Pearls: What is Affecting the Price of Elegance?

by Jake, Exclusively for Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ®

We are often asked, "What affects the cost of pearls and the resulting resale value of pearls and pearl jewelry?" Here are some of the contributing factors that affect pearl pricing, impacting us, the jewelry-making community and consumers.

Although pearls are cultivated in various countries, the majority sold from Fire Mountain Gems and BeadsĀ® are cultured freshwater pearls grown in Southeast China. Maintaining a close relationship with Chinese pearl farmers helps keep us up-to-date on the pearl market, quality, trends and providing our customers with the best value.

The Environment and Supply

There's a direct correlation between a healthy environment and successful pearl production. Pearl-bearing oysters are filter-feeders, obtaining food from microscopic organisms while filtering up to 50 gallons of water in their daily search for nutrients. This act of filter-feeding makes oysters very susceptible to water pollutants and disease.

Even slightly contaminated water can greatly affect pearl production. Often, pearls are grown in ponds to maintain calm surroundings. These ponds offshoot rivers, giving the ability to gently move water nutrients and waste to and from the oysters. Multiple times a day the oysters are examined and, if at all in distress, immediately removed from the water for risk of contaminating neighboring oysters. Limited healthy environments for oysters can affect the supply and pricing of pearls.


Since these underwater pearl-bearing creatures have adapted over the years to specific locations, they are sensitive to extreme fluctuation in temperature. If a region has an unusually cold winter or hot summer, the oysters suffer. A flash flood, landslide or earthquake can easily damage the water supply to an area, wiping out an entire oyster farm and losing years of labor and product.

Water Supply

Like so many other countries, China is making efforts to rejuvenate and maintain a substantial supply of clean water. Although pearl farms benefit from clean water, their oysters leave behind waste in the ponds. Similar to goldfish in a bowl, if not properly filtered, the area becomes contaminated, hurting the oysters while also polluting neighboring aquifers.

To preserve fresh water, primarily near metropolitan areas, the Chinese government has placed restrictions on areas allowed for pearl farming. Costly filtration systems for wastewater are now also being required. This has caused the farmers to move their pearl operations to rural areas, which becomes very costly and, in turn, affects the consumer.

World Economy

The world's largest recipients of pearls--the United States, Japan, China, India and Russia--all play a dominant role in the evolution of the pearl market with changes in the economy. From stock prices and market shares to the value of global currency, several financial aspects continue to play a part in the overall price of pearls. Similar to gasoline prices, the cost of pearls is rarely a constant number and changes on a frequent and international basis.

Size and Style

Pearl farmers are seeing a growing demand for bigger pearls. As fashion moves toward larger pearls, the cultivating process takes longer and produces smaller amounts of pearls with higher price tags. As larger pearls become the new standard, the availability of the smaller pearls is dwindling since they are not being cultivated.

In addition, the labor for expert pearl drillers has increased, making the smaller pearls increasingly expensive. Natural white lustrous pearls always remain at a premium. Lower grades (from B- to C) are generally dyed or electro-coated in fashion colors. Because these lower grades are more numerous than natural white pearls with good luster, they are less expensive.

What does this mean for beading enthusiasts and jewelry designers? It means that even though no one is immune to increasing prices, the resale value of pearl jewelry will most likely continue to climb, or be affected by these factors. No matter what economists forecast, fashion-sensitive consumers will continue to desire these traditional fashion accessories for their luster and classic charm and remain willing to buy these timeless gems.

Customer Comments

We would like to share some of the customer comments we received in response to the article, "Pearls: What is Affecting the Price of Elegance?," featured in a newsletter. Please keep in mind that the comments expressed below are those of our customers and do not reflect the views of Fire Mountain Gems and Beads.

"Good newsletter on pearls. I was wondering why the price seems to climb. Also learning about the care of pearls. Thanks."
- Karyn

"Very interesting article, thank you!! I always enjoy learning what affects the cost of my favorite gemstone--very informative."
- Janice

"The article on Pearls - great info. Learning how the pearls are grown, the environment and where they come from--very interesting."
- Vermu