Pearl Guide

If you are looking to purchase the perfect gem here you can find the ideal guide to assist you through every step of your journey.

About Pearls

Throughout the ages pearls have been desired and treasured by every culture. Today, these timeless jewels are a symbol of luxury and femininity, the epitome of simplicity and elegance, suitable for every occasion. Pearls exemplify class and beauty and can accompany a woman through every moment in her life and every outfit in her wardrobe. No woman should be without some pearls – a necklace, bracelet or pearl studs are the favoured option.

The discovery of culturing pearls for increased production has transformed the pearl jewellery industry. While the gorgeous, classic white pearl necklace that made the pearl necklace so popular was out of the reach of many due to its elevated price (it was considered the ultimate status symbol), wearing beautiful, lustrous pearls has never been more affordable than today. Thanks to the availability of reasonably priced fresh water pearls, pearls are more popular than ever.

From the everyday chic of white fresh water pearls to the classic elegance of Akoyas and the sense of luxury of South Sea and Tahitian pearls, the possibilities are seemingly endless. As a result, it has become much harder for customers to make an informed choice when deciding on which pearls to buy. Therefore, in order to assist you on this fascinating journey, we have produced our pearl guide below to help you through the pearl-buying maze.

How to Buy Pearls

Fine pearls are one of the least understood and most niche gemstones in the jewellery world – even professional jewellers often run into trouble identifying pearl types, understanding grading scales and pearl value.

It’s not surprising then that there are a number of questions that need to be answered before taking the plunge and investing in a fine pearl necklace or a pair of pearl earrings.

What is a Pearl?

Pearls are formed over time when an organic invader or irritant finds its way into and burrows deep into the soft tissues of an oyster or mollusc. The mollusc then secretes layers of natural minerals and proteins (nacre) to combat the irritant and coats the intruder with many layers of this nacre (Nay-Ker). This is what gives pearls their unique appearance, beautiful lustre and colour. The process is slow and the pearl can take many years to form.

Natural Vs Cultured Pearls

Today, natural pearls are extremely rare which puts them beyond the reach of most consumers as they are so exorbitantly priced. The process is instead re-created by oyster farmers who actually culture the pearls. Although the process used to create a cultured pearl is induced by human intervention, the resulting pearls are every bit as real as the natural ones.

The initial step in the pearl production process entails growing baby oysters until they have grown large enough to be nucleated. This process alone takes two years. The most critical stage of pearl production is the process of nucleation. Oysters are nucleated using a small piece of mantle tissue taken from another oyster and a bead made from a freshwater shell. After nucleating, the oysters are placed in oyster beds inside a bay of tranquil waters to recover from the”surgery”. Then, they are moved further off the coast to areas with good currents and tidal exchanges where they will be tended as the pearls develop. During the winter months, the metabolism of the oyster naturally slows down, and therefore the nacre of the pearl is formed in much tighter and richer layers. When the time comes for harvest, the oysters are taken ashore, where they are carefully opened, and the pearl removed by hand. These pearls are then sorted and graded.

You might be wondering:

Which is the better type of pearl? From a practical perspective, there is no difference between natural or cultured pearls. They are identical in appearance and composition, the only difference being in their origin, their price and the way in which they are graded: cultured pearls are graded by millimeters whilst natural pearls are graded by their carat weight.

Types of Pearls

Now let’s take a look at how pearls (natural or cultured) can be subdivided into categories.

Freshwater vs Saltwater

There are two basic varieties of pearls; freshwater and saltwater. Freshwater pearls are grown primarily in man-made lakes and rivers, commonly in China, Australia, India, the US and Japan. They take a shorter period of time to form and are more abundant. A freshwater mussel can have up to 50 pearls at one given time (compared to the two to five pearls that saltwater oysters can contain). Freshwater pearls are not as lustrous and are generally smaller than saltwater pearls, but they are much more affordable. Saltwater pearls are formed in oysters in oceans and are popularly harvested in regions such as Australia, Tahiti, Thailand and Indonesia. They are considered more valuable than freshwater pearls (although rare and very high-quality freshwater pearls can be exceedingly valuable), take longer to form, have better lustre and are of higher quality than freshwater pearls. However, they are also more expensive and can be slightly less durable.

Generally speaking, almost all freshwater and saltwater pearls found on the market nowadays are cultured, saltwater pearls being considered the superior of the two.

Freshwater Pearls

In the past, freshwater pearls were considered a low-quality alternative to Akoya (saltwater) pearls. However, with improvements in the harvesting of freshwater pearls, this variety of pearl has become almost as good as the Akoya pearl in terms of value and quality. It is also important to remember that because this type of pearl is composed entirely of nacre, it is also more durable than the saltwater pearl in that it is less prone to chipping or otherdamage.

Freshwater pearls also offer consumers a wider choice than saltwater pearls, in terms of shape, size and colour. This is because freshwater pearls are not created using a ‘bead’ nucleus (as is typical with saltwater pearls) but rather by inserting mussel tissue into the mussel which is being harvested. As a result, these pearls are more likely to form in irregular shapes and colours such as white, cream, grey, as well as pastel shades of yellow, lavender, pink and orange. Whilst most freshwater pearls are oval or near round in shape (only about 5% of all pearls are perfectly round), about 30% are baroque or semi-baroque. In relation to size, because freshwater pearls are grown and harvested in a short period of time, they often don’t have enough time to grow large. However, because the growth period varies from farm to farm, freshwater pearls have the widest size range of all pearl types. Their sizes vary from around 2.0 mm to 15.0 mm. As to the all-important issue of lustre, saltwater pearls such as Akoya and South Sea pearls are generally considered to have better lustre than freshwater pearls. Whilst this is a general rule of thumb, there are always exceptions and it depends on the individual pearls.

Saltwater Pearls

Saltwater pearls come in many varieties and seem to be more commonly known than freshwater pearls.  Here are the most common varieties:

Akoya Pearls

These pearls are grown mainly in Japan (considered the best quality) as well as China, Korea and Vietnam and are among the most popular and high-quality varieties of saltwater pearls. They are prized for their superior lustre and nearly ideal round shape. The size of the pearl ranges from 2.0mm to 10.0mm.  They are predominantly white, grey, cream and blue in colour with silver, pink and green overtones. They can on occasion be dyed to appear to lack colour.

If you’re thinking of a classic strand of white pearls, you’ve probably got Akoya pearls in mind. These are the most well-known type of saltwater pearls.

You might be wondering:

Are Akoya pearls valuable? They are more expensive than freshwater pearls but not as valuable as some other saltwater varieties.

South Sea Pearls

South Sea Pearls are cultured mainly in Australia (White South Sea variety) and the Philippines (Golden South Sea variety).  They are produced by silver lipped oysters. Their size ranges from 8-20mm. These pearls range from round to fancy baroque shapes. Gold lipped oysters from Indonesia produce the intensely gold- coloured South Sea pearls.

South sea pearls are the most prestigious of all the pearl varieties. As we have mentioned, they come in two main colours – white and gold. While white south sea pearls have the traditional appearance of pearls, golden south sea pearls are quite a show-stopper! They are unique and very elegant in appearance. They are also the largest of all pearl varieties and can grow to be 20.0mm in diameter. Nonetheless, pearls over the size of 15.0mm are considered to be very rare. Regarding shape, most south sea pearls are irregular in form. This is why south sea pearls that are perfect spheres can command very high prices.

Tahitian Pearls

Black-lipped oysters found only in the French Polynesia are harvested for their black prized pearls. Although they are called black pearls, they are rarely completely black. Tahitian pearls are available in a broad spectrum of dark colours, ranging from black, green, blue, grey, brown, red to yellow with overtones in peacock, green and purple to name but a few. Tahitian pearls are the only naturally dark pearls on the market. Like South Sea pearls, Tahitian pearls also grow very large with sizes ranging from 8-15mm. Tahitian Pearls are also known as black South Sea pearls.

Tahitian pearls come in a variety of shapes, including round, baroque and circle.Round pearls are the most expensive and sought after but irregular shaped Tahitian pearls display more colour and shimmer.

Another factor to note is that of all the pearl varieties, Tahitian pearls are the only type that has an internationally accepted standard of quality adopted by the Tahitian government. Only pearls with at least .8mm nacre thickness are exported from Tahiti and anything less than this is not considered a true Tahitian pearl.

Akoya pearls are commonly dyed black to offer an affordable alternative to Tahitian pearls.

Other Varieties

The above are the main types of pearl varieties available on the market although there are others such as Keshi and Mabe pearls to name but a few. The choice is endless when buying pearls which is why many people keep adding to their pearl collection. Each type of pearl offers something different.

Budget and Grading

One problematic area with pearls is the quality grading. Unfortunately, there is no accepted standard or system for grading pearls. The common grading scale used in the US is the AAA (highest quality pearl) –A (lowest quality grade pearl) scale, although the Tahitian A-D scale is also sometimes used. However, how this scale is interpreted varies from vendor to vendor, making the comparison of pearls between vendors almost impossible.

There are however, a number of factors that help determine the value of a pearl, some of which we have touched upon in the text above. These include pearl type, size, shape, colour, nacre quality and lustre—plus rarity and weight (for natural pearls) or size (for cultured pearls).

Other factors for assessing the quality of pearl jewellery is how well the pearls match from one to the next. For example, it can take years to produce a strand of South Sea pearls that are all the same millimetre in size, shape and colour, which is why they command a high price.

The Quality of a Pearl

The main pearl grading factors are:

  • Lustre – One of the most important factors to look for in a pearl is lustre. Lustre is the measure of quantity and quality of light that is reflected from the surface, or just under the surface of a pearl. The lustre of good quality pearls is sharp and bright. Like in a mirror, you should be able to see your reflection clearly on the surface of a pearl. Any pearl that appears too white, dull or chalky, is of low quality. The lustre of a pearl is affected by the surface quality, thickness and evenness of the nacre. The thicker the nacre the finer the lustre of a pearl. Essentially, the sharper the lustre, the more valuable the pearl.
  • Surface – The cleaner the surface of the pearl, the more valuable it is. Look for an absence of disfiguring spots, bumps or cracks on the surface of a pearl, also known as “cleanliness.”  The highest quality pearls have a sharp, mirror-like reflection.
  • Symmetry of Shape -truly round pearls are the rarest shape of all, and the most valued.A perfectly round pearl is very rare. The rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is.Baroque pearls are not symmetrical in shape, and can be lustrous and appealing, but will typically cost less than round pearls.
  • Colour – in pearl grading this factor can be broken down into three components:
  • Body colour – The overall, dominant colour of the pearl. The body colour should have a good saturation and should be evenly distributed.
  • Overtone – An extra shimmer of colour which lies “over” the pearl’s body colour. A pearl can have more than one overtone and can add great value to a pearl.
  • Orient – The almost “oily” iridescent play of colour that can be seen on (or sometimes seemingly just below) a pearl’s surface. A good orient is a sought-after feature.


Every pearl has a body colour, but not every pearl displays an attractive overtone or orient, let alone both. The higher the quality of these three colour components, the rarer the pearl and higher its value will be. Another factor to consider when it comes to pearl colour is the current fashion trend. This also plays a role. The more popular a colour is, the higher the demand for that colour will be and this tends to affect the price greatly.

  • Size – The size of a pearl greatly depends on the type. Cultured freshwater pearls range in size from about 3.0–13.0mm, Akoya pearls range from about 6.0–8.5mm, and South Sea and Tahitian pearls can reach sizes as large as 13mm. Of course, with an ideal environment and conditions, natural pearls can grow to be much larger. Large, perfectly symmetrical pearls are RARE, taking many years to form inside the oyster. If all other value factors are equal, the larger pearls will be the more valuable ones.
  • Origin – The value of cultured (farmed) pearls that dominate the industry today varies by pearl type: Freshwater (least expensive), saltwater Akoya (mid-range), black Tahitian (mid to high-range pricing) and South Sea (highest). Another important factor is whether the pearl is cultured or natural / wild. Natural pearls – pearls that are formed without any human assistance as we have already touched on above, are extremely rare and command premium pricing.
  • Matching – The meticulous matching of a fine pearl necklace layout can take many years depending on the pearl type. There should be little to no variation from pearl to pearl in terms of Size, Lustre, Shape, Colour, Overtone and Surface Quality.

Sakata offers the finest single- and multi-strand cultured pearl necklaces as well as bespoke exquisite designs. Available in classic and contemporary lengths, each necklace is one of a kind.

Sakata’s long rope necklaces celebrate new ways to wear pearls. You can play around with length and layer them – from the classic choker all the way to a rope length beauty. Try them loose, layered, wrapped around your neck, or knotted. You’ll love their on-trend versatility, suitable for everything from off-the-shoulder gowns to designer denim. We offer a wide range of designs that underline the individuality of the wearer.

Our unique in-store service offers the design and stringing of pearl necklaces and bracelets to our customers’ requirements creating your exclusive pearl jewellery, while you wait. Our customers carefully select the pearls and clasp of choice and we take care of the rest. Our most popular and bestselling lengths include the following:

  • Choker: A pearl choker is about 40cm long. This length is suitable for both casual and formal eveningwear. This is the most popular length.
  • Rope: A rope pearl necklace is about 120cm. This length is very versatile as it allows doubling or tripling around your neck.
  • Opera: The opera length pearl necklace is about 80cm long. This is double the length of a choker. This necklaces length is usually selected for formal evening attire. Named the “Opera Length” because women would wear these pearls when attending glamorous evening events.
  • Matinee: The matinee length is about 60cm long. Matinee pearl necklaces have that little extra length to sit slightly lower on the breastbone. They are ideal for adding a touch of sophistication to dinner parties or theatre trips.
Necklace Lenght Guide Image


As with our necklaces, Sakata offers pearl bracelets for every taste, in every pearl colour you can think of … and then some. A gleaming strand of gorgeous cultured pearls, delicately draped over a wrist is often the perfect finishing accessory, and can be worn anytime. We string bracelets to your requirements while you wait. Again, you can carefully select the pearls and clasp of choice and we take care of the rest.

Pearl Jewellery

Our pearl jewellery is available in many styles. Our extensive range includes studs, fashion earrings, strands, necklaces, pendants, and bracelets. Our pearls come in an array of prices so you can be sure to find the perfect ones for your style and budget.

Pearl Care

Pearls are organic gems that can be harmed by contact with chemicals, acid, alkaline and extreme levels of humidity. Pearls require a specific care to ensure they maintain their quality and condition over time. To preserve your pearls’ radiance, avoid their contact with perfume, hair spray and cosmetics. Always put your pearl jewellery on last and take them off first. Dress, style your hair, apply your make up and spray your perfume before you put on your pearl jewellery.

Don’t store your pearls with other jewellery, as pearls can easily be scratched with other metals and gemstones. Always store pearls separately in a compartmentalisedjewellery box.

The pearls’ lustre can also be damaged by perspiration. Always wipe them gently with a soft cloth before returning them to your jewellery box. This helps them preserve their beautiful lustre. When travelling carry them in a protective jewellery pouch. As an organic gem, pearls need to breathe so it is best if they are stored in a soft bag and not a plastic bag.

Try to wear your pearls as much as possible! Leaving pearls in a jewellery box for long periods may cause them to dehydrate. The main reason that pearls turn yellow is when they have been stored away for a long time in a dry environment where there is no moisture and circulation of air. This causes the organic substance to dry out and become brittle and yellow.

Some people worry that if their pearls are turning yellow, this means that they are fake. Quite the opposite,fake or imitation pearls almost always never turn yellow, as they are made of materials such as plastic and ceramic. Yellowing generally means that your pearls are organic and subject to change.

In the case of pearls, prevention is much easier than cure, which is why they should be taken care of appropriately to avoid them drying out in the first place.

  • Wearing your pearls once or twice a month is sufficient to maintain the colour of your pearls.
  • Even if you don’t wear your pearls often, we recommend that you have your pearls restrung every 6 to 18 months, depending on wear.
  • Pearl strands that are tightly strung can sometimes be loosened by hanging them on a door knob in a bathroom, where the weight of the pearls and the moisture in the room help to straighten the strands out.
  • Finally, pearls are glued to earring posts through an epoxy Occasionally they detach from the post. Don’t worry as they can easily be repaired.

Why would you shop at Sakata and not online or at any other establishment?


Established in 1957, Sakata has been a family run jewellery business for 63 years. We are the Oldest, and Most Trusted Pearl Specialty Shop in Gibraltar with more than 63 years of experience in the trade.

Quality & Value

Nowadays there are many different types and qualities of cultured pearl for sale worldwide. To ensure that we source the best quality pearls for our customers we have worked hard throughout the years to develop our local contacts all over the world, and thanks to them we have gained direct, privileged access to some of the finest, cultured pearls available – at very competitive prices.

Product Range

Our range of pearl jewellery is constantly being extended and year on year we continue to add to our range. As a result, we have managed to create an extensive range of products and a wide selection of pearl styles. From exquisite Tahitian pearl earrings to everyday Freshwater pearl necklaces we have it covered. We are also able to offer both a bespoke and a restringing service. With over 30,000 customers, many of them local clientele, we are proud to be known as “The pearl specialists”.


Our customer service is second to none. As a small friendly team based in store, we are able to advise you on any type of pearl or necklace style and make sure you receive the perfect piece of pearl jewellery. We have many customers who have been with us from day one and who buy all of their pearls from us on a regular basis. Most of our business is repeat business and word of mouth. All of our staff love pearls too. We all wear them and are extremely proud of all the positive comments from customers regarding the in-depth knowledge of our team, a service not matched by any of our competitors.


Rest assured that with our commitment to quality, price and service we aim to supply you with a fantastic shopping experience that will mean that you come back to us time and time again.

Diamond Guide

The four C’s. Cut, colour, clarity and carat are the barometers by which the world judges the beauty of a diamond.

No two diamonds are alike. Each one is unique. Every diamond, like a human fingerprint, has certain distinguishing characteristics. This is why over the years a universal standard for identifying diamonds has been set. The quality and value of a diamond is defined according to the 4Cs: carat, colour, clarity and cut, so you know exactly what diamond you are buying. At Sakata, we are experts in analysing these characteristics. Our diamond grading reports cover all 4Cs of diamond certification for loose diamonds, ensuring consumers know exactly what diamond they are buying. We specialise mainly in GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and HRD (The Hoge Raadvoor Diamant, Antwerp) certified diamonds. We also sell diamonds certified by other laboratories as well as non-certified diamonds.

We offer diamonds graded by the GIA Image


The weight (and not the size) of a diamond is expressed in carats. One carat equals 0.2 grams or 100 points, which indicates the size. This accurate weight is very useful for identifying diamonds. The higher the carat weight, the higher the value but ‘small and perfectly formed’ is also a good rule to follow: a better quality of diamond is always best, whatever the weight. Diamonds should always be cut to maximize beauty, not carat weight.


Colour refers to the natural tint inherent in white diamonds. In nature, most white diamonds have a slight tint of yellow. The closer to being “colourless” a diamond is, the rarer it is. A perfect diamond has no colour at all (D colour, Exceptional White +). The colour of your diamonds is determined by comparison with a series of master stones with most diamonds ranging in colour from “D” (colourless) to “Z” (slightly yellow).

Diamonds are also available in ‘fancy colours’, ranging from brownish to striking yellow, pink, purple, red, blue and green. There is also a grading scale for fluorescence as some diamonds react to UV light, ranging from Nil, Slight, Medium to Strong.


Clarity refers to the diamond’s purity and is graded by the visibility of this characteristic under 10-power magnification. All-natural diamonds show traces of their growth history. In the process of a diamond’s natural formation, other minerals or crystals might be present, which can disrupt the refraction of light through the stone. A stone is graded as flawless if, under 10-power magnification, no inclusions (internal flaws) and no blemishes (external imperfections) are visible.The clarity scale reflects the size, number and location of these characteristics when examined with a 10x loupe. Diamonds that have no inclusions visible to the naked eye are of excellent quality. The very best and rarest clarity is called ‘loupe clean’. This means that no inclusions can be found when examining the diamond with a loupe.


The most important of the 4Cs—cut—refers to how a diamond’s facets interact with light. A diamond’s cut is essential to its beauty. The cut is divided into 3 grades: proportion, polish and symmetry. Each grade is evaluated according to 4 parameters: Excellent, Very Good, Good and Fair. If the diamond is not well cut, it will not interact with light as it should. A perfect cut equals more sparkle and fire, and an even pattern of bright and dark areas.

More than any other factor, cut determines the beauty of the stone.

How to Choose a Diamond


4Cs Brochure

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How to chose your diamond wisely

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4Cs Interactive Tool