Frequently Asked Questions
(Go to individual questions or scroll):

1. Why aren't these pearls perfectly round?

2. Why do women like pearls?

3. What is a "cultured" pearl?

4. What are the differences between freshwater and saltwater cultured pearls?

5. What are "black" pearls?

6. What is the best color for a pearl?

7. What is a "baroque" pearl?

8. What are "Mikimoto" pearls?

9. Can I trust an appraisal?

10. Could I get these pearls cheaper in China?

11. Why are pearls so expensive?

12. How can Lisalico sell at these low prices?

13. For further information on pearls ...

WHY AREN'T THESE PEARLS PERFECTLY ROUND? Back to top

God made these pearls ... not Dupont. Beware of perfect pearls. They may well be fake.

WHY DO WOMEN LIKE PEARLS? Back to top

Why do men like football? ...

WHAT IS A "CULTURED" PEARL? Back to top

A cultured pearl is one that is farmed or purposely grown, as opposed to a wild or so-called "natural" pearl. The pearl is started by embedding an irritant in an oyster, clam or mussel and then allowing it to grow and protect itself by depositing layers of pearl around the irritant - much like the formation of a cyst. This process may take one to several years. Cultured pearls may be either freshwater pearls or saltwater pearls. Virtually all pearls sold today are cultured pearls.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FRESHWATER AND SALTWATER CULTURED PEARLS? Back to top

Obviously, one is farmed in freshwater, one in salt. Saltwater pearls exhibit a quality called "orient" or iridescence. This means the pearl may display a color similar to that of a drop of oil spilled on water. However, sometimes it is very hard to tell them apart. Saltwater pearls are much pricier - often by a factor of ten, given equal size and quality. Why? Freshwater pearls are grown in mussels, and one mussel can produce up to ten pearls. Saltwater pearls are farmed in various species of oysters, and generally one shell produces one pearl. Secondly, there are many more ponds and rivers than suitable bays or lagoons where conditions are suitable for growing saltwater pearls.

WHAT ARE "BLACK" PEARLS? Back to top

They are black pearls ...

Actually, what are called and sold as "black" pearls vary greatly in color - from a stee/slate color, to purplish, to coal black. They may be either freshwater or saltwater.

Most famous are Tahitian black pearls, which are saltwater, pitch black, beautiful and costly.

WHAT IS THE BEST COLOR FOR PEARLS? Back to top

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In our experience, American ladies seem split between those who like white/white and those who prefer white with a slight pinkish or rosy hue. A minority seek pearls with a golden tinge or hue.

WHAT IS A "BAROQUE" PEARL? Back to top

That is a jeweler's way of saying irregular in shape, i.e., not round. They should be much cheaper; however, irregular pearls can be very nicely matched and attractive. This is more a question of necklace design.

WHAT ARE "MIKIMOTO" PEARLS? Back to top

These are Japanese pearls cultured by the famous Mikimoto company. They are very classy and, naturally, very expensive. An 18" strand of 5.5-6.5. mm.Mikimoto pearls may cost from $1000-1500 in the US. You often hear the term "Mikimoto quality". Other terms you may hear are Biwa pearls and Akoya pearls. These are place names in Japan and refer, respectively, to quality freshwater and saltwater pearls from those areas.

Interestingly, the quality of Chinese cultured pearls has increased greatly in the last decade. They are routinely sold to Japan and repackaged as Biwas or Akoyas.

CAN I TRUST AN APPRAISAL? Back to top

An appraisal usually indicates average retail price or replacement cost - i.e., what you would pay if you walked into a jewelry store.

Of course, jewelry stores often have sales. (They can easily mark down 50% when they marked up 600% in the first place.)

Jewelry stores that do appraisals tend to appraise on the high side. A Gem lab, not involved in sales, gives a more realistic appraisal and is much preferred by banks and insurance companies.

If you are a good and patient shopper you should not have to pay more than 50% of appraised price. Lisalico's 18" 6-7mm strand is appraised at $425. We sell for $110.

COULD I GET THESE PEARLS CHEAPER IN CHINA? Back to top

You bet. ... Of course, you have to get there, but that only costs a few thou'.

WHY ARE PEARLS SO EXPENSIVE? Back to top

Consider:

Most cultured pearls are imported. There are normally many middlemen involved before a pearl necklace ends up in a US jewelry store display case.

a. The farmer who grows and harvests the pearls in, say, China or Japan.

b. The foreign company that buys from the farmer, sorts and grades the pearls and probably sells to -

c. Another foreign company that assembles matched necklaces and accessories.

d. An American buyer who must (or should) travel abroad to select quality pearls and who must arrange for -

e. A shipper and

f . An import broker, to handle payment of US customs.

g. The buyer will then typically sell to an American wholesaler who will sell to (finally) -

h. An American retail jewelry store.

Each step can add up to 100% of the original cost, because every one involved must earn money. Small wonder that typical US jewelry or department store pearl prices are marked up well over 600% of original cost. Gem shows are better. Lisalico is best.

HOW CAN LISALICO SELL AT 1/3 OR LESS THAN AVERAGE US RETAIL PRICES? Back to top

There are no middlemen involved with Lisalico. We personally travel to China 6-8 times a year, deal with one reliable Chinese firm that has its own farms. We hand-select each strand we offer. We hand-carry these to the US and market directly to our customers. There are no middlemen.

MORE INFORMATION ON PEARLS? Back to top

We highly recommend : "The Pearl Book: The Definitive Buying Guide" by Antoinette L. Matlins, PG, Gemstone Press, Woodstock, Vermont, 1996. Available in paperback.