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Home > Cultured Pearls Guide > How to Buy Pearls

How to Buy Pearls

There are four types of pearls: freshwater pearls, Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls. The saltwater pearls--Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea pearls—are all more valuable than freshwater pearls.

Like other gemstones, the value of pearls is determined by by its quality. Six factors are considered: pearl luster, nacre thickness, surface texture, color, shape, size and matching. A combination of these factors decides the overall quality and value of pearls.

Pearls have the following qualities: A, AA, AA+, AAA. AAA pearls have the highest quality. For pearls of the same size, an "A" quality pearl necklace is worth only a small fraction of AAA quality one. When shopping for pearls, buy pearls from stores that grade pearls carefully and provide detailed information on pearl luster and surface quality.

Nacre Thickness of Pearls

Nacre is the coating that the oyster forms around pearls. Nacre thickness is determined by the length of time the pearl grows in the oyster. Thin nacre won't hold up well over the years while pearls with 0.4mm nacre thickness can last a lifetime. Nacre thickness can be accurately determined through x-rays. However, a gemologist can also gauge thickness by looking at the pearl drill holes and to see where the nucleus and nacre layers meet.

Luster of Pearls

Luster is perhaps the most important factor in considering a pearl’s value. High luster is the product of a thick nacre. High luster produces a mirror-like reflection on the surface of pearls. Avoid cultured pearls that look dull.

Surface of Pearls

The surface of a cultured pearl should be relatively clean. Since cultured pearls are grown inside an oyster, it's very rare to find a perfectly flawless pearl. But the fewer the blemishes, the greater the value of the pearl.

Color of Pearls

Basic body colors include white, cream, golden, gray, black, blue, green and pink. Overtone is one or two colors that overlie the body color. Overtone colors include pink, silver, and green. Color is a preference, often based upon geographical location or an individual’s skin tones.

Size of Pearls

Some people like small and delicate cultured pearls, from 3.0 mm to 5.0 mm, while others like larger pearls, 6mm and up. Size does affect price; usually the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is.

Shape of Pearls

There are a number of different shapes: round, baroque, button, tear drop, and semi-round. For many wearers, roundness in cultured pearls equals perfection, and it is most desirable.

Matching of Pearls

Matching refers to: size, color, shape, luster, nacre and surface quality. Matching applies to pair of pearls and strand of pearls. AAA grade pearls are excellent to very good matching. AA grade pearls are good matching. A grade Akoya pearls are medium matching. All of our pearl jewelry have good to excellent matching.

 

 
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