December 16, 2020 4 min read

A Buyer's Guide To Pearls

 Pearls have made their way back to take center stage in mainstream fashion and we couldn't be happier. Since our inception, pearls have been integral to our designs and we are thrilled to see other designers using them in updated ways. We love the way they light up our skin, compliment any outfit and bring a natural beauty to the jewelry.

As a consumer, you have likely noticed the wide range of price points, colours and sizes available for pearl jewelry. Where do you start? How do you know which pearls are good quality? We are here to help you navigate the world of jewelry with our buyer's guide to pearls!

If after reading this article you still have questions, please email your questions to We will be sure to add the information here for others to read!

The Types Of Pearls We Use

We use a variety of pearls in our statement jewelry, but we most often reach for freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystal pearls. We consider both types of pearls to be of the highest quality within a reasonable price point, and are perfectly suited to making a statement!

You will never see plastic or glass centered manmade pearls in our jewelry. While they are significantly cheaper, the quality of the "pearl" matches the price point.

How Are Freshwater Pearls Created?

Freshwater pearls, natural or cultured, are formed when a mollusk produces layers of nacre (pronounced NAY-kur) around some type of irritant inside its shell. In natural pearls, the irritant may be another organism from the water. In cultured pearls, a mother-of-pearl bead or a piece of tissue is inserted (by man) into the mollusk to start the process.

Freshwater pearls are grown in freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds.

At Carolily, we use both natural and cultured freshwater pearls, depending on the statement necklace we are creating. Ethically sourced natural pearls can be harder to come by, making them more expensive than cultured pearls.

What Do Freshwater Pearls Look Like?

Freshwater pearls offer a wider variety of shapes, sizes and colours than any other pearl. While perfectly round pearls are often coveted, other variations include potato-shaped and stick pearls, rice-shaped and button pearls, coin-shaped and drop pearls, and off-round.

In terms of colour, freshwater pearls can range from a traditional white through a pastel spectrum, and everything in between. We often work with freshwater pearls that are off white, pale pink and light grey.

The size of a freshwater pearl can range anywhere between 1mm and 15mm, making them a wonderfully diverse pearl to work into a statement necklace. The possibilities are endless! 

Our Favorite Freshwater Pearl Necklaces

We love freshwater pearls for their brilliant luster and nod to the past. We incorporate them into our statement necklaces whenever possible because they add such a natural sensuality that is hard to beat.

  1. Annabelle Statement Necklace

    Our Annabelle Statement Necklace uses pale pink and grey freshwater pearls, giving it a beautiful, lustrous shine. We also use Swarovski crystal pearls in this necklace; can you spot the difference?

    Shop the Annabelle Necklace HERE.

    Buyer's guide to pearls- a Carolily Finery statement necklace made from freshwater pearls and Swarovski crystal pearls
  2. Edwina Statement Necklace

    Our Edwina Necklace is effortlessly romantic and handcrafted from mauve and light grey freshwater pearls. We love how she brings a feeling of elegance to any outfit.

    Shop the Edwina Statement Necklace HERE.

    A buyer's guide to pearls- a Carolily Finery statement necklace made from freshwater pearls

What Are Swarovski Crystal Pearls?

Unlike freshwater pearls, Swarovski crystal pearls are not made in a mollusk. They are manmade, considered the highest quality imitation pearl and use a Swarovski crystal at the center. Other imitation pearls use a plastic or glass bead for the center.

What Are The Benefits Of Swarovski Crystal Pearls?

  1. Price Point

    Since Swarovski crystal pearls are manmade, they are often offered at a lower price point than freshwater pearls are.
  2. Durability

    The crystal center makes them durable, scratch resistant and are not susceptible to damage from perfume or perspiration. 
  3. Range of Colours

    Swarovski crystal pearls are offered in 29 colours, ranging from metallics to pastels.
  4. Highest Quality

    As is the case with freshwater pearls, the temperature of Swarovski pearls changes to reflect the temperature of the wearer’s skin.

Our Favorite Swarovski Crystal Pearl Necklaces

Swarovski crystal pearls are perfect for making a dramatic statement! The variety of sizes and colours allows for fanciful, bright designs.

  1. Alexandra Statement Necklace

    Many of our customers are surprised to learn that our Alexandra Statement Necklace is made entirely of Swarovski crystal pearls, not a freshwater pearl in sight! Their brightness, saturated colour and radiance make for the perfect statement necklace!

    Shop the Alexandra Statement Necklace HERE.

    A buyer's guide to pearls- a Carolily Finery statement necklace made from Swarovski Crystal Pearls
  2. Danielle Statement Necklace

    Like the Alexandra, our Danielle Statement Necklace is made only from Swarovski Crystal Pearls! She can be worn as a choker or slightly longer for a completely different look. 

    Shop the Danielle Necklace HERE

    A buyer's guide to pearls- a Carolily Finery statement necklace made from white Swarovski crystal pearls

So, Which Pearls Are Best?

 After all that is said, which pearls reign supreme? It depends on you and what you value! There is no right answer.

Freshwater pearls are ideal for you if...

  • You value classic jewelry
  • You love the naturally occurring variances in the pearls (shape, colour, texture)
  • You want a naturally made pearl (versus manmade)
  • You want a high quality pearl and are prepared to pay a slightly higher price point

Swarovski crystal pearls are ideal if...

  • You value a variety of sizes and colours in your pearls
  • You tend to like more contemporary jewelry designs
  • You want a high quality pearl, but it doesn't matter to you if it is manmade
  • You love perfectly round, bright pearls

In our designs, we use the type of pearl that best suits the piece of jewelry. Sometimes that is freshwater pearls, sometimes it is Swarovski crystal pearls and sometimes it is both! There is no right or wrong answer when it comes down to the type of pearl you prefer.

Custom Pearl Jewelry

If you have a very specific design in mind that you don't see available, we would be delighted to create a custom pearl necklace, bracelet or pair of earrings for you! Simply email us at to book a consultation.

You can read more about our custom jewelry process HERE.

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