Oyster Girl: Shopping for Pearls 101

Bonjour mes amies!

From 2006-2008 MACs “Oyster Girl” was the extent of my makeup repertoire.

But this post is not about the glossing of ones lips. Instead I’d like to bestow a bit of knowledge behind one of my prized and coveted possessions:


The woman who taught me to count to ten in French, encouraged me to travel the world and to not have a baby young. 2 out of 3 isn’t so bad.
I miss you dearly GMa.

My affinity for pearls exceeds my memory.  My earliest account is seeing massive amounts of “beads” hanging in ma Grandmere’s bureau.  It wasn’t until I was much older (neuf ans) that I learned:

1. Those were not beads hanging in ma Grandmere’s bureau.

2. The elegance of pearls.

Vintage magazines and films in addition to watching ma Grandmere made me long for a strand.

I’d been gifted and given strands of pearls but it was nothing like purchasing my own (as with luxury bags.) 

In 2012, I had just finished my second degree and wanted a gift to celebrate the occasion. A Chanel jumbo flap was not in my budget, but a strand of pearls was definitely doable.

I began to research, and I was utterly floored.

Salt water, fresh water, cultured or natural. As if that wasn’t enough, I had to decide on the lustre, button, and length.

For my very first strand of pearls I invested, a lot.

A collar strand of circle button natural pearls set me back more than I’d like to admit during that time.

But I knew then that a strand of pearls was well worth the investment because I’d wear them every day.

Natural pearls are scarce. If you do find them, the price tag reflects their rarity. I’d always longed for multilayered pearls, but I knew my first strand had to be timeless and sleek.

Since my first purchase, I’ve acquired: princess, matinee, opera, and robes lengths. Ranging from brands such as Mikomoto to Robert Wan.

If you’re considering making your first pearl (not beads) purchase, here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Baroque pearls: pearls with irregular shaping.

Cultured pearls: created by farmers.

Fresh water pearls: grown in mollusks dwelling in lakes or ponds.

Imitation beads: made by machine with pearl color coating. These are not pearls.

Natural Pearls: the most rare pearls, produced with zero human interference.

Tahitian cultured pearls: typically gray, black, silver or green in color.

Quickest reference:

Anything “cultured” or “cultivated” indicates human implantation or interference was needed to create/produce the pearl. This doesn’t mean that the pearls are “fake.” The term merely indicates the process. Cultured and cultivated pearls are also much more accessible financially. Of course, there is a caveat, designer pearls.

Designer pearls are an entirely different realm of pearl-dom. Most designer pearls are cultivated or cultured, but you’re certainly paying the price of natural pearls.


  • collar fits directly against the throat
  • choker rests at the base of the neck
  • The princess length reaches near the collarbone
  • matinee length is usually 20-24 inches
  • The Opera length is 30-36 inches
  • The longest length, known as a rope, refers to all strands longer than 36 inches

A telltale sign of the quality of a stand of pearls is the closure.

Closures with multi/adjustable lengths indicate the quality. I’ve never seen an authentic strand of pearls with a multi/adjustable clasp (this is common with beads.) But, I can certainly be wrong.

A quality strand of pearls typically have the following closures:

  • Spring Ring Jewelry Clasps
  • Fishhook Jewelry Clasps
  • Lobster Jewelry Clasps
  • Barrel Jewelry Clasps
  • Toggle Jewelry Clasps
  • S Hook Jewelry Clasps
  • Slide Lock Jewelry Clasps
  • Magnetic Jewelry Clasps
  • Double Strand Slide

There’s absolutely no way I could capture the world of pearls in one post. I do hope that this is a start!

Do you own a strand of pearls?

Ciao for now 💋