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Pearl Jewelry Guide

 

Every woman should have pearl jewelry among her jewelry collection. Pearls are classified by origin, the graded by size, shape, nacre thickness, color, luster, surface clarity and how they match. Here is a quick summary of pearl quality factor to get started:

 

Luster

Luster is what makes pearls unique, so it is often the key factor to determining a pearl's worth. No other gemstone reflects light the same way as a pearl. The amount of luster a pearl has depends upon how each layer of nacre developed and the nacre's translucence.

Pearls with less luster are much less valuable than ones that have spectacular sheen. Most pearls with poor luster never make it to the gem market. They are used in cosmetic or pharmaceutical products.

A high-luster pearl is so shiny that you are able to see objects in it, like a spoon. A pearl with poor luster will reflect images poorly or not at all and will look dull.

Excellent, mirror-like luster Tahitian pearl stud earrings in white gold. Shop pearl earrings here.

 

Akoya pearls are considered the finest when it comes to luster. Although Akoya pearls reign when it comes to a glass-like finish, some people prefer the more satin-like luster of South Sea pearls. This softer look is often as beautiful.

 

Shape

A perfectly round pearl is the most sought after and the most rare of cultured pearls. So rare are round pearls that only 5-10% of a pearl farm's harvest will be even and round. The rest of the harvest will vary from semi-round pearls to asymmetrical baroque pearls. Below is a brief description of the most common shapes.

Round: Round pearls are perfectly spherical. The shape most people think of when they think of pearls. This is the most desirable shape for a cultured pearl and the most expensive. All high grade Akoya pearls should be perfectly round in shape.

Near round or Semi-round: Near round pearls are not perfectly round but very close to round. To the untrained eyes, they have the appearance of perfectly round pearls but are considerably cheaper. Most freshwater pearls on the market fall into this category.

Button: Button pearls are symmetrical pearls that appear to be flattened or squashed to some degree. This shape of pearls is not that common except for freshwater pearls where a round nucleus is not used.

Drop: Drop pearls are symmetrical in shape but have a tear drop shape. These pearls are most often used in pendants and earrings.

A pink freshwater oval/drop shaped pearl necklace. Shop pearl strands here.

 

Baroque: Baroque pearls do not have a definitive shape, except for the fact that they are non-symmetrical or irregular in shape. Baroque pearls can range from off round circle pearls to stick or cross shapes.

Circle: Circle pearls are baroque pearls but as the name suggests they have visible "circles" or "rings" around the diameter of the pearl. This shape of pearl is most common in Tahitian and South Sea pearls and are gaining popularity because of their unique look.

 

Size

Measured by their diameter in millimetres, the average cultured pearls sold today are between 7 and 7.5 millimetres. Generally, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it will be.

 

Surface

No two pearls are alike, and one of the factors that makes each pearl different is its surface quality. Virtually, no pearl is perfect, and any flawless specimens are treasures.

The majority of pearl buyers will have a degree of surface imperfections on their gemstones. Even the finest pearls will have irregularities on the surface. The key factors to surface quality are how noticeable they are and if they seriously affect the durability of the pearls.

Serious surface quality issues are usually chips and gaps, which will lower the value of even the most lustrous pearls. Why? These particular imperfections can cause the pearl to crack or peel. Other characteristics include:

  • Abrasions - scratches or scuffs that affect the luster or color of the pearl
  • Spots - minor color variations
  • Bumps - tiny bubbles on the surface of the pearl
  • Wrinkles - where the nacre isn't smooth

Some surface characteristics are hardly noticeable, even to a pearl expert. A good example would be a minor flaw near the hole drilled in the pearl.

Some value factors can actually make up for a few minor flaws in a pearl. If a gem is large, a couple of small imperfections won't hurt its value. High luster helps, because it can actually make some surface quality variances less noticeable. One or two pearls with noticeable imperfections in a strand may not lower its value if the rest of the pearls are near flawless, because value is determined by uniformity, not minor variations.

 

When you're ready, shop here for the full collection of pearl.