Beauty & Fashion
TO CHOOSE FINE PEARLS
Pearls are very alluring and hold a quality that both defines
elegance and natural beauty. There are more varieties and
availability of pearls today than ever before. The cultured
pearl now rivals with fine diamonds, sapphires,
emeralds, and rubies.
Today most pearls are cultured, meaning that the mollusk is
purposely inserted with an irritant or nucleus from which it
creates a pearl. A better way to think of the difference
between natural pearls and cultured pearls is to think of the
natural pearl as a result of the mollusk working alone and the
cultured pearls as a product of nature being helped by science.
Cultured pearls are not fake like many people may think. The
culturing process takes from two to three years and is a very
delicate process. The pearl farmers have little control on
what the outcome of the pearl will look like or if the mollusk
will reject the nucleus. Not all pearls are fine quality or
even desirable at all. The end result is ultimately a
consequence of nature.
Choosing pearls that are of the best quality are determined by
luster, nacre thickness and quality (the outer layer), color,
surface perfection, shape, and size. The biggest factor of
pearl quality is nacre thickness and quality which determines how
long the pearl will last. Nacre thickness determines the longevity
of the pearl and nacre quality determines how light reflects
through the layers of the pearls. High luster and
iridescence come from high quality nacre and any pearl with these
characteristics has quality, thick nacre. When judging nacre
look for uniform iridescence, intensity of luster, cracks and
peeling, estimate thickness near the drill hole between the nacre
and the shell bead (nacre is lighter). Pearls are very thick
with at least .5 mm on all pearls, thick with at least.5mm on most
pearls, medium with between .35 and .5 mm on most pearls, and thin
with .25 mm or less on most pearls.
Luster is also important and one of the first factors to
notice. Luster is an intense brightness that illuminates
from within the pearl rather than just being shiny like in
imitation pearls. The intense brightness results from light
being reflected throughout the numerous layers of nacre.
Quality pearls will have a sharp contrast between the brightest
area where direct light is hitting the pearls and the shaded area
creating an illusion of a ball within the pearl. Check for
luster by examining them under a fluorescent lamp and rolling them
from side to side to examine uniform luster. Examine
pearls over a light gray or white material and never black because
it is harder to see the true quality of the pearl.
Pearl color is also important. When choosing pearls note
there body color and overtones. The most desirable and more
rare white pearls have rose colored overtones. Cream colored
pearls are more affordable because they are less rare. Also,
pearls can have tones rated in intensity. Darker toned
pearls are more desirable and expensive compared to lighter toned
pearls. Many natural body colors are available in pearls
including white, black, gray, blue, gold, pink, and green.
Distinctive colored pearls are rarer and harder to find.
Have a qualified gemologist check the pearls to make sure they
have not been dyed, especially for costlier pearls like the black
or golden varieties.
Examine pearls surface for blemishes. Although is best to
check for most pearl characteristics on a light background, it is
best to check for blemishes on a dark background. Check in
both intense and diffused light. No pearls are perfect and
small blemishes can be sacrificed for more important quality like
nacre and luster. Pearls with higher luster conceal
When choosing pearls also consider shape. There are three
pearl shapes including symmetrical, spherical, and baroque.
The spherical is the rarest and most desirable. Symmetrical
pearls include teardrop or pear-shaped pearls and desirable but
usually less expensive than spherical pearls. Baroque pearls
are irregularly shaped and often the least expensive.
Size should also be taken into consideration. Larger
cultured pearls are rarer and more expensive. Akoya pearls
over 7 millimeters are much more costly and prices
dramatically rise with each millimeter over 8 millimeters.
South Sea and Tahitian pearls also have high increase in price
when size is over 15 millimeters.
One more factor to consider in pearls is the precision in
matching the pearl quality in a string of pearls. It is
important to take all of the above factors in consideration when
matching the pearls. Graduated pearls also take careful
matching. Pearl matching affects the value of the jewelry
because when pearls are not matched properly it takes away from
the appearance of the jewelry. Also, make sure the pearls
are all drilled in the center so they lay properly.
Off-center drilled pearls will not lay correctly and reduces the
value of the piece.
It is always important to get a independent laboratory report
when in doubt of pearl enhancements that may have been employed to
make the pearls appear more valuable. Make sure the person
appraising the pearls is a Graduate Gemologist (GG) which is the
Gemological Institute of Americas (GIA) highest award.
Other things to consider when purchasing pearls include finding
out what the merchants return policy is. Make sure they have
at least a 30-day full refund policy.