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Pearls get a bad rap for being old-fashioned. The word itself is practically synonymous with a single strand worn by your grandmother. But celebrities like Ariana Grande and Emma Stone have recently made the case for pearl engagement rings, and the timeless stone has never been chicer.
What Is a Pearl?
Pearls are a unique gemstone formed inside a shelled mollusk, such as an oyster or mussel. The gemstone is best known for its glistening iridescent outer covering.
"Pearls are among the more, if not the most, delicate choices for an engagement ring," says gemologist Lorraine Brantner. "Pearl rings are not very common, so it is an easy way to stand out and get people talking about your engagement."
Not only are pearl engagement rings an eye-catching look, but they also have a special meaning connected with them. It's been said that pearls symbolize wisdom, integrity, and loyalty, all of which are important in your relationship with your partner. "Their organic and lustrous beauty has symbolized the moon and its power, and their subtle sheen hints towards purity," adds Brantner.
Meet the Expert
- Lorraine Brantner is a gemologist and sales manager at James Allen. Founded in 2006, James Allen is the world's largest privately held online diamond and bridal jewelry retailer.
Interested in learning more about this nontraditional engagement ring stone? We've laid out the pros, cons, and everything in between.
Keeping scrolling to learn if a pearl engagement ring is right for you.
Pros and Cons of a Pearl Engagement Ring
Pearls are an attractive and elegant choice for your engagement ring. Due to the gemstone's nature and rarity, pearls haven't always been a popular choice for engagement rings until recently, so you can be sure that your ring will stand out from the rest. Additionally, the versatile color of the stone allows it to pair beautifully with any metal of your choosing.
There are some drawbacks to the gemstone. Pearls may also lose their luster as the years go on, and they are incredibly soft, ranking between 2.5 and 4.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness. Most unconventional engagement ring stones, such as sapphires and rubies, start at an 8, and traditional diamonds have the highest ranking with a 10. For this reason, you will have to take extra care of your pearl engagement ring to prevent any potential damage or scrapes.
What to Look for in a Pearl Engagement Ring
- Where should I shop for a pearl engagement ring? Despite their rarity, pearls can be found at a variety of jewelers. For more choices, try looking outside of traditional engagement rings and search for your ring where you may find heirloom pieces and fine jewelry.
- What is the typical cost of a pearl engagement ring? "Pearl rings can be rather affordable at just a few hundred [dollars] and go into the thousands," says Brantner. Natural pearls are extremely rare and incredibly costly. "There are different types of pearls, some rarer and more sought after than others, so the species and size can affect pricing."
- What stones best complement a pearl engagement ring? "Tapered baguettes or round diamonds on the sides is a very classy way to show off your pearl and add extra sparkle to your ring," says Brantner. "You can also mix and match shapes of diamonds and complementary gemstones, like multicolored sapphires, to create a ring as unique as you are!"
How to Care for a Pearl Engagement Ring
Since pearls are organic material, they are more susceptible to damage than diamond rings. "The fine coating on the surface of a pearl, called nacre, is very thin and, once worn away, cannot be replaced or repaired," says Brantner. "Pearls should always be 'last on, first off' and gently wiped with a clean jewelry cloth and safely stored away from other jewelry items that could cause scratches."
Types of Pearls
There are four types of cultured pearls commonly used in jewelry. Below is a description of each.
- Freshwater: Typically the most affordable option—and the most commonly produced—these pearls are formed in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds, and they come in a range of shapes and sizes.
- Akoya: Slightly more expensive than freshwater pearls, Akoya pearls are also quite common in fine jewelry. "They have a white base color with a subtle iridescent rose glow," describes Brantner.
- South Sea: An even more luxurious option, South Sea pearls are mostly sourced from Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. "If you like the richness of an all-gold pearl, search for a South Sea," says Brantner.
- Tahitian: Tahitian pearls get their name from the French Polynesian island Tahiti, as they are primarily formed there. Sometimes referred to as "black pearls," they showcase "hypnotic and moody colors," according to Brantner.
Ready to say "yes!" to a pearl engagement ring? Peruse our favorite pearl engagement rings in every style and budget.
Kay Jewelers Cultured Pearl Ring With Diamonds
If you're interested in a three-stone engagement (a lá Meghan Markle) but not satisfied with diamonds, turn to this white gold ring from Kay Jewelers. The trio of cultured pearls is completely unexpected while small diamond accents add a touch of bling.
Zales Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Accent Ring in 14K White Gold
Between the split shank band, brilliant freshwater pearl, and the swooping diamond pavé accent, this is not a ring you'll get tired of looking at. Pair with a simple diamond pavé wedding band to keep this the center of attention.