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Pearl quality factors

The most important factors that affect and determine the qualities of pearls and their valuations are; size, shape, color, luster, surface quality, nacre quality, and matching.
Natural and cultured freshwater pearls

Depending on the pearl type, one value factor might contribute more to a pearls valuation than another. For example, color strongly influences the worth of Tahitian pearls because it is such a distinctive property for that type of pearl. In contrast, size has a significant influence on the value of Akoya pearls because they most commonly grow to only 6 or 7 millimeters in diameter.


Pearls are measured in mm. For spherical pearls, diameter is measured. For other shapes, both length and width are measured. When all other quality factors are equal, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. Less than 25% of any pearl harvest is good enough for jewelry. Of that, only 1% will measure over 9.0 mm and be considered high quality.


Whether natural or cultured, spherical or round pearls are the most difficult shapes to find and to cultivate. Harder to find, but easier to match and ideal for strands, round pearls are regarded as the most valuable in terms of shape. If the pearls are not round, they will still be judged on their symmetry. Deviations from the ideal will normally lessen the prices of pearls but if they are of exceptional color and luster they will still be very attractive and command corresponding valuations. Some people want rounds and others donít care and some baroque pearls are exceptional and highly prized for their superlative colors and luster. Rules have exceptions and historically, some of the most valuable single pearls have not been round but drop shaped.


Of the factors affecting beauty, luster is arguably the most important. Luster is the mesmerizing glow and reflection of light from the surface of the pearl. Excellent luster displays sharp, crisply defined reflected light sources on the surface. Even the reflected facial features of the viewer will be visible on the pearlís surface. A photograph of highly lustrous pearls could clearly show both the camera and the photographer in the image. Pearls of good luster will reflect sharply defined light sources off the surface, but some slight blurring or softening of the edges will be apparent. The face of the viewer may still be discernible on the surface but not all the details. Fair luster exhibits distinctly softer edges from the reflected light sources and physical objects will appear heavily blurred on the pearlís surfaces.


Pearls and the colors in which they occur are available in a broad range of hues. There are warm hues like yellow, orange, and pink and cool hues like blue green and violet. Valuations vary among the kinds of pearls and there is no single rule about color. Some pearl colors complement certain skin tones better than others and a womanís complexion often determines her preferences. Some colorful descriptions include apricot, aubergine, golden, lavender, peacock, and pistachio.

Surface quality

Is graded as clean, lightly blemished, moderately blemished, and heavily blemished. Clean pearls are those that are blemish free or contain only minute surface imperfections that are difficult to see by trained observers. Any deviations from perfection and increases in surface irregularities will lead to subsequent devaluations in a pearlís value.

Nacre quality

High quality nacre is thick and durable with an excellent luster. Over 1mm is considered to be adequate in most cases. The elements that contribute to nacre quality are thickness, translucence, layer uniformity, and layer alignment. Nacre needs to be thick enough to assure durability as thin nacre is vulnerable to chipping, cracking, and pealing.


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