Determining a Pearl’s Worth:
Several factors, including luster, size, shape, color, nacre thickness and surface quality (clarity of surface) go into determining a pearl’s worth. Luster is the most important single factor. Luster is what makes a pearl beautiful. The next important factor is size.
All other factors being equal, the larger the more valuable. Size and value are relative to each particular mollusk species. A 10mm Akoya is rare and very expensive, while a 10mm South Sea is considered small.
Generally, the rounder a pearl is, the more expensive it is, as a perfectly round pearl is difficult to achieve.
Color can be a personal preference, however, within each color category is a range of colors and within that range there’s usually at least one that stands out from the rest as the more valuable. The most valuable colors vary according to the type of pearl.
A pearl free from blemishes (scratches, cracks, bumps, ripples, dimples or pits) is more valuable. Some consider surface blemishes as natural characteristics. An abundance of surface blemishes reduces value.
Below are condensed explanations of the terms used above:
Luster – The quantity and quality of light reflected from the surface or just under the surface of a pearl. The combination of surface brilliance and a deep, almost three-dimensional glow. You should be able to see your reflection on the surface of a quality pearl. Any pearl that appears too chalky or dull indicates low quality.
Shape – shapes range from round to baroque. Since cultured pearls are grown subject to the whims of Mother Nature, it is rare to find a pearl that is perfectly round. While round pearls command the highest prices, asymmetrical or baroque pearls have a unique charm at a more modest price.
Color – (Body Color, Overtone and Orient) Body color is the overall color of the pearl– the hue, tone and saturation of a pearl’s color caused by pigmentation (not light interference). Overtone refers to one or more noticeable translucent colors that overlies the Body Color. Orient is a form of iridescence that appears to be just below the surface, often seen as one or more overtones and is caused by light interference. Not all pearls display all three characteristics.
Nacre – The thickness, quality and composition of nacre determine the luster of a pearl. Nacre is composed of extremely thin layers of crystalline calcium carbonate held together by an organic substance called conchiolin secreted layer by layer by mollusks. In the case of bead-and-tissue cultured pearls, the nacre coats the nucleus. A thin nacre coating can result in a dull and chalky appearance. Most of the time thicker nacre results in a more lustrous pearl. Thick nacre is not insurance for good luster, but the pearl must have adequate nacre thickness to have good luster.
The two main categories are “Symmetrical” and “Baroque”. For saltwater, symmetrical includes: Round, Semi- Round or Off-Round, Oval, Drop or Pear or Teardrop and Button. For saltwater, baroque includes: Semi Baroque, Baroque and Circled. The terms semi-baroque and baroque are used to describe saltwater round bead-nucleated cultured pearls which are not round and have varying degrees of “out-of-roundness”. For freshwater, symmetrical includes: Round, Semi Round or Off -Round or Near-Round, Oval, Drop or Pear or Teardrop, Button, Coin and Bar or rectangle. For freshwater, baroque includes: Barrel, Chunky, Petal, Rice, Pillow, Comet, and many more descriptive shapes. The term baroque, for freshwater, generally describes all non-symmetrical shapes or those unusual shapes without specific descriptions.
Categories of Pearls carried by Emiko Pearls:
South Sea – Cultivated in Australia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Myanmar. South Sea are considered one of the more exclusive of all cultured pearl varieties. South Sea pearls are known for their extraordinary size and satiny lustre. Ranging in color from silver-white to gold and in size from 8mm to 18mm and larger, South Sea pearls, due to their rarity, command higher prices
Tahitian – Clutivated in French Polynesia, South Pacific, Cook Islands and Fiji. The exotic color palette of Tahitian pearls makes them one of the most unique of all cultured pearl varieties. Ranging in color from light grey to midnight black, with pistachio, aubergine and blue in between, Tahitian pearls generally range in sizes from 8mm to 17mm.
Keshi (or Keshii) – Cultivated in Japan, Australia, French Polynesia, Indinesia and the Philippines. Keshi pearls, though not nucleated cultured pearls, are created by accident as a result of the culturing process and thus must be considered cultured pearls. Their unusual shapes and sizes are best highlighted in unique jewelry designs. Keshi is a term derived from the Japanese word for “poppy seed”. This was traditionally used to describe small seed-size pearls found as by-products of the culturing process in saltwater pearls. Today many in the trade also refer to a type of baroque freshwater pearl as keshi. In either cases keshi cultured pearls are baroque and offer a unique design style.
Natural pearls occur without any intervention by humans. They tend to form more organic and unusual shapes. Less than 2% are perfect spheres or symmetrical. Cultured pearls are the result of humans inserting seeds (called nuclei or a nucleus for singular) inside a mollusk; they grow in farms. Generally, cultured pearls are more uniformly colored and shaped if they are cultivated with the round bead of nucleus and tissue graft technique which is used by the saltwater pearl farms around the world.
Is a cultured pearl a “real” pearl? According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are three classifications of pearls; Natural (real), cultured and imitation. A real pearl is a natural pearl according to FTC’s guidelines. Generally, when the question is asked as to whether a pearl is real or not, they are asking if it is fake or imitation. A cultured pearl is valuable and real. It is not an imitation pearl or a fake pearl.
If you still have questions, visit our FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS page