway. :)
 

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
Yeah very much so! I feel like the 7.0-7.5 AAA 18 strand is comparatively such a good price right now its hard to pass up. And even with a pair of studs its still very reasonable. I’m not sure I can justify the jump to 7.50-8.0 at close to twice the price...but ill wait to see them side by side. I would be unable to do the studs if I did that certainly.
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
If you're not set on akoyas, here's an example of some top grade freshwaters in a larger size. I think they're delicious! They are $1,030 (before the discount) so still getting a bit up there in price, though.

Pearl Paradise

https://www.pearlparadise.com/colle...ch-white-freshadama-freshwater-pearl-necklace


A thread about them here, with pics

 

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
I’d looked at those.. and, to my completely untrained eye, I think they look beautiful... but I do feel set on the akoya pearls. For one reason... as silly as this may seem? My wife grew up in RI on the ocean, and she loves everything about it. That’s where we want to end up living again eventually. So I feel like if I got her pearls that were freshwater pearls... it wouldn’t be right. LOL
I know, I know... but it makes sense in this melon resting between my shoulders, trust me.
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
Ah, okay then. And of course there's not a thing wrong with wanting akoyas or getting the most popular size either. I know many people consider akoyas the pearls to have even without the extra personal meaning.

If you haven't seen an example of the 7-7.5mm size, here's one I found real quick on the internet (though it's shorter than 18 inches long). And of course if your wife did prefer something else, you could always return or exchange them.


PS. Or, if you think those are too small, another possibility is to get akoya or other saltwater pearl earrings like South Sea or Tahitian (black pearls) instead.
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
Oh, if you haven't found something similar yet, if you scroll down the page listed below there are some different sized pearls on a model, so you can see how they compare.

(Also, fwiw I have to say if it was my husband I would hope he didn't spend more than he could easily do at the time so I hope it doesn't seem like I'm trying to get you to lol!)

 
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Snowdrop13

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Messages
2,568
You don’t say how old your wife is? I remember researching my first pearls, which took months, believe me, the general feeling seemed to be that the older the lady, the bigger the pearls should be! Take a look at some pics of celebrity Pearl wearers, there’s a thread on here somewhere.
Personally, I’d do a strand of PP Freshadama in a larger size. I’m mid 50’s and have 2 strands of these, 7.5-8.0mm white and 8.5-9.0mm metallic multicolour. I reach for the larger ones nearly every time. Don’t forget the freshwaters are solid nacre, while the akoyas are a bead with a thin layer of nacre on the top.
 

yssie

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
22,381
Pearl Paradise is one of my favourite vendors.

Some (strong) recommendations:
1. Call and talk with a human. Don’t just click buy on the website. All grades - AAA, Hanadama, whatever else - are ranges. You want the best that’s available within your chosen range.
2. Pearl Paradise will happily take comparison photos for you. I suggest asking them to pull one or two of the most lustrous (“luster” is a magic word, and iridescence often gets lumped into this magic word) Hanadama strands in your desired size. And request comparison photos with a nice AAA strand. Also ask your rep which strand he or she recommends - you can trust their responses.
3. When you request the Hanadama photos, also request photos of the Pearl Science Lab certificate(s). There is a photo on each certificate called an Aurora image - it looks like the attached. You want to be able to see the colours in this image clearly. These reports are available only for Hanadama strands (not the in-house graded AAA).
4. Use this forum for help! Feel free to post photos, questions, answers, etc.
 

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seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
I think he said they are mid-fifties and that he wants saltwater pearls and has decided not to go for the hanadamas.

Does anyone have any of Pearl Paradise's AA+ grade akoyas? That might be another option but I've never seen any. Below is PP's description of their akoya grades.


 
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MMtwo

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Sep 20, 2009
Messages
2,978
Agree with the thought from @pearlsngems about the pearl sizes. Please check her pearl size first in her current strand. Many women of our age (I'm in my 50's too) prefer a little larger pearl. This may not apply for your wife, but something to consider.
 

Daisys and Diamonds

Super_Ideal_Rock
Joined
Apr 30, 2019
Messages
11,504
Thanks!! Lots to sleep on! I really appreciate all the help. I will make sure to touch base once I make my final choice.

Oh this is sooooo excitting
congratulations on your son's upcoming graduation :appl: :appl: :appl:

I very much look forward to seeing what you get for your wife

its such a loving and thoughtful and useful present im sure she will be so appreciative of all your research and hard work with choosing the strand most appropriate for her

i must say i like the idea of getting 2 inches worth of loose pearls just to future proof her new strand like @seaurchin suggested

If she wears her fake strand a lot she will mostly need to get her real strand reknotted at least every couple of years (don't worry, there will be pearl restraining experts in your town and its not exspensive, not like maintenance for your car ;)2 but just as important )

I inherited my mum's strand and i know when i get it restrung 16 inches is going to be too short for my comfort

And pearl shrinkage is definatly a thing even if im actually quite found of smaller pearls ;)2
 

pearlsngems

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Jan 4, 2010
Messages
1,637
Another reason to get the 18 inch strand is that some people prefer a 17" necklace (I do.) Having the extra pearls you will be able to get it restrung to her perfect length.

Also, be aware that a strand of any given length will hang a bit more snugly if the pearls are larger than if the pearls are smaller.
 

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
Thanks, all! And yes...we’re mid 50’s. And I’ve been dealing directly with a PP rep who has been incredibly helpful and responsive to all my questions... I just have gotten to the point where I wanted to get some other opinions on all this before I made my final decision.
She sent me photos of the 7.0-7.5 AAA and Hanadama’s side by side but I really couldn’t see much of a difference in the photos. Someone else (a friend who has a few sets of pearls) told me that the difference is much less noticeable in photos than in person so I didn’t feel bad for not seeing it. LOL

Today I asked her to send me photos of the 7.0-7.5’s next to a strand of the 7.5-8.0’s (both AAA’s) so I could see if I really did want to consider going double the price for that size increase. From photos I’ve seen online previously I can’t imagine i would but I want to see the actual strands.
 

seaurchin

Ideal_Rock
Joined
Nov 2, 2012
Messages
2,016
More progress, yay! All the nitpicky details surrounding picking out jewelry can surely drive ya nuts. :)

Also, "hanadama" does not mean higher grade than PP's AAA grade. It just means that strand has been sent to the appropriate lab and been certified as being at or above a certain high standard. In other words, it could well be that there IS no quality difference between the AAA strand you saw and the hanadama strand you saw, EXCEPT that one was sent to that lab for certification (and therefore will have a corresponding higher price tag to cover the cost of getting it certified) and the other was not (and therefore will have a corresponding lower price tag since the cost to get it certified was not incurred). Or, the AAA strand could even be HIGHER quality than the hanadama strand.
 

yssie

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
22,381
I would personally recommend the highest quality of pearl that’s in budget. The luster on superb akoya is a sight to behold.

As @seaurchin says - a given Hanadama strand may not in fact be of higher quality than a given AAA strand. And pictures can be challenging to interpret. Are you able to have two potential strands shipped out to see yourself in-person?
 

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
I do know, now, that the "hanadama" is merely a sign of an evaluation, not a level of quality... but I compared the two since there was a 2x price differential so I would expect there to be a 2x quality difference. Otherwise... why would I be interested in paying it?

Yssie is hitting on my issue right now, which is funny. Because of PP's sale, these AAA 7.0-7.5 pearls are at such a good price they're really below what I'd expected to pay... so I kind of am itching to spend more... but NOT double that amount and not unnecessarily.

I think seaurchin may have given me the method that makes sense to me, in adding the earrings.

Although as I said I'm still going to look at the larger pearls first. As for getting two strands? I wish I had the trained eyes you all have... I don't think it would serve me that well. But I appreciate the thought and it is worth considering. It would be certainly if one of my sisters, for example, was more of an expert on pearls. I checked with each of them ... none of them really are.
What's the point in having three older sisters? (I kid, I kid!!! LOL)
 

fmaz

Rough_Rock
Joined
Apr 15, 2021
Messages
10
Hey all - sorry for the long delay, but wanted to wait until the day I gave my wife the pearls before posting anything... and that was today. It was a big success! Thanks for all your help! Went with the AAA 7.0-7.5 Akoya pearls (with matching earrings) from Pearl Paradise and my wife was both surprised and thrilled. I’m just happy to not have to keep the secret any more!
(Oh and a proud dad as our son graduated Phi Beta Kappa & magna cum laude from Holy Cross, where he was also a two-year captain of the track team... ok, ”dad brag” over! LOL)

Again... thanks to all for your help and advice!!!!!

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