How To Choose Pearls
How to Choose Fine Pearls
By Amanda Raab
Today fine pearls compete with the finest diamonds and jewelry and it is important to know how to determine the difference between fine quality
pearls and average pearls. 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. Become an expert at
distinguishing quality with these tips...
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
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 blemishes better.
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 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.
This article is courtesy of Pure Pearls
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