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Pearls: To Knot or Not

We recently ordered a graduated 18 inch strand of cultured pearls
from a regular supplier of ours (our cost $285.00). It was strung
with a nice 14 K pearl clasp with French wire. I was surprised to see
that the pearls were unknotted and mentioned that to our salesman. He
informed me that graduated pearls do not “lay right” if they are
knotted. What do you think?

Thanks in advance.
Dale Pavatte
Diamonds For You
Decherd, TN

He’s misinformed. The strand is knotted so that if there is a break
only one pearl is lost.

In reference to" graduated pearls do not “lay right”; I do not string
pearls myself; but I do know that not everyone strings pearls with
the same expertise.



By all means, pearls of any worth should be knotted!!! How they lay
is a matter of the knotting.; if done properly, the pearls will lay
just fine. Now, if they are just cheap fresh water its not a big deal
though all pearls look best if knotted. If they are good Akoya
cultured they most certainly must be knotted.

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

I have not had a problem with “laying right” when I restring and
knot a graduated pearl necklace. Hope that is helpful.


Pearl knotting can be time consuming, but the result is quite
beautiful. The knotted necklace is more aesthetically pleasing to
the eye, as each bead has its own individuality…knotting
prevents the beads from getting lost if ever broken. Beads are more
secure when knotted together. Knots also protect the nacre of the
pearls from rubbing against one another.

Enlighten your salesman he is wrong. IMHO.

hope this helps
Lisa McConnell

He informed me that graduated pearls do not "lay right" if they
are knotted. 

He may be right if they are badly knotted, but done properly there
is no reason for them not to hang right. The knots achieve several
things, they: protect the pearls from rubbing on each other, minimise
the risk of losing them should the cord break, and maximise the
string length for a given set of pearls. Besides, it also "looks"
more professional.

Regards, Gary Wooding

They will lay the same as an ungraduated strand, I would think.
Quality pearls should ALWAYS be strung with a knot or tiny bead
between each one to prevent the nacre from being damaged by rubbing
on each other or beads next to them.


I have seen many graduated strands of pearls that look simply
stunning knotted. I would think with paying for the added expense of
graduating the pearls the customer would apreciate the extra
security and lifespan granted by knotting, even if the more memorable
customer needs these things explained to them with simple small words
and a sharp stick. (yes I am kidding about the sharp stick, humour
keeps me sane.)


My personal opinion is that pearls have been knotted for generations
for a reason (i.e., to minimize the pearls rubbing up against each
other/causing damage, etc.) and that your salesman is trying to
justify laziness on their part. I would not buy a strand of pearls
that was not knotted.


Hi, Dale

I think you’re right to question this, but maybe the size of the
pearls has something to do with it, if they’re very tiny. I always
string pearls on silk and knot between, the exception being very
small -to- tiny pearls ( as in creating tassels with seed pearls,
perhaps, or if the knots would appear clunky with very small pearls,
rice pearls, etc.). Even with small pearls I will knot at intervals
of, say, 2 to 4, depending. Not only do the pearls drape better, but
the knots provide an important cushion against abrasion. Imo,
generally (and there are always exceptions to rules) the absence of
knotting cheapens the look and performance of strung beads. In the
case of a strand of classic, cultured pearls ( I assume they’re
round?) I would expect them to be knotted.

I wonder if this may be a situation where the pearls were imported
exactly as you describe. Sometimes I see what is essentially raw
material (i.e. beads) intended for restringing being sold with a
clasp attached. Some years ago when that first began, I was told by
an importer that it had to do with a change in import duty charges
with regard to “finished” jewelry vs. “unfinished” bead strands.
Throwing a clasp on the strands, even stuff strung on the usual fish
line, made the strands “finished”, therefore, cheaper to import - so
I was told. Plenty of material still came (comes) into the country in
the usual, unfinished manner. I don’t know if that still applies…or
applies to this case.


of preference. I’ve done graduated strands both knotted and
unknotted, and they all lay just fine. One thing about knotting
graduated strands that does slightly jar my oh-so-delicate visual
sensibilities is the size of the knot versus the size of the pearl.
When the smallest pearls are 3mm or less and the silk is thick, the
strand looks kind of knobby to me.

I’ve been told that Japanese customers prefer their pearls unknotted,
but I’ve never sold to any Japanese customers, so I don’t
know that for a fact.

Hi Dale;

He informed me that graduated pearls do not "lay right" if they
are knotted. What do you think? 

Sounds like hearsay, another one of the many pieces of
misfloating around the trade. When a strand of pearls is
newly strung, they have a little “wobble” to the strand which soon
straightens out. Some stringers tie weights on the strand and hang it
to straighten it, which is inadvisable as it quickens the breakdown
of the silk. All quality pearls should be knotted with French wire at
the clasp ends. Get out a loupe and take another look. I’ve seen
pearls strung with knots that were quite fine and at first glance, it
appears that the strand isn’t knotted. If they’re actually not
knotted, I would suggest you not sell them.

Why are pearls knotted? Because, if the silk breaks, you might lose
a single pearl if you can’t find it, but if they’re not knotted,
they’re going to be all over the floor, and good pearls are

By the way, have any of you stringers out there tried those new
widgets that Otto Borel is selling that are supposed to take the
place of French wire/bullion? They look like little stirrups that the
silk sits in.

David L. Huffman

Hi Dale,

Pearl strands are knotted for a reason. Pearls are very delicate, to
avoid abrasions the knots are tied in between each pearl to protect
the pearls from rubbing together. Knotted pearls are also more
secure, in case a strand should brake. A good knotting (stringing)
technique should appear hidden to the viewer and give a smooth look
to the strand. A knotted pearl strand shows a sign of expertise.
Anybody can just put a string through a bead.

Linda McMurray, G.G., A.J.P. (GIA)
Best Cut Gems, LLC

Knotted pearls also look far more classy than unknotted pears. It’s
like having a tiny little bead in between each pearl which serves to
accentuate the pearls and give them their own individuality as you
say Lisa.



That little stirrup thing sounds neat. I have never liked the french
wire just from an aesthetic sense, but nothing else was out there,
that I could find, that didn’t fray the silk.


Hello Dale,

IMHO, I think that pearls should always be knotted to provide a
little cushion between the pearls. I also like the way a knotted
strand “puddles” rather than being stiff.

These unknotted pearls are a gift. If you restring and knot these
pearls, you’ll have a longer strand. OR with a little planning, you
could stop at 18 inches for the strand, and make matching earrings
from the left-over pearls.

Just a thought,
Judy in Kansas, who is wondering what the going rate is for
restringing and knotting pearl strands. I’m curious.

I've been told that Japanese customers prefer their pearls
unknotted, but I've never sold to any Japanese customers, so I
don't know that for a fact. 

Well, after many trips to Japan and many happy hours prowling the
jewelry district in Tokyo, that is not my impression. There may be
some who prefer unknotted but I have watched (and learned from)
Japanese knotters doing exactly that!

Cheers from Don at The Charles Belle Studio in SOFL where simple
elegance IS fine jewelry!

I have done pearl restringing for many years, have always knotted
between each pearl, and have always pre-stretched my silk. As a
former spinner, I disagree about the statement of stretching
quickening the breakdown of the silk. Silk is stretchable and if it
is not pre-stretched it will stretch on the finished project,
leaving gaps between each pearl and the next knot. This looks
unprofessional. I strongly recommend prestretching your silk for at
least 24 hours before using the strands. And, although I usually use
gimp to finish the ends of my loops, I have used the wire protectors
when restringing beads other than pearls. They work very nicely and
are available in a variety of different metals (from plated through
G/F and probably 14K and 18K).

Sandi Graves, Beadin’ Up A Storm
Stormcloud Trading Co (Beadstorm)


I charge $1.50 per inch wholesale and $3.00 retail.warranty one
year…sometimes people take advantage of this (get pearls caught
and stretch cord) so at this price it does’nt hurt. most pearl jobs
take 30 minutes to an hour.

Lisa McConnell

Lisa, Wow, It only takes you 30 minutes to an hour to knot pearls? I
am amazed. Your fingers must work like lightening. It takes me much
much longer. Do you have a special way of knotting?

Alma Rands