Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Pearls in rings

When a customer asks you to make a ring with a fine quality, large,
South Seas or Tahitian pearl (i. e. an expensive one), how do you
usually respond:

–“If that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll make.”

–“Here’s why it’s not a good idea but if that’s what you want,
that’s what I’ll make.”

–“Let’s design a ring that will protect the pearl.”

–“Forget the ring; wear it in a pendant.”

In other words, how much responsibility do you, as the expert, feel
for the customer’s decision?


Bill, how about, “If I were you I would forget the ring and wear it
in a pendant. Here’s why it’s not a good idea to wear as a ring, but
if that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll make. If that is what you
want then let’s design a ring that will protect the pearl. And after
we make it with those protective elements in place, I’d suggest you
still wear it only occasionally because no matter how we design the
ring it will be at risk of damage due to an inadvertent bump. It
will be beautiful, but always somewhat delicate and I can’t do
anything about that.” Mark

When a customer asks you to make a ring with a fine quality,
large, South Seas or Tahitian pearl (i. e. an expensive one), how
do you usually respond: 

None of the cultivated pearls approach wear resistance of natural
pearls, regardless of how expensive they are. It is perfectly fine to
use natural pearl as center in a ring, but not a cultivated one
unless such ring would be worn only occasionally and with great care.
If client understands this, I would not have a problem making such a

The responsibility of goldsmith is in making clear distinction
between natural and cultivated.

Leonid Surpin

I make exactly what they want, then give them directions for the
proper care of their gem.

If it is not properly cared for, I will be replacing the pearl again
down the road, I will once again give them the directions for proper
care of their gem.

Angela Hampton
Hampton House Jewelry

I would suggest making a design that would protect the pearl and
explain why this is necessary. I have found clients to be
appreciative of the and willing to follow suggestions.

Hello Bill,

I’d tell the client what a lovely pearl it is and how soft and
delicate pearls are, so I strongly encourage her/him to consider a
pendant because… If s/he still wants the pearl in a ring, look at
a design that protects the pearl.

You’ve done due diligence in educating the client and protecting
their investment. It might be wise to include a statement reminding
the client about this education on the work order and final invoice.

Judy in Kansas, where the July 4 weather is just lovely (most
unusual!) and the fireworks should be spectacular tonight. Happy
American Independence Day!!

I’d tell the truth. “Mam, this is a lovely pearl. If you put this
into a ring it will get damaged eventually. If you really want this
in a ring, please know that you will have to wear this carefully or
only on special occasions.” If they are a very wealthy, I just sell
them two pearls so that they can have a replacement for later.

I had a client who insisted on having grape garnets for side stones
on a wedding band. So I sold him extras. I replaced one of them after
about a year and a half. He still has the other extra stone.

I get so very annoyed at sales people who sell custom designs or
finished goods that won’t last just to make the sale.

We just replaced two 2mm emeralds in a diamond and emerald eternity
ring that a retailer had us make. We told the sales person that this
was a bad idea and that she would be married to that ring for the
rest of her career.

She sold it anyway to make the sale. Two were broken out and lost
within a few months. When we delivered it back a couple of days ago
and gave her a bill, she was shocked. She really expected us to
service her bad idea for free forever. As a jewelry professional it
is our duty to know these things. This sales lady has been in the
trade for 30 years and STILL knows jack about how jewelry is

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.

Jo Haemer

When a client asks for something, they are (ultimately) looking for
your best advice.

Those clients eager to spend dearly in order to have the item they
desire are seldom thinking about the long term, but will love you
when they realize just how far their pieces might go.

It is our responsibility as tradespeople to inform them of the risks
in daily wear, and to provide alternatives when possible, and when
and if necessary.

I call it “the caveats”. A well informed client will be at peace
with the producer if all of the risks of possible failure have been

To be motivated to make the asked-for piece solely by the money
involved. all wrong. Ultimately, you will lose that client. Negative
referrals won’t grow your business.

Pearls do not belong in rings unless the purchaser is fully apprised
that there must be great care exercised during daily wear. This will
not likely happen…

Of course, the resulting wear is going to make pearls rarer. the
ones you supply will be destroyed over time and will need to be
replaced. You, unfortunately, didn’t make the pearl. When the pearl
is destroyed, you will be forgotten unless you were the one who gave
the dire warnings. You wont need to be forgiven, and, surely, you
won’t be forgotten. You may be able to supply another.

Same thing with tanzanite, or any other relatively soft or
scuff-able material. The client needs to know the risks. If the
piece holding the pearl is well-made, another pearl can be supplied
and all will be good for another 6 months!

The cash 4 gold guys have done very well, with people trashing
jewellery they were not satisfied with, and the producer trade has
suffered because the “temporary satisfaction” clients have received
terrible service from companies working under the direction of
accountants and MBAs, who are fully behind “disposable” jewellery.
If someone receives a gift of jewellery during a significant
milestone in their lives, it is disturbing to think that they would
cash4gold it a few years later because of an immanent failure that
they were not properly apprised of.

“Flash for Cash” is the worst business model, ever. Cash4gold is
appalling in how they attract people away from the trade and toward
disposal of the handworks of a good number of North American
goldsmiths. Who wants to see their work trashed for 20 cents on the
dollar? It can’t be a good thing.

Let’s go back to longevity.

There is an expectation among electronics buyers that their
purchases will be obsolete within 3 years. We all get that.

Not so for first time jewellery buyers. Their expectations are more
linked with longevity. If you are going to chase higher-end clients,
or first timers that are on their way to becoming high-end, both you
and they need to know that great works from the human hands will
survive millennia if cared for. or even not cared for… dug out of
the ground 6000 years later and still bearing the marks of the
maker… can you imagine?

I recently made a second visit to The Schmuckmuseum" in Pforzheim,
Germany, where an exhibition of both ancient and modern items of
adornment are displayed, and I must tell you that longevity trumps
all the possibility of the mountains of instant cash we might
fantasize about in our approach to marketing. Chase the possibility
of forever.

David Keeling

thanks, everyone. it seems to me that your sense of responsibility
and fair-play should strengthen customer loyalty.

and i hope customer loyalty translates into increased survivability
of independent craftspeople.


All right Leonid
I’ll bite.

How would a cultivated (sic) pearl wear differently from a natural
pearl? Except for the nucleus a cultured pearl is identical to a
natural one.



I was asked to make a duplicate of a pearl ring hallmarked SILKE. A
thin walled hollow round band made on the cheap or what?

The customer loved the ring and wanted it copied for a friend.

The original pearl was a cheap cultured pearl WITH THE HOLES SHOWING


I explained what the design flaws were with the ring and what would
happen to it.

Still wanted it. Paid a deposit.

Made it to over specs. Better quality pearl and band. When the ring
was made and ready for delivery.

She wanted to pay the balance some time after delivery.

Got really upset when I said you pay on delivery or I sell it and
you don’t get your deposit back.

Paid the balance and got a higher quality product than the original.

One seriously pissed off customer.

Go play in the traffic lady and stay away from me. Is my attitude.

I don’t need such customers or their business.

I like customers with more than 2 brain cells and listen to 30 years
of experience.

And take advice as to construction. I could have made a beautiful
and long lasting ring for the same price.

This ring was made as a favour, they always suck.


How would a cultivated (sic) pearl wear differently from a natural
pearl? Except for the nucleus a cultured pearl is identical to a
natural one. 

The nucleus of a cultured pearl is really a large bead. The bead is
left in the oyster long enough to get a good several layers of nacre
deposited. The longer the oyster is left in the water the thicker
the coating of nacre, but there is a point of diminishing returns, so
the pearl is harvested when it is felt the coating is thick enough to
give teh quality the pearl farmer desires.

A natural pearl has a tiny nucleus with the vast majority of the
volume of the pearl being nacre.

So, as a pearl gets worn over time, say in a ring, the outer layer
of nacre gets abraded and becomes dull. This is true of both cultured
and natural pearls. The difference comes when one tries to remedy
this loss of lustre. The traditional technique for restoring the
lustre to a dulled pearl is called stripping.

Nacre is deposited by the oyster in microscopic flakes, called
platelets. The platelets adhere to the pearl in layers as they are
deposited by the animal. Stripping removes the outermost layer of
nacre, the dull layer, exposing new, lustrous nacre beneath.

With a natural pearl this process does not change the original color
or lustre of the pearl. With a cultured pearl, however, stripping a
layer of nacre means that the interior bead is that much closer to
being revealed.

Nacre is translucent; this is what gives pearls their depth. This is
why they are lustrous and not merely shiny. If a cultured pearl does
not have sufficient layers of nacre, then once stripped the pearl
will show hot and cold and the color of the pearl may even change as
the light reflects off the interior bead.

Elliot Nesterman

Hi David et al

I found this to be a well thought out, professional response a very
well considered reply.

Unfortunately not one shared by the chain store re-sellers.

This is why I “over engineer” my work and give it a
repair/replacement guarantee for life.

This does not include damaged smash your rock not my

Most times when a client damages their jewellery and I repair it for
free they are happy.

However I have had clients who dropped the jewellery and the a stone
has come out and they

are angry at me. Jewellery is not made to be dropped it is made to be
worn. Try that with a Ming dynasty piece of porcelain and take it
back to the seller and see how far you get.


I repair the piece for no charge, poison word of mouth is deadly.

In the last five years I have done two repairs from hundreds of
pieces made.

Well worth the time and effort and good advertising.

I make a lot of bezel set stones in rings. Point 8 mm sterling or 18
kt bezel in a 4 mm by 2 mm half round band. Solid and made to last.
Chain stores sell point 3 mm bezels in half mm flat bands.

A repair waiting to happen.

Point is make quality and it will last and the client comes back.
About 25% of my sales are return business.

Honesty with my clients is the highest priority. They really
appreciate the over some sales pitch for a quick sale.

This is why I believe there will always be a place for hand made
jewellery backed by quality service.


How would a cultivated (sic) pearl wear differently from a natural
pearl? Except for the nucleus a cultured pearl is identical to a
natural one. 

Natural pearl starts with something aggravating mollusk. It can be a
grain of sand or even nothing physical at all. Mollusk starts
secreting nacre to isolate bothersome area and once started it does
not stop.

It continues for the duration of mollusk life.

What it means that natural pearls are almost entirely consist of
nacre. Nacre is much more durable that it appears to uninitiated.

Mohs hardness of 3 to 4 is misleading. Nacre consist of crystals of
aragonite which do measure 3 to 4 on Mohs scale, but it it not
complete story. Aragonite crystals are suspended in protein strand
network very similar to spider silk. And spider silk is super strong
and elastic. So natural pearl can easily tolerate bumps, which would
destroy cultivated pearl.

Scratches and abrasions do happen but because natural pearls are
solid nacre, they are easily polished off. La Peregrina was caught in
1500 + and still retains it’s beauty. The last owner was Elizabeth
Taylor, who was not known to be gentle to her jewellery. She lost the
pearl several times and found it by stepping on it. Her dog swallowed
the pearl once. Richard Burton was chasing after the dog with knife,
but was convinced to allow the pearl to be retrieved via natural
cycle. You can also look up Rosebery pearls, probably the most
magnificent pearl parure in history of jewellery. Parure is quite
extensive, but the most interesting piece pertaining to this
conversation is the bracelet, where pearls are mounted very high
without any protection. That fact that parure survived for about 150
years almost unscathed is a testimony to the natural pearl

Leonid Surpin

How woulda cultivated (sic) pearl wear differently from a natural
pearl? Except for the nucleus a cultured pearl is identical to a

No they aren’t. A natural pearl is mostly nacre except for a very
tiny nucleus. Cultured pearls are a large nucleus overlaid by a few
thin layers of nacre depending on how long the oyster has been
growing it. Thefewer the layers the cheaper the pearl.

Jerry in Kodiak