Because pearls are naturally occurring organic gemstones, created by living creatures, the factors that impact quality and value vary widely. The value of a pearl quality is measured by several factors.
These pearl quality factors include:
- Pearl Type
Pearl Quality in Pearl Type
The type of pearl is the most basic factor to consider. The common varieties of cultured pearls include freshwater pearls, and saltwater Akoya, South Sea and Tahitian pearls. Each type of pearl is created by a different species of oyster, living in a different area of the world, under a variety of climatic conditions. South Sea and Tahitian pearls are generally larger than Akoya and freshwater pearls, and each type tends to have its own distinctive range of colours.
Pearl Quality in Nacre
Nacre is the organic substance, secreted by the mollusc, from which the pearl is formed. Colour and lustre are actually characteristics of the nacre itself. Usually the thicker the nacre is the more valuable the pearl.
Pearl Quality in Lustre
A pearl’s lustre is a measure of its brilliance and reflectivity. High-quality pearls are bright and shiny – you should be able to see your reflection in them. Lower-quality pearls have a chalkier or dull appearance. In general, saltwater pearls have a greater lustre than freshwater pearls.
Pearl Quality in Surface
The surface appearance of a pearl is a critical characteristic. Pearls should be smooth and shiny, without bumps, lines, spots, or discolorations. The surface should be shiny and reflective not dull and chalky.
Pearl Quality in Shape
The shape of a pearl is where “value” and personal taste may differ. Perfectly round pearls are extremely rare, and therefore very expensive. Pearls come in a wide variety of interesting and unique shapes.
Some examples include:
- Round – perfectly spherical
- Near or Semi Round – slightly flattened or elongated
- Button – slightly flattened into a disk-like “button” shape
- Pear – elongated teardrop-shaped
- Drop – teardrop shaped
- Oval – egg-shaped
- Baroque abstract and asymmetrical
- Ringed concentric indentations or rings
- Colour Pearl colour ranges across almost the entire spectrum from white to black. Naturally occurring colours include silver, cream, champagne, green, and blue. A pearl’s reflective overtones are different from its basic colour. This reflectivity gives pearls in the same colour category, a variety of looks and hues. Although some colours less common than others, and therefore more expensive, colour is another area where “value” and personal taste may vary.
- Size The size of pearls is measured in millimetres. Pearls today range in size from less than 1mm (seed pearls) to 14mm or larger. The average size of pearls on the market today, range in size from 6.5mm to 8mm. The size of a pearl directly impacts its quality and price. Larger pearls are generally more expensive.
- Other factors come into play when evaluating a pearls quality and value. Natural pearls are the most valuable, but most pearls on the market today are treated in some way or another. Some treatments do not impact the value of pearls while others do.
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