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A loose freshwater pearl faces to the left across from a loose diamond gemstone facing to the right

Pearl vs. Diamond: Which One Suits You?

The famed fire of a diamond and the romantic luster of a pearl make both of these gemstones intensely romantic choices for an engagement ring. They are beautiful when set on their own, or can be combined for a breathtaking style that gives you the best of both choices.

Origins and Rarity

Natural diamonds are formed when carbon atoms deep in the earth’s mantle are exposed to intense pressure and heat, making them crystalize. The first diamonds were mined in India over 2,000 years ago. Now, equally stunning diamonds can be found all over the world. The unique rarity of a diamond is largely based on the qualities of its clarity, color, carat and cut. 

Pearls have an exceptionally long history as revered gems, and have been worn by kings and queens for over 4,000 years. Julius Caesar of Rome once even ruled that only royalty would be allowed to wear pearls. 

Pearls come from the sea, forming inside the shell of an oyster, and natural pearls are very rare and highly treasured. In 1893, a process of creating cultured pearls was discovered, making fine pearls more accessible and equally beautiful.


Diamonds and pearls are quite distinct in their appearance. While diamonds are renowned for exquisite dazzle, pearls boast a luminous look.


Diamonds are the king of sparkle, claiming a high rating on the refractive index. They’re famous for their brilliance, which splits white light into a mesmerizing array of hues. 

Pearls feature a luster instead of sparkle. Luster is one of the key qualities to consider when choosing a pearl. A pearl with high luster glows softly, allowing you to see your reflection in its sheen. High luster comes from the quality of its nacre, which is what the pearl is made of inside the oyster shell. The best quality pearls feature thick nacre and rich luster.


The color of a gemstone is the most important feature for most people. The classic image of a diamond is of a clear stone that radiates with a shimmering, multi-hued fire. However, diamonds come in an array of colors, allowing you to choose the hue that most suits you, while still enjoying the mesmerizing twinkle the stone is famous for. 

Pearls are known for a creamy white hue, but there are many different colors of pearls. Akoya pearls boast the classic milky white color, while large and lustrous South Sea pearls have silver or gold tones as well as white. Tahitian pearls, in particular, are known for their entrancing black color, though they also can come in shades of gray or brown, with overtones of pink, purple, blue or green. 

Pearl color is made up of three elements. The bodytone is the main color of the pearl. The overtone is a translucent color that some pearls have that appears over the bodytone. The orient is an iridescent shimmer some pearls have that appears on the surface or just below it.


A gemstone’s clarity may be one of the most important factors in choosing any gem, including a diamond. The Gemological Institute of America uses a clarity scale from Flawless to Included to grade diamond clarity. The majority of diamonds rank as Slightly Included or Very Slightly Included stones, with most of their inclusions, such as bubbles, fractures or other minerals, only visible when using 10x magnification. 

Pearls are not clear gemstones, so the quality of their surface is considered instead of clarity. Pearls with minimal inclusions, marks or wrinkles on their surface are highly desirable.


Diamonds are the world’s hardest substance, ranking a 10 on the Mohs Scale. It is impossible to scratch a diamond, except with another diamond. This makes them ideal for everyday wear, though it’s always good practice to remove your ring when doing rough work to keep it safe from chipping. 

Pearls are quite soft, reaching around 2.5 to 4.5 on the Mohs scale. The nacre can be worn down or scratched, so it is a good idea to remove your ring before taking on chores or handywork. With attentive care, though, your ring can be kept looking beautiful for the lifetime to come.
The Moh's hardness scale showing opal at 5, emerald at 7.5, topaz at 8, ruby at 9, and diamond at 10


Gemstone enhancement improves various visual aspects of a gemstone. Diamonds can be treated using heat treatments, irradiation, high-pressure, high temperature-treatments (HPHT) and coatings to change or enhance the appearance of their color or clarity. Laser drilling may be used to remove imperfections. White fractures in a diamond can be treated using fracture filling to minimize their appearance. All pearls are cleaned and polished after being harvested. A variety of treatments can be used to affect the color of a pearl. Bleaching can lighten the pearl, while dye treatments or irradiation can darken the color. Heat treatments can be used to enhance a pearl’s luster.

Meanings and Symbolism

Diamonds are a classic symbol of love and are associated with lasting faithfulness. As the world’s hardest substance, they also are a sign of power and have a timeless quality. Clear diamonds in particular have been seen as a symbol of purity. Softly iridescent pearls are reputed to bring a sense of serenity, and they feature a meaning of purity and wisdom. They embody trust and loyalty, making them a beautiful symbol in an engagement ring.

Popular Ring Styles and Settings

Diamonds look exquisite in a wide array of cuts and settings, leaving this choice ultimately up to the personality and preferences of the wearer. A round cut is one of the most popular cuts for a diamond, as it emphasizes sparkle. Other cuts, including princess, square and emerald, are also enduring favorites. Settings range from stunning solitaire options to mesmerizing pavé details, allowing you plenty of freedom to get inspired as you select the ideal ring. 

Pearl rings can feature a prongless mount, where a small pin is inserted into a hole drilled in the pearl to secure it in place. This setting can be a beautiful way to showcase a statement-making solitaire pearl, or to nestle an accent pearl next to another gemstone. 

Pearls can also be set with prongs, which may artfully curve around the pearl or be accented with other gemstones. Prong settings can offer extra protection for your pearl and help keep it securely set.

Caring for Your Diamond or Blue Pearl Jewelry

• Proper gemstone care and cleaning will keep a diamond engagement ring looking beautiful for years to come.

• The cleaning process is also an ideal time to check for loose stones and adjust the ring if needed. 

• Care and maintenance are particularly important for pearl rings. 

• Remove your ring before showering, swimming or doing housework and yard work to help protect it. 

• Routine professional pearl cleaning and checking the setting will keep your pearl ring looking its best.

Blue Nile Promise

As you go through the process of finding the ideal engagement ring, we’re here to help. From fire-filled diamonds to luxuriously 
radiant pearls, or other beautiful gemstone choices, we offer expert services and information to ensure that you make a choice you’ll 
love for a lifetime. 

Our complimentary services include ring sizing to make sure that the fit feels perfect, free returns to ensure that you are thrilled 
with your ring, and cost-free cleaning services to keep your ring looking its most stunning for years to come.

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