Pearls get a bad rap for being old-fashioned. Sure, 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. If you ask us, 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.
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.
Master Jewelry Shop Natural Diamond Pearl Engagement Ring
Consider this ring for the minimalist bride. Here, a large natural pearl is put on full display, although it is offset by a dainty bezel-set diamond.
Price at time of publish: $259 for size 6
Kataoka Winter Pearl Ring
If this bauble looks familiar, it's because you've seen it on Emma Stone's finger. Her husband, Dave McCary, proposed to the actress with this gorgeous snowflake-like pearl ring in November 2019.
Price at time of publish: $5,380
Tiffany South Sea Noble Pearl Ring
This ring was made for the timeless bride. Set in platinum and surrounded by a halo of round brilliant diamonds, the button-shaped South Sea pearl is on full display.
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.
M Collection Akoya Cultured Pearl Ring
Inspired by the letter M, this Mikimoto ring boasts an 8.5mm Akoya cultured pearl and a polished 18K white gold band. But there is more than meets the eye when it comes to this masterpiece: If you look closely, you'll notice small diamonds atop the prongs.
Price at time of publish: $3,400
James Allen 14K White Gold Freshwater Cultured Pearl and Diamond Vine Ring
Diamonds and pearls elegantly combine to form this enchanting ring. From the diamond-studded vine motif to the stunning freshwater, this bauble is contemporary and romantic.
Price at time of publish: $670
KatKim Pearl Crescendo Ring
We can't decide what we like most: The 5mm Akoya pearl floating inside four diamond pavé prongs or the wrapping 18K gold band. Either way, this delicate KatKim ring is lovely to look at and undoubtedly unique.
Price at time of publish: $2,730
LoveRingsDesign Pearl Engagement Ring Set
This ring set is proof you don't need to choose between pearls and diamonds. The timeless pearl engagement ring is accented by a diamond pavé band, and both are available in white, yellow, and rose gold.
Price at time of publish: $699 for size 4
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.
Price at time of publish: $949
Delfina Delettrez Pearl Piercing Diamond Ring
Two pearls are better than one when it comes to this unique bauble. A glamorous quirk, the larger white pearl is topped with a petite diamond.
Wouters & Hendrix Gold 18K Yellow Gold Pearl Emerald Ring
Colored gemstones are having a major moment—why not pair one with a pearl? It's perfect for a bride searching for a timeless engagement ring with a fun twist.
Price at time of publish: $749
Paloma Picasso Olive Leaf Pearl Ring
Inspired by an olive branch, this romantic Tiffany & Co. ring displays a freshwater pearl in a stunning sterling silver setting. Simple yet elegant.
Price at time of publish: $525
J. LUU Diamond and Pearl Open Ring Yellow Gold
Pearls are well-suited for open rings. But the bold style is given an upgrade through petite diamonds on the band.
Price at time of publish: $475
Zales Cultured Freshwater Pearl
Perfect for the vintage-inspired bride, this ring features a freshwater pearl flanked by a white sapphire and a trio of diamonds on either side. Nothing short of elegant!
Mateo 14K Gold Pearl & Diamond Half Moon Ring
This beautiful and geometric ring in 14k gold, cultured pearl, and diamonds, is inspired by Wassily Kandinsky's painting "Floating."
Price at time of publish: $700
Angara Princess Diana Inspired Freshwater Pearl Ring
Inspired by the grace and elegance of Princess Diana, this engagement ring is a showstopper. A floral-esque halo of prong-set diamonds surrounds the center freshwater cultured pearl.
Price at time of publish: $829
Zales Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Accent Tri-Sides Ring
This sophisticated pearl is highlighted by trios of eye-catching diamond accents on either side. The ring is crafted in 14K gold.
Price at time of publish: $579
Kay Jewelers Cultured Pearl Ring
Set in an intricately made 10K yellow gold band, this cultured freshwater pearl certainly makes a statement. It is accompanied by a center row of bezel-set round diamonds with rows of diamonds above and below.
Catbird Birth of Venus Ring
This pearl engagement ring bursts with beauty. The design is reminiscent of the infamous Sandro Botticelli painting "Birth of Venus," making it a one-of-a-kind stunning piece. The Akoya pearl is set in a 14K yellow gold band.
Price at time of publish: $1,180
Maui Divers Jewelry Hawaiian Heirloom Fresh Water Pearl Ring
This unique freshwater pearl has a peachy tint to it. It is held in an intricately crafted 14K rose gold band.
Price at time of publish: $795
Mateo 14k Gold & Diamond Pearl Sphere Ring
Less is more with this cultured pearl ring. Held in a 14K gold diamond pavé band, this pearl embodies class while remaining chic.
Price at time of publish: $875
Jared Cultured Akoya Pearl Engagement Ring
This cultured Akoya pearl is highlighted in a halo setting surrounded by diamonds. It is a dazzling way to style a pearl while still having some shine.
Price at time of publish: $1,500
Etsy Vintage Pearl Engagement Ring
Inspired by romantic eras of the past, this vintage-style ring holds all of the timelessness of eternal love. This Akoya rose gold pearl is paired with a diamond band that comes in both yellow gold and platinum.
Price at time of publish: $1,190 for 14K rose gold
Delfina Delettrez Two In One Diamond and Pearl Ring
This modern take on a traditional pearl ring comes from Delfina Delettrez, a part of the iconic Fendi dynasty. Two pearls are held on a pierced band with a 0.05ct white diamond in the center.
Capucinne Pearl Engagement Ring
A single pear-shaped pearl stands alone on this minimalist engagement ring, but if you love this ring and want a bit of shine, no worries. You can custom design it with a gemstone of your choosing.
Price at time of publish: $210
Angara Golden South Sea Pearl Bypass Engagement Ring
This Golden South Sea cultured pearl is truly a treasure. Two prong-set diamonds flank the golden pearl. The stones are set in a 14K rose gold band.
Price at time of publish: $929
Etsy Pearl Engagement Ring
Art deco intersects with class in this handcrafted pearl ring with a woven designed band.
Price at time of publish: $361 for 14K rose gold