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Choosing a mother of a pearl

“Today” contributor and In Style magazine’s Charla Krupp talks about what you need to know when looking for that symbol of class and elegance.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s a great time to buy real pearls and there’s no reason to buy fakes. Pearls are more affordable than ever because of the recent revolution in Chinese freshwater pearl farming. “Today” contributor and In Style magazine’s Charla Krupp talks about what you need to know when looking for pearls.

Chinese fresh water pearls were once called “rice krispies” because of their flimsy quality and shape. No more! They’ve perfected the shape, size, and color, and because of the quantity, real pearls can cost as little as $52 for a pair of earrings. These freshwater pearl drops are available at Red Envelope, 877-733-3683).

As result of this revolution, jewelry designers are having a heyday, creating sexy, playful jewelry that’s trendy and casual enough for a summer day on our table today, not one piece that would qualify as your mother’s pearls.

To give you an idea about how “of the moment” pearls are, Reese Witherspoon wears a double strand of Mikimoto Akoya pearls in “Legally Blond 2.”

Jennifer Garner wore pearls — instead of diamonds — to the Golden Globes. Available at M&J Savitt Akoya necklace ($970, 800-372-8488).

With Mikimoto’s Pearls in Motion necklace, you control where you want the pearls to fall on the strand. It’s designed for the customer who wouldn’t consider a classic strand. Tahitian pearls with diamonds, $3,200 at Mikimoto stores, 888-701-2323.


With diamonds, it’s the four C’s: cut, clarity, carat and color. With pearls, it’s luster and size.

Luster is the shine factor

A Tiffany spokesman says that you should almost see a rainbow of colors coming off the top. Our viewers won’t be able to see the luster on this baby, but it absolutely shines. Golden South Sea pearl necklace with diamond and gold drop, Wendy Brigode, $8,000 (Fragments, 212-334-9588).

Tiffany necklace of peridot (green) beads with large South Sea 12 mm drop pearl, $2,250. (Tiffany & Co., 800-526-0649.)

Size matters

The bigger the pearl, the bigger the price-tag. Just 1 mm can up a pearl’s price 100 per cent. A single super size South Sea or Tahitian pearl on a pendant is hot because it’s more wearable than a classic strand. Like this Black Tahitian South Sea pendant by Ten Thousand Things. It’s a 13 mm pearl (they can go up to 20 mm). ($1,430, 212-352-1333).


Women of style want distinctive — not copycat — jewelry. So the best sellers are what’s unusual l- shapes like Biwas, coins and diamonds, and big flashy pieces in mother of pearl, which really isn’t pearl. Pieces that combine pearls with other gemstones or decorative elements are hot.


Long rectangular freshwater pearls, once produced in Lake Biwa, Japan, now produced in China are called Biwas. Four-strand Biwa necklace by Honora, $525. (At Saks Fifth Avenue, 800-347-9177

Tina Tang’s white Biwa pearl necklace with sterling silver clasps, $120. At or 212-645-6890.


They’re cute and young. Designers went gaga for them this summer. A coin pearl choker on rawhide leather for $95. From Tracy Matthew Designs, 415-440-3999.

So light and white, these earrings by designer Julie Bakker practically float in the air. ($635, 877-219-1323)


Diamond shaped pearls are the newest shapes in the Chinese freshwater pearl beds. It’s slightly more expensive than the common round shape and coin shape because they’re more difficult to produce. Diamond shaped pearls by Mindy Johnson, $485. Avaliable at Jennifer Kaufman, 310-854-1058.


Mother of pearl is from the iridescent lining of the shell where the pearl grew up. The wallpaper of the pearl home! Its personality is slightly bohemian, laid back, sexy and hip.

Laura Cardillo flower ring with .1 carat diamond in center ($398 at Fragments, 212-226-4953).

Jennifer Porter large leaf shape mother of pearl with aventurine roundels. ($200, 323-658-8409).

Wendy Mink 3-strand rectangular mother of pearl necklace, $170. Available at Wendy Mink Jewelry, 212-741-6460.


In Style calls these “mix masters” because they’re pearls, plus gems or another surprise element, which can make exciting and unique pieces.

Chandelier earrings are the earrings of the summer. We love these by Miguel Ases, which mix moonstones and freshwater pearls. Available for $200 at Barneys New York, 888-822-7639).

Elizabeth Brady’s marries gray freshwaters with a polished black lip oyster shell for this necklace fit for a diva. It’s called Amphitrite, named after Poseidon’s wife, $750. Available at

Lori Leavett combines coin pearls with gems and a vintage flower with a rhinestone center, $1000. Available at Saks Fifth Avenue stores.


To prove how well priced the fresh waters can be, we have the latest in earrings from $52 to $330. Pearl earrings are like soft, candlelight against your skin and very flattering.

$52: Dogeared 8mm Freshwater pearl drop earrings. Available at Red Envelope 877-733-3683.

$60: Tracy Matthews Designs coin-pearl drop earrings (415-440-3999).

$95: Wasabi Cascade Freshwater pearl earrings. At Artisan Center (303-333-1201).

$200: Chandelier earrings! Miguel Ases Freshwater pearls and moonstones. At Barneys New York (888-822-7639).

$330: Jennifer Porter Three-strand freshwater white pearl earrings (323-658-8409).

Once you buy pearls, be sure to take them out on the town! They like moisture and air. They hate to be cloistered in a dry safety deposit box.

Charla Krupp of In Style magazine has been a beauty and fashion contributor to “Today” going on eight years in a segment that’s followed her from In Style magazine to Glamour (as beauty director) to (as editor-in-chief and vice president) and back to In Style. She’s an award-winning journalist known for her accessible, “real woman’s” approach to fashion and beauty. For more information you can call 888-689-1643 or visit the In Style Web site at:, or pick up the latest issue of In Style magazine on newsstands now.