So you want to buy a pearl necklace for that special someone. Maybe it’s for your daughter, just turning 16. Maybe it’s a congratulatory gift for a brand new mom. Or maybe it’s for your wife, to mark a significant wedding anniversary. In any case, you know that pearls are the perfect gift to make a special occasion even more special.

But suddenly, you’re confronted with choosing the pearl size for that perfect necklace. Wait a minute, you think – aren’t all pearls basically the same size? Do a few millimeters more or less really make a difference?

Actually, they do. Each different species of pearl has its own particular range of sizes and shapes. Freshwater pearls usually range in size from 5mm-10mm; however, they can be as tiny as 1-2mm (sand pearls) or as large as 13-15mm in the round shape. On the other end of the spectrum, giant baroque pearls are as large as 20mm-33mm!  South Sea Pearls are usually between 9mm and 20mm, and Tahitian Pearls are usually between 8mm and 16mm.

Size and shape go hand-in-hand when grading and valuing pearls. Larger does not always mean more valuable. For example, a smaller, perfectly round pearl could be more valuable than an oval-shaped pearl that is double its size. However, giant baroque pearls are far from round, yet their unique shapes and surface features are highly prized.

A loose pearl’s diameter is measured in millimeters, rounded off to the nearest 0.5 mm. For pearls in strands, measurements are taken perpendicular to the drill holes and expressed in half-millimeter ranges, for example, 6 mm – 6.5 mm.

What determines the size of a pearl? There are several factors affecting size: the size and vitality of the mollusk that produced it, the size of the nucleus, or the irritant at the heart of the pearl, and the time that the mollusk spent underwater before the pearl was harvested.

So what do these different pearl sizes mean for the wearer or gift giver? Generally speaking, the smaller the pearl, the younger the wearer. Pearls that measure 5.5 mm – 6 mm are the ideal size for young girls, from age 12 to about 16. At that tender age, larger pearls might look ungainly.

The next size up, 6-6.5 mm, is usually chosen for older teens and young women up to about age 24. At these ages, young women are closer to their adult height, so slightly larger pearls look less out of place.

As the pearls get larger, they become more appropriate for adults. The standard starter pearl necklace size, perfect for a woman’s wedding day or her first day in a new career, is 7-7.5 mm.

A more mature woman of around 30 might look for a slightly larger pearl in her ideal necklace. 7.5 – 8 mm pearls are a businesswoman’s wardrobe staple, and also make perfect anniversary gifts.

Once pearls hit the 8 – 8.5 mm threshold, they do jump up in price. This is because in order for a pearl to grow that large, it has to stay in the water much longer. Wearing pearls of this size lets people know that the wearer is a successful woman of means; they are the ideal pearls for black tie events, and are favored by investors because they appreciate in value over the years.

Women who wear pearls in the 8.5 – 9 mm size range are sophisticated fashionistas. Jackie Onassis regularly wore a double strand of these pearls. Need we say more?

Larger pearls are true statement-makers – the ultimate in luxury and beauty. Barbara Bush often wore 9.5 -10 mm pearl strands at her neck as First Lady. Just imagine the impact that a necklace of 16 mm Tahitian pearls, or even 20mm SouthSea pearls, would have!

So no matter who you’re buying pearls for, from a pre-teen to a new grandma, be sure to choose the pearl size that fits both her age and the occasion. My Pacific Pearls offers pearls in all shapes and sizes, so if you have any questions, or need any help choosing, don’t hesitate to give us a call!