When Should You Wear Pearls?

1.indexedWhen is the right time to wear pearls?  We’ve talked about how to buy pearls, but Reader C sent in a super short email wondering when to wear them…

One of my favorite jewelry pieces is my strand of Mikimoto pearls that I got for my 30th birthday.  They were an investment piece, and they get so much wear that I’m glad I did invest in a quality piece.  That said, there are a ton of price ranges (and there’s nothing wrong with faux pearls) so there’s something for everyone.  For my $.02, when to wear pearls depends on the kind of pearls we’re talking about:

when to wear pearls– Standard strand (not too big, not too small, around 7.5MM, 16″ or 18″) — everywhere!  Since I got my strand I’ve worn them to court, to interviews, to legal conferences, around the office, on dates, to my wedding, to blogger networking/speaking events… the possibilities are endless.  I often note how common they are for the first day at legal conferences (where everyone tends to dress as formally as they’re going to) and networking at night events.  My strand is 18″ long but I think a shorter 16″ strand looks great peeking out beneath a crisp button-front blouse.  I’ve also often thought that a strand of pearls can “stodge up” a less conservative outfit. (Pic at right taken by a friend at my wedding — note that the strand had turned around so the clasp is not in back, where it’s supposed to be.)

– Pearl pendant.  Again, I think you can wear this one everywhere.  My husband got me a fairly large pearl pendant from Majorca (similar to above, available for $165) that I’ve worn with suits and with date-night dresses. I generally think pendants are less conservative than a full strand of pearls.

– Colored pearls (think Nancy Pelosi’s Tahitian pearls).  Pelosi wears them everywhere; I think you can t0o.

– Pearls with diamonds.  These can be a gorgeous look for evenings or fancy day events (like weddings); depending on your personal style they may look fine with your work clothes as well — but these will be a less conservative choice — more of a statement.  (And I’ve spent waaay too long searching for an image I thought I had Pinned recently… if I find it I’ll update.)

– Very long pearl strands (think Coco Chanel).  Again, we’re getting into less conservative territory here (and more likely faux pearl territory), but I think they’re great accent pieces.  Note that Angie at YouLookFab has an interesting video on how to knot longer strands.

– Large pearls.  These tend to look a bit stodgier — they also tend to be faux.  In general the older you are, the larger your pearls can be.

Readers, are you fans of pearls?  Where (and how) do you wear your pearls? 



  1. I’m not a fan of pearls, but I think the answer to this question is “whenever you want to wear them.”

    • TO Lawyer :


      I think pearls go with everything! I like long strands you can knot because I feel like they’re a little more youthful.

    • This is exactly the right answer.

      • Yo Kanye, a hammered link version of the necklace Kat posted above would be so metal! (pun intended).

    • Hah! My first thought was, “… this really is not that hard.”

      • Miss Cellaneous :

        I honestly did a double-take at the title and first sentence. When I realized that I read them correctly, my first thought was, “Someone actually has to ask this?”

        And then I thought that instead of feeling snarky, I should feel amazed at the wonderful diversity on this site and appreciate that everyone else on here didn’t grow up in a small Southern town.

        And then I realized that being a small town Southerner who loves pearls makes me a pretty big cliche.

  2. I love pearls! I have an eighteen inch mikimoto strand, a multi color majorica strand, and white and grey chunky short strands with silver toggle closures. I wear one of them almost every day…I also have a Tiffany silver bead graduated necklace which is a little less formal. Nothing lights up your face like pearls!

    • On the Tiffany graduated silver beads – I also have that necklace (am wearing it today in fact) and have allowed the silver to tarnish a little on the insides of the beads so that it’s not so SHINY TIFFANY BEADS. I learned the other week that apparently they have been passing as lovely black pearls to more than one colleague when another female associate said “I have been meaning to ask for the longest time, where did you get your pearls.” Ha!

    • Majorica jewelry doesn’t incorporate pearls, at least as of the last time I checked. Most of their “pearls” are either shell beads or some other kind of synthetic pearls. Not that there’s anything wrong with those.

      This post reminds me I’ve had a half-finished draft for a guest submission on pearls parked on my desktop for more than a year now….

      //Kanye shrug//

  3. Great timing! My husband has said he’d like to get me a strand of pearls for my birthday next month and so I’ve been doing my research…which has just been confusing. There are sites that sell online (e.g., pearl source, American pearl), and that promise to have pearls of the highest quality. Then we talked to our jeweler, who quoted a price from his pearl supplier at almost double what the online places were selling. I’d expect a difference of $100 or so, but not such a huge jump. Because there’s no universal standard, the way there is for diamonds, I really can’t tell if the ones being sold online are any good. Has anyone bought from any of these online stores? If so, how was the quality and what did they appraise for?

    • I have bought from an online store – American Pearl – and I would advise against it. I had a pearl and diamond ring that I ADORED and thought I had lost. I couldn’t find another one at the jewelry store I originally got it from but found a remarkably similar one on American Pearl, so I ordered it. When it arrived, it was clearly lower quality than my other ring – the quality of the diamonds and the overall craftsmanship was just lacking. Now, in their defense, I will say that the pearl was the nicest part and was fairly decent quality. So, you might consider it if you’re looking for a straightforward string of pearls… but in terms of overall jewelry craftsmanship, I wasn’t impressed. I eventually found my original ring and side by side the quality difference is even more obvious.

      • Yes – I was worried that perhaps I was being unfair in saying that the ring was low quality – so I went back and looked on their website to remind myself how much I had paid. It was more expensive than I remembered, and the picture on the website isn’t really an accurate picture of the ring I wound up receiving – looks much nicer on the site.

        • Sigh, that was my fear. I just looked back at the quote we got from the jeweler and it was about $3,300 for an 18″ strand of 7.5-8.0 mm round white akoya. Does anyone know if this is a good price?

          • That seems excessive, unless they are Mikimoto pearls.

          • It really depends on the source.

          • Kanye, what do you mean it depends on the source? What types of sources are there, and what difference do they make in terms of value?

          • By “source,” I mean where were the pearls harvested? South China Sea? Lake Biwa? A freshwater pearl farm?

            There are lovely freshwater pearls out there, in a variety of colors, sizes, and shapes. But freshwater cultured pearls will always be less expensive (because they are less rare) than all-natural, non-cultured seawater pearls. Conch pearls are probably the rarest, which is why you see so few of them on the market.

          • These were cultured Japanese akoya saltwater pearls

          • Please don’t get akoyas. You would be wasting your money.
            Go to pearl paradise.

            Fwiw, I paid less than 3000 dollars for a 9-10 mm White baroque strand of south sea pearls that I bought in Australia. I would never spend that on akoyas. Go to passage des perles to do research.

    • I can recommend two online sources – one is pearlparadise.com, the other honora.com. Both carry a range of pearls from freshwater through to tahitian, depending upon your taste & budget. Quality has always been excellent for the price points.

    • PS: others have recommended Kojima Pearl, Kamoka Pearl, and Pacific Pearl in the past, all of which have stunning pieces.

    • Anonymous :

      There is definitely a standard grading of pearls – AAA is the highest grade, usually the roundest, most satiny, flawless and luminous. They are priced by grade and size. The price goes up exponentially the larger they get, and even small pearls of the highest quality start out expensive. This does not take into account baroque pearls, which are a completely different, and even more expensive, animal.

      Further, I would absolutely not buy online unless graded, and if you were confident you knew what you were purchasing – even then you may be disappointed. I purchase a lot of pearls for jewelry making, and I try every pearl I personally intend to wear against my skin – pearls have huge tonal differences even in top grades, and I would not buy a set without making sure they looked the way I wanted them to.

    • [From a former post on this site, but should help you]

      I have some more formal pearls I wear when I am being more posh/conservative. I am not a white/beige pearls personality person. I feel like with dark color pearls it’s a little more former-punk-in-a-suit kind of vibe.

      I have the 16″ of these, AAA. They are REALLY classy and look like stuff that retails for WAY more $$. They were a bday gift from my husband. How, oh, how could he have figured out they were JUST what I wanted.

      If you are richer than me, that site also has some gorgeous Tahitian and other lovelies I’ve never even heard of but wow.

    • Do you research by going to ” passage des perles”. Then visit the sites she recommends , including pearl paradise. To my mind, mikimoto pearls = paying for brand. I wear pearls all the time ( south sea and Tahitian) . But please size up. Try to get 8mm or larger. And check out baroque pearls. They are lovely!

  4. Senior Attorney :

    I love pearls! I have a faux Nancy Pelosi multicolored strand that I wear a lot.

    I not only think you may wear bigger pearls as you get older, but that you SHOULD wear bigger pearls as you get older. I have an 18-inch strand similar to the one Cat is wearing in the photo, and at 54 I feel a little jeune fille wearing pearls that size, so it mostly sits in my jewelry box. I’m thinking about having it re-strung with some colored beads or something to jazz it up a bit. Or maybe add a pendant.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      You could also take another strand of the same length and wear them together – that way you get the “heft” of a bigger set of pearls. I have a baby strand of black pearls that are too little to be worn alone anymore (I got them when I was 16, I’m in my late 20s now), so I’ve taken to wearing them with my other set of black pearls (slightly bigger pearls, same strand length), and it works for me.

    • I love pearl’s also. My dad bought my mom a set of cultured New Zeeland Pearl’s when they went on a 5th year aniversary date down there. I was just a baby and I stayed with Grandma Leyeh then. I even remember it b/c she took me to the beach club and there were alot of other grandma’s there but everyone thought I was so cute. Anyway, I told Dad I wanted a set of pearl’s like mom, but he said I would HAVE to get my husband to buy them for me b/c a good set was way to much for him to spend on me, especialy b/c I cost alot of money for him with law school and all. FOOEY!

      I told him I could have been independant, and gotten my OWN financieal aid, but he would not hear of it, b/c he was telling all of his freind’s he was still suporting me at age 23. So I got NO financeial aid from GW for law school, even tho I could have been an RA if I pressed for it. The head of the houseing office told me that I would have been a great RA, but I just think it was because he was interested in dateing me. I told him he was to old for me. I was 21, and he was 38, and he had NO hair at all when peeople just started to think that shaveing your head was cool. DOUBEL FOOEY!

      So I must wait for a husband to buy me pearls, unless I am willeing to spring for them myself. I do NOT want the cheep ones, so either I will buy them or wait to get MARRIED and have my husband get them in New Zeeland for me when we go there. YAY!!!!

    • Do you have a link for where you bought your Pelosi knockoff? I found this, but a bit out of my price range:


      • Senior Attorney :

        That is the one I just loved, and obviously couldn’t afford. So I looked online and found big fake loose pearls in those colors, arranged them in the same order, and took it to the jeweler to have it strung nicely with knots between the beads with a lovely gold clasp. It turned out great and ended up costing well under $200 total. I’m not at all crafty, generally, so I was and am super proud of the whole project!

    • Alaskalaw :

      I wear small pearl earrings every day, and my necklace will vary — but if I wear my 16 inch strand of Mikimoto pearls (husband bought them 20 years ago for me) sometimes I will jazz it up by layering a gold pendant necklace underneath it — makes for a “younger” look but not obtrusive under my ever-present white button up shirt.

    • Senior Attorney: I had my 25th birthday pearls (Mikimoto, 7in) restrung into a 3-strand bracelet and I LOVE it. (am 56 BTW. Seniors rock:))

  5. Jessica Glitter :

    Excuse this rant.
    My assistant just contacted a client to let her know I would be attending a hearing with her instead of Gentleman Partner. Her response? “She is a woman?!” “So you are telling me that Gentleman Partner is not going with me, and he is sending female associate?” “Please check with Gentleman Partner and see if that is really what he is doing?”

    This after I had to email someone this morning and say, “By the way, I am a Ms. not a Mr.” (I have a gender neutral name, but my spelling is very unique and very feminine)

    The end.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      Two questions: (1) Client is female and reacting this way? (2) Did client get the memo that it’s no longer 1963?


      • Jessica Glitter :

        I know, right?! Right?!
        And this isn’t even a reaction to my age (which from my experience is a lot more common). Good grief.

        • Killer Kitten Heels :

          I could sort of, maybe, kind of, understand if opposing counsel was Distinguished Senior Super-Expert Gentleman Partner of Competitor Firm and the client had reservations about having “just” an associate with her at the hearing (although even then, as a client, she should be deferring to the judgment of Gentleman Partner on staffing matters), but the fixation on your gender is just plain absurd.

    • Olivia Pope :

      No excusing necessary. That is annoying as all get out!

    • RAWR!! Give me this woman’s address, I’m sending my dragons. ;oP

      • Maybe I could employ your dragons as part of my haterade delivery service.

        • I would love to contribute to your service! ;o) I am really enjoying my hypothetically deploying my imaginary dragons on people this week, though, it is really fun. Everyone should try it. ;o)

    • Maybe she’s disappointed that she can’t get her flirt on with Gentleman Partner, and doesn’t even have a Younger Gentlemen Associate to practice her feminine wiles on. She’s constructed this elaborate fantasy where she and GP have this unrequited attraction, and now she’s been dissed.

      Or maybe she’s just a cranky pants.

    • Alaskalaw :

      I have a similar problem with my name — it’s not gender neutral but it’s not an American first name so people get confused. After that happened a few times, I started signing my name “Ms (Foreign First name Foreign Last name).”

      As for the client…I agree, the “She is a woman?” thing is ridiculous!!

  6. I’m wearing pearls right now (earrings) so I’d say whenever and wherever. I agree with Kat that they can “stodge” up a borderline outfit and, certainly, that was my goal today because it’s 9o degrees and my dress today is probably a bit breezier than what I would normally wear. I also used to wear them on interviews but I tended to avoid the traditional short white strand for that purpose because it just felt a little to “dress up lawyer” for me (works great for others, but I didn’t feel like myself) and usually opted for a longer three strand pearl necklace that’s a bit artsier.

    On a related note, I have a very old strand of pearls that belonged to my great aunt and needs to be re-strung. I would love to know if anyone has a recommendation for someone reputable in NYC.

    • Tiffany’s does restring pearls.
      and if you call Macy’s they will recommend someone also.

      • Anonymous :

        Tiffany’s will only restring their pearls. I already asked. I think I have to just find an independent jewelry shop but it’s hard to know who to trust.

    • My go-to place for anything pearl-related is Ultimate Jewelry Designs on W.47th Sreet (www.ultimatejewelrydesigns). About 75% of my jewelry (including my engagement ring) is from there…they are terrific!

  7. I was given a string of pearls for my 16th birthday from my very generous uncle, but I feel that at 19 wearing them to anything has a touch of the intern-with-expensive-bag about it, especially as I’m still a student. I will wait to wear them until I’ve been in a good job for a couple of years.

    • Wear them! Enjoy the gift.

    • I think the beauty of pearls is that it’s hard to tell which ones are really expensive and which ones were reasonably priced so I say wear them to your heart’s content.

    • Baconpancakes :

      Pearls are perfectly appropriate for students and young professionals, and don’t at all connotate spoiled-rich-kid. Even Anne of Green Gables had a strand of pearls!

    • Not at all! You should totally wear them. If I saw a young woman wearing a nice pearl necklace I would assume they were either a gift or a family piece that was passed down, and just think they were lovely. Not the same ‘consumption’ connotations as a $$$$ purse at all.

    • Killer Kitten Heels :

      Pearls are a pretty standard “our little girl is growing up!” type of present, so I don’t think you’re in “intern with a $10K bag” territory at all here. Also, as others have pointed out, it’s pretty difficult for the average person to tell *really expensive* pearls apart from more modestly priced pieces (I even have a few really good fake strands that were <$20 that have been confused by coworkers for the real deal), so pearls don't have the kind of in-your-face showiness as a branded bag. If your pearls fit in with the rest of your wardrobe, definitely wear them!

    • Wear them and stop waiting to feell “old enough/established enough” to pull it off. Because as you can see from upthread, one day you will feel too old to wear them. I think pearls are a paarticularly appropriate gift for your first pieces of nice jewelry.

    • I feel bad that thissite has made you paranoid about a pretty harmless piece of jewelry. Sad rawr.

      • Cornellian :

        The idea of a sad rawr just kills me.

        This site can be great for figuring out consensus views on things, but you have to remember not to take all the judgey mcjudgersons too seriously.

      • Lily-student :

        It’s not this site, but generally feeling uncomfortable about having something worth about a year’s living money around my neck.

    • I’m sure I’ve been told that you should wear your (real) pearls on a regular basis because the natural oils on your skin help maintain the pearls’ lustre. Just in case you needed an excuse.

    • Oh, please! Wear them with pride and joy! Don’t take everything so seriously. Sometimes you need to enjoy the finer things in life, which pearls are!

  8. I have no real opinion on pearls. However, I have been reading Jezebel way too much. Between that and the thissite discussion this morning, my automatic gut response to the question, was, “Anytime you want to clutch them in response to the length of someone’s skirt!”

    No snarkiness intended, I promise. It just made me laugh, so I thought I’d share.

  9. Seventh Sister :

    I’m contemplating buying a double or triple strand of pearls (probably 8-10mm size). Any thoughts re: double v. triple strand? I have a smallish neck, so I’m worried that a triple strand will look overwhelming and/or too old lady.

    • Anon in NYC :

      I would go to a store and try them on in a double or triple strand. I think this is one of those things that is a matter of personal preference and you’re not going to know until you see it on.

    • Miss Cellaneous :

      Totally up to you. I’m a huge fan of both. I think that double strands have a little more flexible wearability, but they have that because they don’t have the extra pizzazz of a triple strand… and I do like extra pizzazz. I’m on the verge of purchasing a double strand and planning to either have an add- on third strand custom made later or just buy a triple-stand later.

      For reference. I’m in my 20s, and by “later” I mean in my 30s (if not sooner). Clearly I don’t think triple-strands are “old lady,” but I’ll also acknowledge that I love pearls more than your average girl. Some of you love $750+ suits, shoes, and handbags… I prefer pearls and keep the other stuff at a lower price point.

      I also deeply love and appreciate family heirlooms, and pearls don’t wear out the way handbags and shoes do.

      • Seventh Sister :

        I’m in my mid-30s, so I feel like I could pull off either. Thanks, all!

        • Anonymous :

          I am early 30’s and have both a double strand and a quad strand of graduated fake (really fake, as in costume jewelry, plastic beads with silver-painted plastic toggle closures) pearls. They came from my grandmother’s costume jewelry stash. I wear them all the time, and get compliments on them – without fail – every time I wear them. My only complaint is that neither of them is a triple strand. The quad strand is sometimes just a tad too big, and the double is just a tad too small. My vote is for the triple strand.

  10. SoCalAtty :

    I was thinking of buying a pearl necklace with my first bonus at my new company, as a present (rest goes to savings, good, but not exciting). I was thinking something like this:


    I’m not a “strand of pearls” type person, but I think I would wear this quite a bit and it would fit in well with my work wardrobe. What does the hive think about something like that?

    • I love that necklace! I spend about that much on splurges each time my ESPP vests and might have to bookmark that one.

    • That is SO cool. Maybe not on need-to-dress-stodgy, though, possibly too cool for like a depo with intimidating opposing counsel. Then again, if it makes you feel like a biker chick, maybe it would be PERFECT for that. And if you got any comments from someone about it being too informal, you could be all sweet: “Oh, are you not familiar with BAROQUE TAHITIAN pearls? Not everyone likes baroque shaping or can afford Tahitian, I know.”

  11. girl in the stix :

    How fun! I happen to be wearing my pearls today. I have two long strands (86″) of small freshwater pearls, one white, one grayish black iridescent (peacock?) that I have triple-wrapped around my neck. My only problem (probably because they were so inexpensive) is that the way they are strung catches my hair all the time. I always have to wear a jacket or sweater to keep from going bald!

  12. Interestingly, I feel like I virtually never see people wearing a strand of pearls. But this might be because I’m from the Pacific Northwest, where it might be a tad dressy, and have just never really paid attention in D.C., where I now live. I will have to start looking for them, I guess; I’m curious.

  13. Gwennellen :

    Please comment on wearing the clasp to the front if its a really nice one.

  14. I wear my standard 18″ strand of 8 mm pearls EVERYWHERE. I wore the same necklace at my wedding, dissertation defense, job interviews, and to church.