Considering a pearl engagement ring? When Mr. B-Cat and I decided to get married, he told me he felt weird choosing my ring on his own. He didn’t want a reminder on my hand for all of time saying, “Hey, I don’t totally get your taste, but I love youuu!”
He did know that I wanted a pearl ring instead of a diamond, so we ended up doing a lot of research on pearl rings together. I thought I’d take some time to share a little of what we discovered while researching the perfect pearl ring, or from talking to jewelers.
Natural vs. Cultured vs. Imitation
Natural pearls are incredibly rare and valuable since they occur only by chance in the wild. Cultured pearls make up the majority of the market. Pearl farmers help their molluscs produce a pearl by placing beads of mother of pearl into them. The molluscs will then spend some years coating the bead with layers of iridescent nacre. Both natural and cultured pearls are considered “real” pearls. Imitation pearls, on the other hand, are made from plastic or glass and are perfectly smooth, where real pearls are scaly textured under a microscope (test by gently rubbing a pearl against the front of your tooth).
Clockwise from left: Pre Georgian 18th Century Louis XVI era French natural pearl and diamond three stone ring | Etsy
Antique pearl and diamond ring set in 18kt gold | Etsy
Antique Regency 18k gold pearl and onyx flower cameo mourning ring | Etsy
Victorian diamond pearl engagement ring | Etsy
Saltwater vs. Freshwater Pearls
The majority of freshwater pearls today are grown in mussels in rivers and lakes in China. Saltwater pearls are grown in oysters typically in Thailand, Australia, and Indonesia. Freshwater pearls have thicker nacre around smaller beads but are typically less lustrous, while saltwater pearls are glossier with thinner nacre. Freshwater pearls are also more abundant (and more affordable) since it takes less time to produce more of them.
Clockwise from left: 14k gold antique white pearl engagement ring | Etsy
Leaves and pearl engagement ring | Etsy
14k yellow gold white pearl diamond unusual unique floral engagement ring | Etsy
18k gold gentle primitive white pearl ring | Etsy
Though “pearly white” is a phrase unto itself, pearls can come in a range of iridescent colors. Some of these colors can occur naturally, but pearls are often either bleached after harvesting, dyed with chemicals, or treated with radiation to develop a color. If a pearl’s color appears too perfect to be real, it very well might be. It can be expensive or risky to dye Tahitian pearls, so most of the ones you find on the market tend to be their true color.
Pearls are formed naturally, so they tend to come with some imperfections. Baroque and semi-baroque pearls are pearls that are a little irregular, not perfectly spherical. They can be ringed, drop shaped, flat shaped, oval shaped, pear shaped…kind of like people. Personally, I think baroque pearls are really lovely, and I especially loved the strangeness of the rings below that paired them with rough-cut stones.
Clockwise from left: Stalagmite pearl engagement ring | Etsy
Keshi pearl & pink tourmaline ring | Etsy
Baroque pearl and rough diamond engagement ring | Etsy
14k white gold ring with rough diamonds and pearl | Etsy
Avoid Chemicals and Oils!
Try not to let your pearl come into contact with any solvents or harsh chemicals. Since pearls are porous, put your ring on after putting on any lotions or creams, too. They are made up mostly of calcium carbonate, and can easily dissolve in vinegar. If something does get on your ring, just try to clean it with a soft cloth and some very diluted soapy water.
Clockwise from left: Diamond and South Sea pearl three row pave ring | American Pearl
Cultured freshwater pearl diamond frame ring | Zales
Tahitian pave pearl ring | American Pearl
Cultured Tahitian pearl diamond ring | Zales
My Experience with My Pearl Engagement Ring
The ring we settled on was actually from the flash sales site, HauteLook. We replaced the original dyed freshwater pearl with a genuine Tahitian, and the difference in iridescence was incredible. Overall, my preference was for something dark and witchy. And while my ring does have a diamond pavé, it’s done with all rough/naturally flawed stones so it’s not too sparkly.
I love my pearl engagement ring. It was a bit of a gamble since anyone will tell you they’re too soft for everyday wear. But after almost a year my pearl is still unscratched—though it has come loose from the setting (it was found and reattached). I don’t wear my engagement ring every day anymore to be safe, but I’m also the type who likes to switch up my jewelry all the time. Everyone’s mileage with their pearls will be different since it really depends on the setting. At the end of the day, I’m not too concerned about how high maintenance it is; it’s more important to me that the marriage lasts forever not the ring.
So if you’re think about getting a non-diamond engagement ring I think pearls are a beautiful alternative.
I wanted this picture to be about the ring, but it’s really just showing off how fakety-fake my nails were that day.