Department Store Pearls

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I was recently asked a question about The Pearl Girls pearls and how they differ from department store pearls. What I wrote ended up being very long so I broke it up into a few different blog posts. Here is some more info about department store pearls and about the experience I had ordering pearls from a department store.

If you want to take a look at the Tahitian pearls we offer, click here, and otherwise enjoy the story about my experience buying Tahitian Pearls from a Department Store! Thanks!

Tahitian black pearls by The Pearl Girls

India’s experience with department store pearls…

Since I started The Pearl Girls, I actually ordered pearls from a department store! It was 2015 and I had just started working with a pearl farm in French Polynesia. I traveled and met the pearl farmer, toured the operation and bought some amazing Tahitian pearls to sell through The Pearl Girls store and online. Then I got home, got an email from Macy’s with Tahitian pearl strands for $400!! $400!! This was so much less than the pearls I was selling. I couldn’t even think about buying a strand of Tahitians for $400 much less selling them for $400. Macy’s peaked my interest so I bought a strand to see what a strand of $400 Tahitian pearls looked like. And, truthfully, I was so optimistic. Here I was traveling directly to a pearl farm, working with an environmentally conscious pearl family. The pearl farmers are a father/son duo! I believed in what they were doing, I love their quality, their philosophy and their environmental stewardship. Truthfully, I also just like them as people, too! But, how can you beat $400? Well, I couldn’t resist. I got online and ordered a strand of $400 Tahitian pearls!

department store pearls - surface imperfections - the pearl girls

So, my Macy’s pearls arrived and I learned a very important lesson. $400 Tahitian pearls look very much like $400 Tahitian pearls. The pearls I received had a high about of surface imperfections. I was not able to capture it on the camera very well but there were a lot of pock marks. Some lower quality pearls have what is called poor surface quality. Surface quality is the amount of surface imperfections on the pearls… divots, dents, scratches, marks and more. Since pearls are organic gems there will be natural imperfections on the surface of the pearls but when they become so numerous that they are easily recognized at a distance by the naked eye, this is a mark of a lower quality pearls. These department store pearls were covered with surface imperfections.

Color is usually a descriptive quality when identifying pearls however in the case of these pearls, the variation of color in one pearl were very distracting. The color of these Tahitian Black pearls were not uniformly saturated. The color varied in one pearl so much that they didn’t have the richness Tahitian pearls are known for. They might vary from pale silver to a dusky gray in one pearl. None of the pearls felt (or looked!) very rich in color! They felt like rejects to me, like I had been sent a necklace from the low end of the harvest of pearls.

department store pearls - poor color - the pearl girls

And this is something important I have learned in the pearl business. There are many pearls that make it to market that are not gem quality pearls. I get it. These pearls took just as long to form. Just as much “labor” went into the production of these pearls and pearl farmers need to recoup their investment. But, again, these lower quality pearls just cannot be sold at high quality pearl prices. And this is how I found the $400 necklace. And this is the reason I sent the $400 necklace back.

I have always known this about pearls… you can find pearls which cost less than The Pearl Girls pearls and many times there is a reason those pearls cost less. Our Tahitian pearl necklaces can run close to $2000 and they are rich, beautiful pearls with a lovely provenance. I think they are more valuable than their price tag. But, in the long and varied and very subjective way we judge pearls, some people prefer paying $400 and I understand that, too!

department store pearls - poor nacre quality - the pearl girls

I have a lot more to say about Department Store Pearls so I hope you will follow me to my next blog post. One can buy every lovely pearls from department stores. I happen to be very fond of Macy’s and I buy many items from their stores. So, please know, there is a variety of pearls that you can buy from department stores. This was simply my experience buying Tahitian pearls from Macy’s and, in the end, choosing The Pearl Girls instead.

With Love,


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