When it comes to earrings, you can’t go wrong with pearls. Quaintly classy, pearls ooze Audrey Hepburn vibes of classic elegance and sophistication. And still, there are so many options, including subtle studs, chandelier-like hoops, and single-drop earrings; so, the real question becomes, how do you choose the right look for you?
To help you find the right pair, we consulted two jewelry experts, Kathryn Money, Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Retail at Brilliant Earth, and Rosanne Karmes, founder of Sydney Evan, on the intricacies of pearls, and then we narrowed down the 15 best earrings.
Brilliant Earth Premium Akoya Cultured Pearl Studs (6mm)
These pearl studs from Brilliant Earth are not just our favorite; they’re Money’s as well. “Pearls are a timeless, sophisticated jewelry staple that has seen a resurgence over the last couple of years,” she says, and these are the most timeless of all. This means that they can be worn time and time again without ever being affected by fashion trends. They’ll suit your office party now, your bridal shower further down the line, and then maybe your kid’s high school graduation ceremony one day. Plus, Money appreciates the ethics behind the set. “Brilliant Earth offers ethical and sustainably sourced gemstones to make sure you can feel good about the jewelry you are wearing,” she says, referring to the brand’s pledge to use only recycled materials from vetted refiners.
Price at time of publish: $150
Pearl Type: Akoya cultured | Metal: Silver, 14K yellow gold, and 14K rose gold | Pearl Size: 6 millimeters
Blue Nile Freshwater Cultured Pearl Drop Earrings
We love these pearl drop earrings for their classic design, shiny appearance, and approachable price point. They’re lightweight and versatile, which makes them fuss-free but also great for gifting to a myriad of people. Plus, the earrings are hypoallergenic, so they’re safe for all ears.
Price at time of publish: $95
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: Sterling silver | Pearl Size: 8 millimeters
Sophie Bille Brahe Jardin de Perle 14-Karat Gold Pearl Single Earring
Think of this Sophie Bille Brahe piece as a chandelier for your ear: a cluster of pearls in varying sizes that cascade over each other to create a shape of their own. The style is not too long yet not too short, so it’ll gently graze the side of your jaw. It’ll cost you a pretty penny for just a single earring, though it has great craftsmanship to prove its worth, as the earring was handmade in Italy from durable 14-karat gold.
Price at time of publish: $5,993 for one earring
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: 14K gold | Pearl Size: Not listed
Sydney Evan Bee Pearl Earrings
Gold can be expensive. So, if you want to get the look without spending a pretty penny, then you should opt for a pair with a 14K yellow gold base like these from Sydney Evan. The bumblebee style is symbolic, too, as it represents the “continuous creation of life,” according to the production description. “Without bees, we wouldn’t have flowers, plants, and fruit.” Technically speaking, Karmes says that she uses 10-millimeter pearls for the 15-millimeter drop earrings for more of a statement look.
Price at time of publish: $1,760
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: 14K yellow gold | Pearl Size: 10 millimeters
Best for Weddings
Tiffany & Co. Paloma Picasso Olive Leaf Pearl Earrings
Imagine walking down the aisle with these beauties on. The sterling silver and cultured freshwater pearl earrings are a tribute to the olive branch, a well-known representation of peace, so they’re not just stunning but meaningful, too.
Price at time of publish: $1,550
Pearl Type: Cultured freshwater | Metal: Sterling silver | Pearl Size: 9–9.5 x 6.5–7 millimeters
Alessandra Rich Silver-tone Crystal and Faux Pearl Clip Earrings
Who says you need to have your ears pierced to enjoy the style benefits of pearly baubles? The shimmering crystals make the chunky drop silhouette even more eye-catching—and they’re a statement piece for all lobes, especially with evening attire. The pearls are faux, which regulates the price point and emulates the shape of some vintage ones you’d perhaps find tucked away in your mother’s closet.
Price at time of publish: $335
Pearl Type: Faux | Metal: Silver-toned | Pearl Size: Not listed
Ana Luisa Mini Organic Pearl Earrings
These baby pearl-like earrings are everything you’d imagine in a pair of studs. They’re small but lustrous and perfect for rounding out a business-casual look. They’re made of glass rather than real pearls, hence their affordable price point, but they look like the real deal. "I recently bought these Kenneth Jay Lane faux pearl studs, and I'll be so bold to say that they're the best budget earrings I've ever bought,” says Hayley Prokos, Byrdie’s Associate Fashion Editor. “They seem well-made, and they look so real! They were the perfect finishing touch to my engagement photo outfit."
Price at time of publish: $14
Pearl Type: Glass pearls | Metal: 22K gold plate | Pearl Size: Not listed
Cult Gaia Atum Pearl Drop Earrings
Long and minimalist are two essential descriptors of Cult Gaia’s Atum earrings. They’re designed to dangle gracefully just above the collarbone, with the pearls artfully spread apart for a subtle statement look. These can be dressed up with a floor-length gown for a wedding or gala, or they can be dressed down with a satin blouse for a more typical weekend look.
Price at time of publish: $158
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: Gold-tone brass | Pearl Size: Not listed
Best Long, Runner-Up
Mateo Duality 14-karat gold pearl earrings
If you’re willing to invest in a pair of long earrings, might we suggest these 14K Gold Pearl Earrings by Mateo? They’re strung with freshwater pearls at the base and the bottom and designed to graze the jawline so you can show them off.
Price at time of publish: $895
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: 14K Gold | Pearl Size: Not listed
Ring Concierge Pearl Diamond Huggies
Diamonds and pearls unite to form these dainty huggies. They’re made from 14K yellow gold, as well as diamonds and freshwater pearls to enhance the shiny metal and the pearls’ luster. And if you’re not into statement earrings but also don’t want to opt for studs, the playful textures of this pair could be a great happy medium.
Price at time of publish: $298
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: 14K yellow gold, 14K white gold | Pearl Size: Not listed
Mejuri Bold Pearl Hoop Earrings
The bigger the hoop, the better. Just as it says in the name, these Mejuri pearl hoops are nothing but bold. Decorated entirely with freshwater pearls (set with 26, to be exact), they’re a stunning piece that will surely get noticed. Freshwater pearls are adored for their unique shapes and varying colors, so this is a great pick for those searching for a set with a bit of character.
Price at time of publish: $98
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: Gold vermeil over sterling silver | Pearl Size: 6–7 millimeters
Best Drop Earring
Mejuri Organic Pearl Hoops
Mejuri’s pearl hoops are a delicate take on the style, so their simplicity makes them ideal for everyday wear. Each pearl is carefully handpicked, lending each pair of earrings to be unique. The freshwater pearl dangling off of the hoop elongates the earring, subtly shaping it and enhancing its oval shape.
Price at time of publish: $78
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: Gold vermeil over sterling silver | Pearl Size: 9.5 x 13 millimeters
Gorjana Lou Pearl Studs
The black pearls are the edgy version of the classic white ones. Go mostly monochrome by wearing them with a monochrome navy outfit or play up the dark shell with an ecru-colored dress. Money says that “recently, we’ve been seeing contemporary updates on the classic strand of pearls and pearl studs,” and this aligns very much with that.
Price at time of publish: $45
Pearl Type: Pearl shell | Metal: 18K gold-plated brass | Pearl Size: 12.7 millimeters
Swarovski Stella Stud Earrings
These Swarovski studded stars shimmer with stones and faux pearls in their rose-gold-plated setting. The centers look so realistic and could pass for true lustrous pearls. They’re also surrounded by more than a dozen round-cut stones in a star setting for extra shine.
Price at time of publish: $145
Pearl Type: Faux | Metal: Rose-gold-plated | Pearl Size: Not listed
Sophie Bille Brahe Rosette de Perles Small Earrings
These earrings are whimsical and romantic, knots of pearls with elegant sweetness. In graduating sizes, the pearls are strung together to form the shape of a bow. The earrings are the perfect accompaniment to your dinner party ensembles or formal evening wear, like a silk dirndl dress or a long and slinky slip.
Price at time of publish: $1,775
Pearl Type: Freshwater | Metal: 14K yellow gold | Pearl Size: Not listed
We love everything about Brilliant Earth’s Premium Akoya Cultured Pearl Studs, from their high brilliance to their sustainability angle. We also can’t help but appreciate their simplicity, thus their versatility and timelessness. However, if you’re looking to spend under $100, Blue Nile’s Freshwater Cultured Pearl Drop Earrings are similarly lustrous and lightweight but will only cost you $95.
Meet the Expert
- Kathryn Money is the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Merchandising at Brilliant Earth.
- Rosanne Karmes is the founder and designer of the fine jewelry label, Sydney Evan.
What to Look for in Pearl Earrings
Pearls are broken into two main categories based on their origins: cultured and natural. “Today, most pearls on the market are cultured, meaning they are real but require human intervention in the growth process,” Money explains. According to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), cultured pearls are grown in pearl farms, unlike natural pearls which are grown in the wild. However, both are authentic.
Shape and size
The shape and size of the pearl helps to determine its value. When other value factors are equal, larger pearls are rare and more valuable than smaller pearls of the same type. Round and almost round pearls are more valuable, too, as it’s the most difficult shape to culture, making them the rarest cultured pearl shape. Symmetry in pearls is also considered more desirable.
The luster, or shine, of the pearl is also an indicator of its quality. “Any pearl that appears to be too chalky is a good indicator that the quality is low; your reflection should be seen clearly on the surface,” Karmes says. Make sure you take note of this when picking your piece—a smooth and milky surface is a good way to eyeball a valuable pearl.
What is the most popular size of pearl earrings?
Karmes says “the most popular pearl size is about 8 to 9mm,” though it depends on the earring style you’re looking for. Classic studs tend to be on the smaller side, around 6 millimeters.
What is the highest quality of pearl?
The grading system for pearls ranks from AAA to A, with AAA being the highest. AAA pearls are nearly flawless, with a high luster and a surface mostly free of defects.
How do you pick a good pearl?
From a technical perspective, it’s a combination of all of the above, really—the shape, luster, and color. But most importantly, it should be what looks best to you.
How do you care for pearls?
If you want to preserve your pearl’s shine, take good care of them. The first thing to know? Pearls are softer gemstones, so they must be handled gently. Wipe them with a soft cloth or if needed, with a damp cloth and allow them to dry fully before putting them away. Be sure to lay them flat or hang your pearl necklace or bracelet, to prevent tangling. You should also consider taking your pearls to the jeweler a few times a year to get them professionally cleaned.
As a general rule for getting dressed, it’s best to put on your pearls last, i.e., after you’re clothed; you’ve applied makeup; and you’ve spritzed yourself with perfume, to keep them free of any chemicals, tarnish, and more.
Why Trust Byrdie
Gaby Keiderling is a freelance writer based in New York City, covering fashion, lifestyle, sports, and travel. Her work can also be seen in Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Who What Wear, and Travel + Leisure. She’s also been building her jewelry collection for the past 24 years, cultivating a very expert assortment of gold, silver, pearl, and diamond accessories.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough pearl earrings from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will evaluate the product ASAP.