Help me buy some pearls.
December 29, 2006 7:52 AM   Subscribe

I need some help buying a pearl necklace, like, today.

So time has absolutely run out for buying my wife a Christmas gift. (Because of some travel, we agreed to exchange presents on New Years.) After blundering around jewelry shops for the past few days, I'm leaning towards a pearl necklace. But I have a few questions:

(1) Without a question, is way, way cheaper than places like Tiffany's for seemingly similar products. I've seen some scattered positive comments on the site regarding purchasing from Bluenile, but has anyone bought pearls from them? Also, have you ever returned something to them? I'll feel a lot better about purchasing over the web if it would be easy to return it if it sucks. This seems particularly important with pearls because they are not "certified" as to color or other qualities, like a diamond, so it's hard to tell if you're going to get something with a nice color.

(2) Pearls seem kinda boring to me, a guy. They don't sparkle, like a diamond, and they don't have any eye-catching "bling" factor, like a sapphire or other gemstone. But my wife has no pearl necklace, and has mentioned in the past that she would like one. So, particularly ladies, this is worth it, right?

(3) Very specific now: I'm thinking of going with an 18" strand rather than the 16". A sales lady modeled the two sizes for me and the 16" looked too much like a "choker" to me -- kinda uncomfortable and awkward. Any experience with this?

posted by Mid to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (19 answers total)
Pearls seem kinda boring to me, a guy. They don't sparkle, like a diamond, and they don't have any eye-catching "bling" factor, like a sapphire or other gemstone.

I'm a guy, and I love the way pearls look - diamonds are shiny, sure, but pearls, done right, are elegant and understated. Which is a look that not enough people aspire to these days.

I've never bought pearls from bluenile, but I've bought other things, and their return policy is ultra-simple. Don't like it, send it back within (I think) 30 days, no questions asked.

Oh, and any jewelry store is going to be cheaper than Tiffany's, and you will get similar quality stuff. At Tiffany's you're paying for reputation and for that blue box.
posted by pdb at 8:03 AM on December 29, 2006

I was worried that 18" might be too long and interfere with necklines and such, and then I went and measured my shortest strand of pearls and it's 18". For me, that length is good -- you still get the classic necklace look, but without the choking effect.

So I would guess that unless your wife is really teeny, an 18" strand would be fine.
posted by occhiblu at 8:07 AM on December 29, 2006

A string of pearls is just one of those classics that a lot of women feel their jewelry wardrobe is incomplete without. I'm so not a pearls kind of girl, but I wear my set at least 4 times a year. Definitely worth it.

As far as the length - what type of neckline does your wife usually wear? The shorter length is good if she usually wears a modest neckline because when they go longer, often just the bottom of the curve of the necklace will slip under the neckline annoyingly. If she usually goes a little lower, the longer length might look better. Also, note your wife's frame as compared to the woman at the jewelry store. Just a half an inch difference in neck circumferance would make a big difference in how the necklace looks on; if your wife is daintier than the shop employee, definitely go with the 16". Alternatively, find a necklace she wears frequently and measure its length. You'll know approximately how that falls and know that it's comfortable for her.

Good luck, and happy shopping!
posted by ferociouskitty at 8:11 AM on December 29, 2006

How large is her neck? No kidding. Or, at least, how large was the clerk's? What looks small on some women is quite flattering on others.

This page has some good illustrations (and definitions). Note, in particular, "Choker — 14/16 inches
A choker is perhaps the most classic and yet versatile of all the single strand lengths. A simple choker can go with virtually any outfit from casual to fancy evening wear, and just about any neckline imaginable." Longer can seem more formal, I think, and I find necklaces slightly longer than chokers to be a fussy length. I'm always pulling the end out of my sweater. 16" isn't uncomfortable at all.

Re. "no bling factor" -- sometimes, that's a good thing.

If you get a really nice set, the lustre will be opalescent, and quite lovely. Yes, it's worth it. Pearls go with everything, never go out of style, etc, etc.
posted by kmennie at 8:13 AM on December 29, 2006

Also, you could purchase a longer strand along with a necklace doubler clasp. With the doubler, she can either wear the pearls as a long necklace or use the doubler clasp to wear it as a double strand choker style necklace.

Agree with all of the above - pearls are a terrific, classic gift. I'm not a jewelry fanatic, but pearls are one of the few things I'd consider making an investment in. Good luck, I'm sure she'll love them!
posted by lalex at 8:17 AM on December 29, 2006

I agree with everyone else on this thread, pearl jewelry is classic and at some point, she will wear it. Besides, there are so many different colors, sizes and styles that you can find exactly what fits her personality. Go with the longish necklace as it can ultimately be shortened. I prefer the earrings to the necklace.

Check whether they are real: rub any two pearls of the necklace together. If it feels very smooth, not real. If it feels a little grainy, real.
posted by carmina at 8:30 AM on December 29, 2006

I would also get a 16" length, with relatively small pearls, to avoid the Lisa Simpson resemblance.

Every woman should have a strand of pearls, at least. I've got one, but now I really want a double strand choker. I think it's a perfect gift.
posted by mckenney at 8:31 AM on December 29, 2006

I would definitely say to go for the length she seems to prefer (if she wears necklaces frequently), and if there seems to be no preference, opt towards shorter.

If she has mentioned that she would like a pearl necklace, she will most likely love you for getting one for her. I think of pearls as being a "warm" sort of jewelry, a lot more subdued than the sparkle of gemstones.
posted by that girl at 8:44 AM on December 29, 2006

Costco has some pretty good perls.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 9:13 AM on December 29, 2006

Second on Costco. I bought some pearl earrings for Mrs. Neilkod and found them to be quite reasonable.
posted by neilkod at 9:18 AM on December 29, 2006

Excellent idea, and I have absolutely no advice on how to execute it, so let us know what you end up doing. (But only if she's already got good diamond stud earrings. Both more luxurious and more useful. And if the ones she's got are very small - from freshman year in college or whatever - consider an upgrade to larger stones, even if she's never thought to mention it. If you ask her about larger studs, she might say don't bother; if you give them to her unsolicited, she will wear them several days a week forever.)
posted by Dave 9 at 9:40 AM on December 29, 2006

I don't know a whole lot about pearls except the answer to #2: They are so very definitely worth it! They might not seem like the most exciting jewelery because they seem to get lumped in a lot with twin-sets, cardigans, other preppy things etc., but I assure you that even if your wife doesn't seem like a pearls kind of woman, she will definitely appreciate them. Even though they are intrinsically elegant, they really do look good with almost any style you can think of. You might also consider black pearls- a good strand of those is more expensive (you want the color to be a uniform gray, almost- not a strand of varied bluish-purplish pearls) but they are extremely striking.
posted by Oobidaius at 11:28 AM on December 29, 2006

Check whether they are real: rub any two pearls of the necklace together. If it feels very smooth, not real. If it feels a little grainy, real

Alternatively, against your eye teeth. (What, what? They're good, he'll buy them, right?)
posted by IndigoJones at 11:49 AM on December 29, 2006

No one's going to make the obvious joke? Ok, fine. I think beyond the fake/real, the only other factors are size and color. Go with the basics.
posted by electroboy at 12:48 PM on December 29, 2006

I own stock in; as near as I can figure out, they're for real.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:00 PM on December 29, 2006

Does she have any pearl earings? I have a set that is the same color and shape as my pearl earings. I like the look or the earing/necklace combination. I bought them together, but you might try and get her a strand that would match her earings, if she already has some.
posted by amileighs at 3:10 PM on December 29, 2006

Pearls are classic and elegant. Reminds me of when my mom would get dressed up when I was little - she looked so elegant!

As for length, snoop in her jewelry box. What length does she normally wear?

Is Tiffany worth it? That has been a big MeFi argument. Personally, I love their styles, the staff is really helpful, and...well...the blue box is great.
posted by radioamy at 7:44 PM on December 29, 2006

Response by poster: So I bought the pearls and presented them on New Year's Eve. Big success. To answer my own questions:

(1) I bought them from a local jeweler in Chicago -- not Tiffany's. The jeweler is called Marshall Pierce and has a store at Michicagn and Wacker. The price was much better than Tiffany's and the service--in terms of showing me multiple things and talking to me in an honest-seeming way--was very good.

(2) They look great.

(3) I went with an 18" necklace, which seems to fit very well. The jeweler actually told me that 18" is pretty standard, which was contrary to what Tifffany's said.

I'm happy to discuss price if anyone wants to e-mail--it's in my profile.
posted by Mid at 9:00 PM on January 1, 2007

Glad it worked out!
posted by occhiblu at 11:44 AM on January 2, 2007

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