What Factors Affect the Value of Your Pearls?

Natural pearls are a true wonder of nature, valued since antiquity they were once believed to be angels tears or drops of moonlight that had fallen into the sea.

Pearls are formed by accident when an irritant such as a grain of sand enters the oyster and unable to get rid of it, the mollusc will secrete layers of nacre (organic material within the oyster) which over time will form a pearl. Pearls were originally found in the Persian Gulf from around 300BC, but today these ancient fisheries have become depleted due to the pollutants of the expanding oil refineries. Learn more about the history of the pearl.


La Peregrina (The Pilgrim) is one the most famous pearls having been worn by the likes of Queen Mary I of England (also known as Mary Tudor or Bloody Mary – daughter of Henry VIII) and actress Elizabeth Taylor. The pearl pendant was given to Elizabeth by her late husband, Sir Richard Burton and has a pink hue.  The pearl is believed to have first been found in the Caribbean by a slave who was permitted freedom by his owner after the pearl had been valued.



Typically a pearl will be white, yellow or cream but can sometimes hold a secondary colour. For example, if you look closely at your pearl you may see a slight rose tint. ‘Lustre’ describes the shine you often see on pearls. Fashion trends can affect the demand and value of certain coloured pearls.


Pearls come in different shapes and sizes- round, near round, oval, drop, button or baroque. The rarest shape is round and this has the highest value.


There are two main types of pearls: natural and cultured.  Natural pearls can be either saltwater or freshwater.  A saltwater oyster will only produce a pearl once and therefore holds higher rarity over others.  A freshwater mussel can keep producing pearls.  Cultured pearls are much more common and therefore hold less value than a natural pearl. Today a strand of natural pearls can be worth in the region of £20,000 to £30,000 whereas a comparable cultured pearl necklace will only sell in the region of £1000.


The larger the pearl, the higher the value.  The longer the irritant remains in the shell, the bigger the pearl will be. Advances in technology can also affect the value of pearls.  As pearls began to be mass-produced the rarity decreased and this lowered their value.

About the Author:

Jay wrote about luxury asset trends for Borro Private Finance