What do I look for when buying pearls?

March 07, 2018

What do I look for when buying pearls?

Similar to the 4 C’s of diamond buying, familiarise yourself with the Five Virtues related to pearls.

Luster

For cultured pearl experts, luster is most important when determining pearl quality. Luster derives from the pearl’s countless layers of pearl nacre, the natural substance that forms the pearl itself. Luster describes the beauty you see as light travels through the nacre of the pearl. It is the nacre that causes light to refract from the pearl’s layers, giving each pearl its unique milky appearance.

 

Complexion

Surface complexion refers to the physical blemishes or marks on the pearl’s surface. When evaluating complexion, the trade uses terms such as blemish, spotting, and cleanliness. Since cultured pearls are grown by live oysters in a natural environment, there are many uncontrollable forces that affect their surface.

 

Colour

The desirability of different pearl colours rests in the eye of the beholder. The most popular colour is white or white with slight overtones. Pearls that are naturally coloured, rather than colour enhanced by artificial means, will add value to the pearl.

 

Shape

Classic shapes range in descending order of value from round to near-round, and from oval to drop. It’s important to understand that in pearl industry terms, the shapes from round to drop are pretty symmetrical, while anything baroque denotes a pearl that is completely asymmetrical or freeform.

Size

Cultured pearls are measured by their diameter in millimeters. They can be smaller than one millimeter in the case of tiny seed pearls or as large as twenty millimeters for a mature South Sea pearl. Generally speaking, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it will be. Those normally seen in jewellery tend to be from 3/4 mm to 8/9 mm in Diameter. 




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