Pearls and diamonds are two of the most well known gemstones in history, and they’re still two of the most beautiful ones out there. However if you find yourself having to choose between the two, you might want to know their pros and cons, and how they compare to one another.
Today’s post is focusing on the main differences between pearls and diamonds, so you can make an informed decision.
Pearl vs diamond
Pearls are a softer gemstone than diamond, and they are easily scratched or chipped, compared to a diamond’s perfect hardness. Diamonds offer a sparkling light show, while pearls have a softer, elegant shine to them that may remind you of silk. Where a cultured pearl is actually affordable, a diamond is much more expensive.
Both pearls and diamonds are extravagant, expensive, luxurious, and rare. They offer a nice touch touch to any outfit, but the overall look they provide is very different.
What are pearls ? Pearls are a mix of organic and mineral, and are formed within oysters as an immune system response to an intruding parasite or irritant. As the oyster protects itself from the intruder, it deposits layers upon layers upon layers of nacre (mother of pearl) and eventually forms a beautiful pearl. The more nacre on a pearl, the better the color and shine.
What are diamonds ? Diamonds are 100% mineral formations, made of carbon. They are the hardest material, and only another diamond may cut or scratch another diamond. These gems are prized for their brilliance and fire, and will sparkle from a mile away. Diamonds have been the go-to engagement ring stone for decades.
1. Diamonds last longer than pearls, are harder
Because diamonds are such a hard material (10 on the Mohs scale of hardness) they will withstand pretty much anything. Diamond rings, earrings, bracelets, etc. will not scratch, except the metal they’re set in.
On the other hand pearls are much softer and more fragile. A pearl scores a 2.5-4 on the Mohs scale, so it’s not really the best idea to wear it every day, or to wear it in a ring or bracelet.
Because of this huge difference in hardness, diamonds are a better choice if you want something durable that will literally stand the test of time. Pearls have been passed down for generations too, but they’re much more fragile and require more care from the wearer.
Read also: Natural VS Cultured Pearls
2. Pearls are seen as elegant, more than diamonds
Because pearls are more delicate, more subdued, they’re always seen as a more elegant option than diamonds. In some cases they can even be seen as a bit dated, since pearls were heavily worn by classy women who are now, in fact, seniors. However a pearl is timeless, and this does not mean a young woman wearing pearls automatically looks older, but she does look more put together.
Diamonds offer a different look, more in line with today’s trends. Diamonds have always been cut to flash and sparkle, even centuries ago, but they are much more in style now than they were then. A diamond has become slightly common now, as most of the engagement rings you can buy have a diamond center stone. This makes sense, as a it’s a very durable gem, beautiful, and sparkles like mad.
3. Diamonds sparkle brightly, pearls have a soft shine
Due to the way pearls and diamonds are made, they offer very different light shows. A pearl has many, many layers of nacre, which are semi-transparent. When you put enough on top of each other, the light will bounce back form the last layer, up through all the layers, and reflect in a very soft, slightly ethereal glow back to you.
A pearl is truly remarkable, and you can find it in many colors and luster intensities. Pearls come in any color from light to dark, cool to warm, and any overtone (iridescence) you can think of. The most common pearls are the white, soft pearls and they’re the ones most people think of when you say ‘pearl necklace’.
Diamonds offer something completely different. Where a pearl has a soft aura, a diamond has a hard to miss sparkle. These gems stand out, anywhere they are. They are cut in ways to accentuate their refractive index, making them that much brighter and sparklier. Even diamonds that have a step cut (like emerald cut) still manage to impress through their flash.
If you were to put a pearl and a diamond of the same size together, you’d notice the diamond long before the pearl. Diamonds have a way of announcing their presence with a bang, pearls are quieter.
4. Pearls need more TLC than diamonds
Pearls are soft and easy to scratch, at least by gemstone standards. This means that you should keep them away from anything that can be a direct hit, such as sharp objects of banging them against a table.
And another interesting thing about pearls, you need to wear them often. yes, wear them often but somehow keep them safe. The idea is that pearls are part organic, so they need constant exposure to air and a bit of moisture. Wearing them every few days helps pearls keep their shine and color.
A pearl necklace tucked away in a drawer for months on end will start to dry out, leading to a yellowish cast and finally a brittle, chipping, opaque look. When pearls are in that state there is no saving them, at least not at home. Most home remedies actually do more harm than good. They involve dissolving layers of nacre, which is difficult to control and you risk damaging the pearl completely.
It’s best to take care of pearls by:
- wearing them regularly
- keeping them away form acids, sweat, perfume, creams, lotions
- keeping them in an area with good air circulation
- putting them on last, and taking them off first
Yes, pearls need more care than most gems, but they’re a special kind of beautiful that most other games can’t compete with. The only ones that come close are moonstone, opal, and labradorite.
As for diamonds, well, there’s not much you have to do to take care of a diamond. This is a strong, hard, resilient gemstone that will outlast you and can be passed down generations to come.
5. Diamonds are now more expensive than pearls
Diamonds are thought of as rare and expensive, neither of which is actually completely true. A diamond forms slowly and over millennia under natural circumstances. Finding a diamond was exceptional luck centuries ago. However, diamond mines are plenty and bountiful, and the world’s diamond supply isn’t as tight as ads make you think.
No, the whole ‘rare diamonds’ started with DeBeers. Back in the 1800s, a massive diamond mine was discovered in South Africa. DeBeers bought said mine, and carefully maintained a tight grip over how many diamonds entered the market, annually. The diamonds found in that mine were capable of plummeting diamond prices for decades to come, simply because there was sooo much to mine.
To further complicate things, DeBeers were the one who, decades later, came up with the ‘diamonds are forever’ campaign, pushing diamonds as THE engagement ring stone. Nothing less than a diamond will do, and it costs a pretty penny.
Pearls on the other hand have suffered a different fate. Back when pearls were first discovered, they were expensive, extraordinarily rare, and a sign of wealth far greater than a diamond. Those were natural pearls, harvested from wild oysters which have a very small chance of even producing a pearl.
Then, some decades ago cultured pearls entered the market. These are pearls formed in oysters farmed especially for this purpose. Each oyster is seeded with a tiny piece of mollusk shell, from a sacrificed oyster. Each oyster may produce several pearls this way.
Cultured pearls became very affordable, messing with the pearl market for years on end. Natural pearls are still worth much more, but they’re not really worth more than a diamond nowadays. And, when buying pearls you’re over 90% bound to find cultured pearls, not natural ones.
Can you wear pearls and diamonds together ?
Yes, you can wear pearls and diamonds together, as long as they are in a very specific combination. A diamond as larger as a pearl will always draw more attention than the pearl, so we recommend using the pearl as a center stone, and the diamonds in a much smaller carat, as a halo or small accents. Wearing pearls and diamonds together is very difficult, and it all lies in how the jewelry is put together.
Two famous examples include Emma Stone’s engagement ring, and Ariana Grande’s engagement ring. Emma’s ring has a big pearl as a center stone, with smaller diamonds around it, like a halo. Beautiful, focused on the pearl, delicate, and really elegant because the diamonds don’t steal the show.
Ariana’s engagement ring features a large oval cut diamond and a small pearl, simply placed together at an angle. In this case the diamond is far more noticeable than the pearl, to the point where the pearl is a bit out of place. However, the pearl has sentimental value for Ariana, as it belonged to her grandfather. Understandable why the two were put together, but we think it could’ve been done better. It’s certainly eye-catching and a talking piece.
So do pearls and diamonds go together ? Not if you’ve got a more conventional fashion style. If you’re a trendsetter it might be your signature piece, if done right.
I’m the main author for shinyfacts.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.