Pearl Buying Tips Everyone Should Know
Posted on February 24 2016
When buying pearls, how do you know which pearls to buy and which to pass on? Which will last a lifetime and which will turn dull after a few wears? It helps to know how the value of a pearl is determined.
All pearls, no matter what type they are, are graded according to 7 value factors. These are:
Luster – pearls are prized for their luster. The brighter, sharper and more reflective a pearl is, the more valuable it will be. Luster comes from the nacre (Nacre, also known as mother-of-pearl, is a crystalline substance that creates the iridescent visual effect attributed to pearls. Nacre is an organic substance secreted by mollusks over an intruding irritant or implanted nucleus). The longer the pearl is left in the mollusk, the more layers of nacre that forms giving the pearl more luster.
Shape – generally the more perfectly round in shape a pearl is, the more rare and prized it is, however many pearl connoisseurs enjoy the unique distinctiveness of baroque pearls. Baroques are off-round, drop and asymmetrical in shape, and are graded according to symmetry.
Color – While many prefer the classic white pearl, pearls come in every color of the rainbow. Naturally colored pearls like black Tahitian pearls or Golden South Sea pearls are graded on their color’s depth and saturation- the more strongly colored pearls will be more rare and valuable.
Surface Blemishing – Pearls that feature clean surfaces without inclusions like pin-pricks, scoring marks, chalky spots or wrinkles will be much more highly valued than pearls with multiple blemishes. However, because pearls are a product of nature, there will always be some form of blemish even if you can’t view them with the naked eye.
Size – Large pearls are rare in nature, so the bigger they are the more valuable they are.
Natural or Cultured – 95% of all pearls on the market today are cultured pearls, meaning that humans played a role in pearl formation. Natural, wild pearls from the ocean are extremely rare and come with a premium price.
Weight - the weight of a pearl is not always provided, however finer jewelers will include it among their descriptions, especially in the case of larger pearls.
So, its always best if you can compare pearls side-to-side to see which strand has the highest luster, best color, less blemishing, etc. Low quality pearls can look fine when viewed by themselves, but put them next to a high quality strand and the difference is glaring.
Typically, less-expensive pearls are lacking in a number of the value factors above. For instance, these pearls are often removed from the mollusks much sooner than better pearls, which translates into less nacre and luster. This thin coat of nacre can easily scratch off leaving you with dull, blemished and discolored pearls. These are fine in some trendy, fashion jewelry that you only expect to wear a few times, but if you are looking to invest in quality pearls, pay attention to this detail. And, less expensive pearls are often dyed and depending on that process can lose their color and luster over time.