Pearl Shapes

Buyer’s Guide to Pearl Shapes

When you think of pearl jewelry, there’s a perfect picture that comes to mind. Perhaps you are thinking about a classic white Akoya pearl necklace in a perfect round shape or a simple baroque-shaped necklace.

Well, pearl jewelry comes in different shapes, from baroque to buttons depending on a customer’s taste and budget. In this guide, you will learn about the main pearl shapes, how to tell them apart and make an informed purchase decision.



How Pearls Get Their Shapes

Pearl shapes are affected by different factors. Every pearl farmer aims to create perfectly round pearls. However, getting a perfect round shape is not always that easy. In fact, this is one of the most difficult challenges, which makes perfectly round pearls rare and most valuable.

The entire process of pearl production affects the final shape outcome. Usually, pearl-producing mollusks are nucleated using bead nucleito achieve perfectly round shape. The round nucleus is then inserted into the host mollusk and encircled with a pearl sac. The pearl sac is expected to take the round shape of the bead nuclei, but variations or irregularities within the mollusk determine the final shape outcome.

The mollusk secretes nacre that coats the bead nucleus inside as the pearl starts to take shape. During the process, the muscles of the mollusk’s body roll the nucleus gently around with the pearl inside slowly forming into shape. Any interruptions or disruptions that happen during this layering process cause variations in the nacre. As a result, the nacre gets stacked on top that causing a different shape. This can be due to sudden changes in the environment and temperature or the presence of irritants.

How Pearl Shape Affects its Value

The shape of a pearl is one of the most important factors used by jewelers to value and grade pearls. Based on the shape, pearl can be graded as most or least valuable:

  • Perfectly Round Pearl: This is the gold standard in pearl grading. It is the rarest pearl most valuable, and most classic amongst pearl shoppers.
  • Smooth Drop Shaped Pearls: When you can’t get a perfectly round pearl, you will be interested in a nice-looking pearl shape. The smooth drop and symmetrical pearl shapes are considered the next most valuable.
  • Baroque Pearls: These are considered the least valuable, and are highly collectible because of their unique nature.

To get a better understanding, let’s have a detailed overview of the differences among the most common shapes and what to consider before purchasing a pearl piece:

Perfectly Round Pearls

  • Most valuable of all pearl shapes.
  • Perfectly round and symmetrical.
  • Account for just 5-10% of a pearl harvest.
  • “Eight Way Rollers” are perfectly Round pearls that roll smoothly in all directions are
  • All pearl types can produce perfectly Round pearls.
  • Akoya pearls are the most popular perfectly round pearls.

Near-Round Pearl Shapes

  • Near round peals appear “Round to the eye.” However, they have subtle variances that can be seen with careful inspection, making them have a “wobble”.
  • The Near-Round shape makes the pearls “spherical” and attracts higher pricing tiers compared to other pearl shapes.
  • Still offer excellent savings opportunities because they give the appearance of a perfectly round shape but without the premium pricing of the perfectly round pearls.
  • You can get the best deals for near-round peals from Tahitian pearl necklaces or South Sea pearls.

Button Pearl Shapes

  • Button pearls come with flattened bottoms and sometimes tops that resemble small domes.
  • Button-shaped pearl necklaces will have slightly squished-looking rounded pearls.
  • The flat bottoms of button pearls are very comfortable to wear, making them an excellent choice for pearl earrings.
  • The most common button pearls are Freshwater pearls, but they can also be found in other pearl types.

Drop Shaped Pearls

  • 2nd most popular pearl shape to buy after the perfect round one.
  • Represent about 15-20% of a pearl harvest.
  • Perfectly symmetrical in form.
  • Found in classic Tear-Drop shapes and Oval to Barrel
  • Pearls that are perfectly matched and with large Drop-Shape pairs for earrings attract top prices due to rarity.

Baroque Shapes

  • One of the most prevalent pearl shapes in the market
  • Accounts for about 40-50% of a pearl harvest.
  • Symmetrical or totally free-form pearls
  • Baroque pearls are defined by a variety of shapes, including unique and uneven forms that can resemble barrels, tops, off-rounds, drops, and more.
  • Baroque pearls can be circled with deep or shallow rings that run around the circumference of the pearl.
  • Least expensive pearl shape to purchaseand you can save up to 50-80% of the premium round pearl necklaces of the same pearl type.

Circled Baroque Pearls

  • Type of Baroque pearls that feature one or more circles on them, which makes them heavily circled.
  • Usually feature high concentrations of color banding and luster.
  • Tiffany’sfirst promoted Circled pearls in the 1970s as “Circles of Love” as Tahitian pearl producers were looking for a way to create a desire for these unusual pearls.
  • Since they are classified as part of the Baroque pearl shape, Circled baroque also accounts for 40-50% of a pearl harvest.
  • Can be found in Freshwater pearl type and South Sea.

So, How Do You Choose the Right Peal Shape

Most people choose the right pearl shape based on their intuition. It’s just a case of, “I like this one, so I am going to take it.” However, you can use these few pointers to make sure you are on the right track:

  • You are strict to get the Classic Look – Choose the perfectly round pearls/. Consider Akoya pearls, Round South Sea, Gem Grade Freshwater Pears, and Round Tahitian pearl necklaces.
  • You like the High-end Look, but not the Price: The near-round or the button-shape strands would be a perfect choice.
  • You want something unique with a taste of romantic, chic aesthetic: Drop-shaped pearl necklaces will work well. You get to indulge in high-end South Sea or Tahitian peals without dealing with the premium price of a perfectly round pearl.
  • You want something totally one of a kind and you have the staples: Baroque will be an excellent choice. Your options are endless, from classically Baroque shapes to circles pears, or free form baroque.


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