NorthShore Diamonds has several different types of pearls and pearl jewelry available.  We can provide you with a great selection of South Sea, Tahitian ,Akoya, Freshwater, and Mabe cultured pearls in all qualities and sizes. The most important thing to remember when selecting a pearl is that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” as most elements used to assess a pearl will depend on individual taste.   

South Sea cultured pearls are the most voluptuous, usually 10 to 15 milliliters, and are the most valuable natural pearl. Originally from Australia, they are now also farmed in Indonesia, Burma, and the Philippines.  Nacre thickness tends to be at least 3 millimeters and, in many cases, reaches over 6 millimeters.  South Sea pearls are graded into 4 complexion categories: Statement, Fine, Fashion, and Foundation.
Tahitian cultured pearls, often called black pearls, are mostly found in French Polynesia in the South Seas. Natural colors are usually shades of grey to black.  They are usually found in sizes ranging from 8 to 13 but can exceed 20 milliliters. They come in a variety of shapes and nacre quality is the defining attribute of quality and value.
Akoya cultured pearls are the classic and best known variety of cultured pearl. Mostly found in certain areas of the east coasts of North and South America, the east coast of Africa, the Mediterranean, and around Japan.  These pearls are usually between 2 and 10 milliliters in size with a nacre thickness of .1 to.2 of a milliliter. White with pink undertones are the most highly valued in most cultures.  In some cultures, the creamier tones are more complimentary to natural skin tone and are more desirable.
Freshwater cultured pearls are not produced by an oyster.  Most are farmed in China in varieties of freshwater mussels. They are not marketable in their natural state and require clinical enhancement such as bleaching, coloring, and polishing. Traditionally, they grow in shapes from near round to oval, from 2 to 5 milliliters. New production techniques now produce freshwater pearls that compete with Akoya for size and general appeal. Supply is plentiful and quality is highly variable, resulting in a much lower price than other cultured pearls.
Mabe cultured pearls form on the inside shell of the oyster rather than the soft tissue. The half pearl grows into a domed blister as the shell secretes nacre.  The blister is then removed and backed with mother of pearl. Their thin nacreous layer can be easily cracked or damaged by misuse. White with pink undertones are the most desirable.  However, there is an increased interest in dark, smoky, or blue color.

Pearls are classified by origin, then graded by  luster, complexion/surface, size, shape, color, and nacre thickness.

Describes the beauty you see as light travels through the nacre of the pearl. The finer the nacre, he better the luster and color and the more valuable the pearl. Luster is not to be confused with surface shine. Luster comes from deep within the nacre, much as light filters from the depth of the clear blue sea.  It is probably the most important indicator in evaluating cultured pearl quality.
Complexion /Surface
Pearls may have surface characteristics which may or may not detract from the pearls’ beauty depending on the quality, depth, or visibility or the blemishes. Pearls are graded into 4 complexion categories: Statement, Fine, Fashion, and Foundation.
Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. South Sea cultured pearls dominate the pearl world in quality and size, and are generally found in sizes between 10mm and 15mm. When found, rarer pearls from 16mm to in excess of 20mm are highly prized by connoisseurs. The larger the pearl, other factors being equal, the more valuable it will be.
The most common shapes, in descending order of value, are:  Round, Oval, Circle ,Drop, Full Bottom, and Baroque. Shapes from round to drop are pretty  symmetrical ; while baroque denotes asymmetrical or free form. The shape of a pearl does not affect its quality. 
Pearls come in colors from white to black. The most popular color is white or white with slight overtones.  The overtone colors of the South Sea cultured pearl are the natural colors of the South Sea pearl shell and cover the full spectrum of the rainbow including pink. 
Nacre Thickness
Nacre is the iridescent layers which are produced by the mollusk to coat the nucleus.
 Very thick: 0.5mm (millimeter) of nacre, approximately 2 years of cultivation.  Cannot see any nucleus with the unaided eye.
Thick: .45mm of nacre, approximately 1 ½ - 2 years of cultivation. Cannot see any nucleus with unaided eye.
Medium: .35mm of nacre, approximately 1- 1 ½ years of cultivation. Nucleus not visible with unaided eye
Thin: .30mm of nacre, approximately 9 months to 1 year of cultivation. To the unaided eye the pearls appear to blink when twirled
 Very thin: .25mm of nacre, approximately under 9 months cultivation. To the unaided eye pearls have fisheye look, nucleus lines are visible.

Care of Pearls
Pearl jewelry will require some care to preserve its freshness and beauty.
Occasionally clean the pearls gently with a cloth dipped in alcohol diluted with warm water, or in mild soapy water. Then rinse the cloth in fresh water and wipe the pearls clean. Dry them with a soft cloth.
The following hints will help you keep your pearls looking their lustrous best.
•Wait until after applying makeup, perfume, and hairspray to put on jewelry. Some chemicals may harm jewelry.
•Don’t allow pearls to rub against harder gems.
•Before putting pieces away, wipe the pearl jewelry softly with a clean cloth.
•For storage, keep the pearl jewelry wrapped in a soft cloth and protected from abrasive objects.
•Strands will need restringing from time to time, depending on how often they are worn.
Consult with a jeweler annually.