They have a classical appeal and represent purity and allure THEY SAY ALL brides look beautiful on their wedding day, with much planning and preparation going into creating that stunning look. Jewellery is an integral part of this and for centuries many brides have opted for pearls. 'The ancient Greeks believed that wearing pearls would promote marital bliss and the beauty of a strand of pearls has held the attention of brides for millennia. In addition, pearl jewellery embodies elegance,' said Tony Cheng, executive manager, Chow Tai Fook. Jan Logan, designer and director of Jan Logan, said pearls were chosen as wedding jewellery because they were classical and represented purity and allure. Another reason brides choose pearls is because of their versatility; they can be worn on any occasion without looking out of place. 'Of course, they are perfect for weddings but can also be worn at an informal social gathering, a formal dinner, or to the office. Pearls always look great,' said Hanspeter Pieth, managing director of Golay Hong Kong. Before buying pearl jewellery there are a few points to consider - most pearls sold today are cultured pearls. The two most common are freshwater and saltwater. The two rarer varieties are the South Sea pearl and the Tahitian Black pearl. They are bigger and more expensive. Choosing which type to buy is a matter of taste and budget. When it comes to a pearl's quality, there are number of things to look for. Mr Pieth said there were four 'quality criteria' - surface condition, lustre, nacre thickness and consistent colour matching - and three additional 'value criteria' - colour, size and shape. 'Often, the value criteria are also seen as quality criteria, but they are not; the value criteria are just a matter of taste,' he said. For example, even though big pearls are rare and therefore more expensive, they do not automatically look better than small pearls. Mr Cheng said the lustre of the pearl was the quality of the reflective surface on the outermost layer and was an important factor. 'Generally speaking, the higher the lustre the higher the quality of the pearl,' he said. The coating or nacre thickness refers to the outermost layer of nacre, which is a protective solution that the oyster secretes. This layer needs to be thick enough to protect the pearl. 'Usually, coating and lustre go hand-in-hand, with the thickness of the coating directly affecting the quality of the lustre. 'Pearls with a thin coating are more likely to chip and often appear dull,' Mr Cheng said. Nacre thickness can be difficult for the buyer to judge, which is why it is important that pearls are bought from a professional and trustworthy source. 'Golay has established a quality label to assure customers when they buy pearls,' Mr Pieth said. The shape of the pearl has a direct bearing on the price, with perfectly round pearls being the most expensive. 'It is wise to examine a variety of pearl shapes to establish your preference and aim to purchase the best quality to suit your budget,' Ms Logan said. When buying pearl jewellery, her advice is: 'Look for a piece of jewellery that is flattering and that you like, but remember to check for lustre, colour and the natural characteristics of the gem.' Irene Yong, a public relations spokeswoman at Hodel, said pearls with a lighter tone (white, pinkish, silver or golden) generally went better with wedding dresses. Pearls are no longer confined to the chokers and stud earrings of the past. Most stores selling pearl jewellery in Hong Kong have items which they believe are perfect for brides, and these include necklaces, pendants, rings and earrings.