Info On Pearls?

Q: Can anyone help me learn more about pearls? I have been using faux pearls in my designs, but want to use more freshwater and cultured pearls. I think I need to educate myself before investing in/using them.

A: Why not contact the 'GIA' ('Gemmological Institute of America') and do one of their courses. You will then have access to all the most recent information available on pearls of all types. There have been some good sites posted for this, but there is also a book you might find at your local library, or 'Fire Mountain' (I think) carries it - "The Pearl Buying Guide". It talks a lot about really expensive pearls, but also gives good very close-up pictures of what to look for. The best way to learn is to look at A LOT of pearls, and remember, freshwater pearls are not a very large investment these days. For smaller pearls - like 4 mm or so - you can get good quality strands for around $5 - or even less, but like everything else, look really closely at these "bargains".