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Articles by Stan Paul

How to Buy Pearls

When buying pearls, you first must understand the difference between the different types of pearls and what makes their quality and value different.

There are four types of pearls: Freshwater pearls, Akoya pearls, Tahitian pearls and South Sea pearls.  Akoya, Tahitian and South Sea pearls are saltwater pearls.
They are more valuable than freshwater pearls. Akoya pearls are the most popular for their beautiful color, high luster and attractive roundness.

Like other gemstones, the value of pearls is determined by how good the quality is. Six factors determine the quality and value:  Pearl luster, nacre thickness, surface texture, color, shape, size and matching.

Pearl luster is the best expression of a cultured pearl’s beauty. Fine luster produces an almost mirror-like reflection on the surface of the pearl. High luster is the result of thick nacre. You should avoid cultured pearls that look dull.

Nacre is the coating that the oyster forms around  the pearl. Nacre thickness is determined by the length of time the pearl grows in the oyster.  Nacre thickness is the most important factor to consider when choosing cultured pearls. It determines the durability and elasticity of a cultured pearl. Pearls with 0.4mm nacre thickness or more will last a lifetime and can be gauged by looking at the drill hole to see where the nucleus and nacre layer meet.

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.  The fewer the blemishes, the greater the value of the pearl.

Color—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 in pearls is a preference often based upon geographical location or skin tones.

Shapes include:  round, baroque, button, tear drop, and semi-round. For many wearers, roundness in cultured pearls is the most desirable. The more perfect the roundness the more valuable the pearl.

Size and Matching refer  to the millimeter of the pearl and  how well the pearls match each other in the strand.  Pearls range in size from 3mm up.  A very good to excellent  “AAA”  pearl grading  refers to matching sizes and shapes, surface quality, color,  luster, and nacre.  The larger the pearls and how well they match, the more valuable they will be.


This article was published in the North Shore Women's Journal

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