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1913 East Locust Street
Davenport, IA, 52803
United States


Expressions Jewelers specializes in creating custom & handcrafted fine jewelry and showcasing curated collections from designers around the world.


Expressions Jewelers | Blog

The Expressions Jewelers Blog will help you discover custom designs, jewelry trends, gift ideas, care tips, and more for your jewelry collection (or the collector in your life).

Filtering by Category: How-To

How to Shop: Pearls

Mary Van Buer

The first image that comes to mind when a client begins talking about pearls is Holly Golightly enjoying her coffee and croissant in front of NYC’s Tiffany & Co. Audrey Hepburn’s character is wearing a ravishing black Givenchy gown with strands of pearl stacked around her neck, fastened with an extraordinary broach.

Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's

That iconic Breakfast at Tiffany’s scene did for pearl what James Bond did for Martinis.

Pearl bracelet

For centuries pearls have been prized for their mystifying powers and folklore. Legends surrounding the pearl come from around the world. In Ancient Greece pearls were held to be tears of the gods, while early Chinese civilizations believed that pearls were carried by dragons.

Regardless of mythology, pearls are truly a special creation. This gem is the only one made by an organism. Mollusks produce pearls where an irritant (parasite, seed, grain of sand) enters its body. As a form of protection, the mollusk deposits layers of nacre over the intruder, thus creating a pearl.

Natural pearls that are uniform in shape and color are extremely rare and very expensive. The majority of pearls in today’s market are cultured. They are cultivated by artificially implanting a bead or a grafted piece of shell into a pearl-producing mollusk.

The cultured pearl market includes a variety of types. Here’s a little info to help you sort through the options and learn what to look for.

Cultured Pearls


Strand of akoya pearls

Used in our best-selling pearl jewelry, akoya pearls refer to cultured saltwater pearls primarily coming from Japan and China. Sizes range from 2mm to 10mm, with the most popular sizes being between 5.5mm and 7.5mm. A white or cream body color is most common, although akoya pearls can be seen in natural yellow, gray, and blue as well.

South Sea

South Sea Pearls

South Sea pearls are admired for their large size. These cultured saltwater pearls hail from Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. They range in size from 8mm to 15mm and are available in many colors, though most south sea pearls are white to golden in color.


Tahitian Pearls

Sometimes referred to as black pearls, Tahitian pearls occur in a wide range of colors. Black is the most familiar, but shimmering white, gray, purple, green hues are stunning. The typical size of these pearls ranges from 8mm to 14mm, and sometimes even larger.


Freshwater Pearls

Freshwater pearls are just that, pearls cultivated in freshwater. These pearls are plentiful and available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and are often dyed green, blue, brown, pink, purple or black. China is the top freshwater pearl producer in the world, though Japan and the United States have small production as well.


Mabé Pearl

Mabé pearls are quite different from the other varieties listed. These blister pearls are formed on the inside of the mollusk shell rather than the body. This formation creates a flat side on the pearl allowing for a secure setting in jewelry.


Selecting Pearls

Shopping for pearl jewelry

Once you’ve decided the variety, size, shape, and color of your pearl jewelry, it’s time to start shopping!

As with any piece of jewelry there are value factors to consider. Pearl value factures are distinct from other gems stones because of their organic nature.

Size, shape, and color are always personal considerations and should be determined based on your preference. Your professions jeweler will be able to guide you in selecting pieces.

Luster is often the most important value facture when selecting cultured pearls. The term refers to the light reflected on the surface of the pearl described by its intensity and sharpness. Luster identifies the remarkable from the ordinary and bright from the dim. Look for sharp reflections of light on the pearl’s surface.

Like anything in nature, pearls (natural or cultured) have some blemishes. The presence or absence of these irregularities are considered the complexion of the pearl. Taking note of the pearl’s surface, observe any variations such as spots, pits, bumps, or abrasions.

If you are looking for a classic strand of pearls, matching is a very important value facture. Pearls that are perfectly matched in size, shape, and color and hard to come by and it is reflected in the price. Still, you want a strand that appears uniform in all these factors. Make sure to judge the consistency across the full strand.

Pearl Care & Cleaning

Perhaps the most important information to know about pearl jewelry is how to care for it, as pearls are much more delicate that most gems. They are very soft, ranging between 2.5 and 4.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and require special attention.

Pearl jewelry care and cleaning

Because of their nature, pearls are vulnerable to chemicals found in many toiletries and household cleaners. Make sure to remove your jewelry before applying cosmetics, perfume, and hairspray; additionally, do not wear your jewelry in chlorinated pools or hot tubs. To avoid damage or loss it is wise to remove jewelry before doing dishes, gardening, or exercising.

Cleaning should be done as-needed only and never with an ultrasonic or steam cleaner. Gently clean your pearls by wiping with a soft, lint-free cloth dipped in warm water using a non-detergent soap. Wipe each pearl individually. Then rinse the cloth and wipe the pearls with clean water. Be mindful not to submerge a strand in water as it can weaken the thread on which the pearls are strung.

Your strand may need to be restrung periodically. Even gently-worn pearls can loosen over time. Have your jeweler check the knots (they should be tight with no slack between the pearls) and clasp.

Store your pearls in a soft folder or pouch to keep them separated from other jewelry, as harder materials can abrade the pearl’s surface. Avoid tangled strands by clasping pieces and storing separately. Also, pearls can dehydrate if stored for too long, so get them out of your safety deposit box and enjoy them!

akoya pearl earrings

Traditionally pearl jewelry makes a brilliant gift for June birthdays and 30th wedding anniversary. The gemstone is known for its calming properties and represents purity and innocence which is why it is often worn by brides on their wedding day.

Whatever the occasion that puts you on your pearl journey, you now have some information to begin. As always, consult you trusted jeweler to help select a piece and contact us with any questions you have.


How to Stack Rings Like a Jeweler

Mary Van Buer

Stacking rings are a huge trend right now in the fashion world. In fine jewelry, it is a creative way to make a look that’s uniquely you. Stacking rings can be added to your wedding set or worn solo.

However you decide to wear it, we have a few tips to style your stack.

It’s not Plain, it’s Timeless

Don’t think you need to go all bling. A solid band without diamonds or gemstones is sometimes the missing link, er, ring. Create a minimalist stack with a little bit of space and see how the contrast pulls it all together. If you need a little more interest, try a hammered texture or a small design.

Flat Band

Hammered Band

Skinny Rope Band

Skinny Rope Band

Mix Setting Styles

Adding a channel-set band creates a huge look between two prong-set bands. Want something a bit more contemporary? Try a bezel-set band.

Channel Set

Prong Set

Bezel Set

A Touch of Novelty

Love a good floral motif? Is the infinity trend calling your name? Go for it! Just don’t go crazy with these novel designs. They are sweet in small amounts, but can be overwhelming and chaotic when you try to fit too much into your stack.

Scroll Design

Infinity Design

Fancy Knot Design

Explore Stone Shapes

Don’t feel tied down to round. Adding a ring with fancy-shape stones will create interest, especially if you are staying with one metal color. Look at baguettes (my fave!) or marquise for something special.

Princess Cut Bezel Set

Marquise Single Prong Set

Straight Baguette Bar Set

A Pop of Color

Adding gemstones to your stack is a great way to make it special. Honor your special someone or your children by using their birthstones in a ring. Keep in mind that different color gems show off in different metal colors.



Ruby & Diamond

Eternity Bands: A Cautionary Tale

I get it. The idea of a complete circle of diamonds around your finger is so captivating. No matter which way it spins, sparkle is there to treat your eye! Eternity bands are stunning. I hate to be the bad guy, but they can also be the source of many headaches. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering an eternity band:

  • Cannot be sized. While there are some solutions to make an eternity band fit tighter, they cannot be enlarged or properly sized.
  • Higher risk of damage. With stones all-the-way around the ring, the inside stones (on your palm side) are susceptible to damage. Think about how much you do with your hands.
  • Less economical. This isn’t really a surprise. More stones (especially diamonds) = more money.

Questions to ask your Jeweler

If you’re ready to building your stack, make sure you are working with your trusted jeweler. Take some time and ask him or her a few questions:

  • How durable is this setting?
  • How should my rings be sized? (Pro tip: the larger the stack, the tighter the fit)
  • What kind of care and maintenance is involved with this ring?

 Do you have a favorite stack? Send us a photo on Facebook!

Ready to create your own? Visit our online selection or stop by in store to mix-and-match.