How Much Are Pearls Worth? A Breakdown of Different Types

Mariana is a writer living in Waterloo, Ontario. She loves using jewelry to add the perfect…

If you want classic and timeless jewelry, pearls are a perfect choice. Available in various colors and price ranges, the pearl is a beautiful and decadent accent for any jewelry piece. If you’re looking to buy or sell a set of pearls, you may wonder: how much are pearls worth? It depends.

Each pearl’s value depends on its quality, size, and coloring. The natural pearl is one of the most expensive because of its rarity.  

There are three types of pearls.

  1. Natural pearls: Natural pearls are created when an irritant works its way into a specific oyster, clam, or mussel species. The mollusk’s defense mechanism is to secrete a fluid that coats the irritant. As the irritant continues to be coated, a beautiful pearl is formed.
  2. Cultured pearls: The cultured pearl is just like a natural one, but the irritant is a surgically implanted bead or piece of shell. This method provides much larger natural pearls because the pearls are being created in a controlled environment. This allows for higher survival rates of the oysters and bigger pearls.
  3. Imitation pearls: The imitation pearl is a completely different story. Most of the time, this type of pearl is a glass bead dipped into a solution made of scales. Since this coating is thin, it can wear off with time. You can tell if a pearl is fake by biting onto it. An imitation pearl will feel smooth, while a natural or cultured pearl will feel gritty.  

How much are pearls worth in general? 

Imitation pearls should not be expensive, but the industry is getting better at disguising fake pearls to look like natural or cultured ones. Therefore, it is important to make sure you’re buying from a trustworthy place.

Natural pearls are some of the most expensive on the market. For example, Queen Marie Antoinette’s pendant was auctioned in 2018 for $36 million. A strand of 53 pearls auctioned in 2014 was sold for $2.9 million. Cultured pearls, on the other hand, are a bit more affordable – prices range from $50 to over $165,000.

Although both types of pearls are considered “real,” the way the pearls grow is different. The occurrence of a natural pearl is much rarer. Although cultivated pearls can be much bigger, the rarity of a natural pearl makes it more expensive.

How much are oyster pearls worth? 

Throughout history, there have been some expensive pearls produced by oysters. For instance, the Pearl of Lao Tzu, the largest known pearl, was worth $3.5 million. Another famous pearl is La Peregrina, which was owned by several Spanish monarchs and, more recently, belonged to Elizabeth Taylor. La Peregrina is a pear-shaped pearl worth $11.8 million.

An oyster pearl’s worth depends on various factors, such as quality and significance. Oyster pearl prices can range from $20 to $5,000 or more per pearl. Additionally, natural pearls can be more expensive, and size is also an important factor.

How much are freshwater pearls worth?

Freshwater pearls are produced by Hyriopsis cumingi and Hyriopsis schlegeli in China, and other mollusks that like in lakes, riverbeds, and creek bottoms in Japan and the United States. There are also freshwater pearl farms, in which the pearls are cultivated, taking two to seven years to produce a pearl.

The price of a freshwater pearl depends on its quality and size. A lower-quality pearl can be purchased for as little as $20. Average quality pearls can sell for anywhere between $30 and $50. Higher quality freshwater pearls can sell for $65 up to $5,000 or more sometimes.

tiffany freshwater pearl worth

This unique necklace from Tiffany mixes freshwater cultured pearls with sterling silver hardware. It brings the perfect mix between the modernity of the hardware and the classic look of the pearl. Each pearl is 10mm, and the necklace is 16” long. It retails for $2,400.

How much are clam pearls worth?

Just like many mollusks, clams can also produce pearls. Much like oyster pearls, clam pearls’ prices depend on quality, size, type, and color. A clam pearl can range from $300 to $1,500, depending on the quality. For instance, a natural clam pearl of 8.84 Ct. is currently $2,000 on the market. 

how much are pearls worth - clam pearl

How much are black pearls worth?

You might be more familiar with the cream-colored pearls. However, there are also black pearls. These pearls are not necessarily black, they are usually dark green, blue, purple, silver, gray, and peacock. Tahitian pearls are naturally black and come in a wide range of dark shades. 

Like with other pearls, its quality will determine its worth. Dyed black pearls, for instance, will be worth less than naturally dyed pearls. Artificially dyed black pearls can sell for anywhere between $50 and $2,000. Natural black Tahitian pearls can sell for anywhere between $250 and $30,000.

blue nile tahitian pearl worth

This decadent black Tahitian pearl necklace features an 18k white gold diamond-encrusted clasp. The black pearls are between 10.5 and 11mm in size, priced at $8,750. Necklaces from the same retailer and bigger pearls retail as high as $24,500. Additionally, Tahitian cultured pearls will be more affordable than their natural counterpart.

How much are cultured pearls worth?

Compared to natural pearls, cultured pearls are significantly more affordable. This type of pearl can range between $50 and $175,000. Among the most valuable cultured pearls are the ones from the South Sea. They come in various sizes, shapes, and colors and can sell for as high as $100,000 or more.

screenshot showing the price of james allen south sea pearl necklace

This simple and delicate necklace from James Allen features a single 9 to 10mm South Sea cultured pearl. It retails for less than $1,000 and features a delicate diamond prong holding the pearl. 

how much are pearls worth - screenshot showing the price of south sea cultured pearl

For a more classic look, this necklace from the Blue Nile features a strand of opulent South Sea cultured pearls. Each pearl measures 10 to 12.2mm in size, and it retails for $16,250.

How much are Akoya pearls worth?

The classic round, white pearls might be the first thing that comes to mind. These pearls are called Akoya pearls. They are mainly cultivated in China and Japan in Pinctada fucata martensii, a saltwater oyster species. The natural counterpart of this type of pearl is exceptionally rare.

Like all pearls and gemstones, the quality and size can affect their pricing. Lower quality Akoya pearls can sell for as little as $100. Average quality pearls can be between $150 and $300. Lastly, higher quality Akoya pearls go for as high as $6,000 or more.

akoya pearl bracelet from Tiffany cost

For example, this beautiful and classic Tiffany bracelet made of Akoya cultured pearls is $1,200. The bracelet features 7 to 7.5 mm-sized pearls and the classic Tiffany tag, creating a timeless accessory.

How much are Tahitian pearls worth?

Tahitian pearls are one of the most exotic pearls in the world. These pearls are formed by the black lip oyster and are mainly cultivated around the islands of French Polynesia. The Tahitian pearl can come in a range of colors from white to black and can obtain various undertones of green, pink, blue, silver, and yellow. The darker pearls are of a higher value due to their unique quality.

tahitian south sea black pearl price (1) - how much are pearls worth

Tahitian pearls can sell for as little as $200, like these baroque pearl earrings from Laguna Pearl

tiffany pearl earring price (1)

Higher quality Tahitian pearls can be more expensive, like these Tiffany pearl earrings that retail for $900. Some higher-quality Tahitian pearls can go for over $35,000.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are pearls a good investment?

If you plan on starting a jewelry collection as an investment, pearls are a great way to start. Many auction houses, in recent years, have sold pearl jewelry for much more than other gemstones. 

Despite its lower ranking on the Mohs scale, which is used to determine a gemstone’s durability, the pearl is highly-priced. Some cultured pearls are considered fine jewelry just as precious stones like rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires. 

High-quality cultured or natural pearls will easily keep their value and continue to become more valuable over the years.

How do you determine the value of pearls?

The first aspect to consider when determining a pearl’s value is its type. Natural pearls are among the most expensive, but cultured pearls are not far behind. Imitation pearls are one of the cheapest options since they are simply glass covered in a fish scale coating. 

Additionally, a pearl’s value is also determined by its size, shape, color, luster, and overall quality.

Do pearls increase in value over time?

No, pearls lose value over time. A pearl can lose 25 to 30 percent of its value if it is not in good shape. So, make sure your pearl does not have any scratches. Since pearls are at a 2.5 on the Mohs scale, they are extremely prone to damage. However, if you take good care of your pearls, they can be sold for the same or an increased price.

To take good care of your pearls, keep them hydrated and make sure they do not get scratched or get discolored. 

💡 Take Note: Some types of pearls are less likely to lose value over time. For instance, natural pearls rarely lose value with time. On the other hand, others like the cultured South Sea pearls can lose their value with time.

Which color pearls are most valuable?

The most valuable colored pearls in the world are the Golden South Sea pearls. These decadent pearls’ colors range from pale champagne to intense gold hues. 

golden south sea pearl - most expensive pearl color

This Golden South Sea Pearl strand from the Blue Nile features 12.2 to 15.5mm pearls and retails for $38,500.

The Golden South Sea pearls are larger than other saltwater pearl varieties. These pearls are grown in the gold-lip variety of the Pintada maxima and can take two to four years for them to grow. The deeper the golden color of this pearl, the most valuable it is.

The Price of the Priceless Pearl

Regardless of which type of pearl you choose to purchase, it’s most important that you love the jewelry piece you purchase. While imitation pearls are affordable, some retailers can sell them for a higher price because you might not know how to identify the differences between the real and the fake. 

Overall, cultured pearls are in a good price range, and you can find some beautiful jewelry pieces featuring them. Whether you’re shopping online or in stores, you’re sure to find the perfect pearl jewelry for your next special event. So, are pearls worth your money? We’ll leave it up to you to decide.

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