Pearls come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes, and it's difficult to think that a pearl is simply a little a grain of sand or a parasite that once irritated an oyster, a mussel or a snail. Short of turning over every oyster, how do you find pearls?
Visit a pearl farm. While cultured pearls are not natural pearls, they are still "real" pearls. You can go to a farm and they will sell you an oyster with a pearl inside of it. Some of the places let you shuck the oyster yourself, so it's like you found it. Others open it for you and reveal the pearl. Pearl farms can be found in many places, especially touristy locations or on beaches, like at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, in Japan or in Hawaii.
Walk into a jewelry store. This is by far the easiest way to find pearls as many jewelry stores sell the delightful little jewels. Most will be documented as authentic and will already be set into lovely jewelry settings for you to wear or give to a loved one as a gift.
Verify the value of the pearl. Like precious stones, pearls have a rating scale, and some pearls are worth more than others. So if you're buying a pearl, make sure that it's real by brushing it across your teeth. If it feels gritty, it's real--natural or cultured--but if it feels smooth, it is probably glass. Size, shape, surface, luster and color also affect the value of a pearl.
Learn what makes a pearl valuable. The bigger the pearl, the more it's worth, it's a simple as that. The rounder a pearl is, the more valuable it is, but that doesn't mean that irregularly-shaped pearls aren't also valuable. They are, just not as valuable as a round one. The color of pearls vary greatly depending on where they're found and what time of mollusk they grew in. They can be black, pink, white, lavender and peach. The luster of the pearl is determined by the way it shines. Natural pearls are covered in a nacre that the mollusk uses to protect itself and the thicker the nacre, the higher the luster and the more valuable the pearl. The surface also determines the value of the pearl. If it's smooth, it's of a greater value than if it's riddled with bumps and abrasions.
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