Buying pearls is harder than it looks, especially with so many factors involved. If you’re looking to buy that perfect pearl for that special someone, or even for yourself here are important factors that need consideration so you can become an Expert Pearl Shopper.
Pearls are classified by origin, which we discussed in our previous blog All the Lovely Pearls. They are then graded by size, shape, nacre thickness, color, luster and surface clarity. Knowing a little bit about each of these gradings will have you well on your way to becoming an Expert Pearl Shopper.
I’ll break it down for you. First we’ll start with luster, which experts have termed the heart and soul of the sea grown gem because of its importance when it comes to pearls. Luster is the most important indicator in evaluating a cultured pearls quality, essentially because a high quality pearl with high luster will have a beautiful mirror like appearance, and that mirror like appearance is also a good indicator of a good nacre thickness. For a beautiful natural quality and appearance, a pearls luster is a large factor that determines a pearls beauty.
Nacre thickness equals in importance with luster. Every pearl has different nacre thickness, and this can depend on the type of oyster used in the culturing process, as well as how long the pearl was left in the oyster. The longer the pearl is left in the oyster the thicker the nacre is, and the more valuable the pearl becomes. Thick nacre pearl should display a good natural luster, and be durable. As a savvy Expert Pearl Shopper keep on the lookout for the signs of thin nacre which are low luster, a milky appearance, a coating that has cracks, and visible areas where the nacre has peeled off. If you want your pearl to last a lifetime and always keep its beauty, stay within the 0.5mm-0.6mm range of nacre thickness, and that will ensure the extended life of your pearl.
The surface of a pearl also considerably determines the appearance and quality of a pearl. Because pearls are natural gemstones they have blemishes, and with any natural gemstone some have more than others. If a pearl has a clean surface, light will reflect more evenly off its surface, and therefore will have a higher value. As an Expert Pearl Shopper make sure to check the pearl’s surface for bumps, scratches or variations in color because each one can affect how the light is reflected off the pearl.
The shape of a pearl comes down to personal preference. There is a wide variety of shapes available and those are round, semi-round, oval, button, baroque, ringed, and drop. Round pearls will almost always have a higher value because only a small percentage of pearls are perfectly round. When searching for that perfect pearl make sure you’ve done your research on the pearl shape you or your loved one prefer.
Color is another pearl factor that is a matter of the wearer’s preference, and doesn’t often affect the value of a pearl. When determining what color is preferable, how a pearl flatters different skin tones may be a deciding factor when looking for pearl jewelry. Silver and white pearls look best on fair skin and are the most classic, popular style. Cream and gold tones flatters darker complexions.
The size of a pearl will also have an effect on its value. Like diamonds, the larger the pearl, the higher the value, essentially because larger pearls are harder to come by and take longer to produce. The sizes of pearls are measured by the diameter in millimeters, and the size depends on the type of oyster, how large of an implant was used in the oyster, and how long the pearl was inside the oyster. If you are looking for a classic size the most common pearl size is 7mm.
Extra Tips for the Expert Pearl Shopper
- When buying a strand of pearls make sure there is uniformity among the pearls, and there is no significant difference side by side.
- All cultured pearl strands have been color enhanced to some degree. This includes bleaching and dying of a pearls body color, but this factor has no effect on value.
- Only purchase from a retailer that is knowledgeable about pearls. Here at Wheat Jewelers we keep up to date on everything pearl.