Diamond Designs and More

Cultured Pearls


Pearl Pearls sold these days in jewelry shops around the world come in the form of natural pearls, cultured pearls and imitation pearls.† Unlike minerals, pearls are created by living animals, primarily by marine and fresh water mollusks.† Natural pearls are extremely rare and quite expensive.

Cultured Pearls are the most common form of pearls used in high-end jewelry.† Cultured pearls may be both marine and fresh water cultured pearls.† Their quality may equal or even exceed the quality of natural pearls.

Imitation Pearls are made by coating glass beads with a mixture of varnish and fish scales or flakes of the mineral mica,† or simply are† made of plastic or similar artificial materials.

The Value of a Pearl comes from the unique ability of the crystalline nacre to absorb, refract and reflect light, imparting a distinctive quality, termed orient, to natural and cultured pearls.

Link The Origins and Creation of Cultured Pearls
Link Chinese Fresh Water Cultured Pearls

Internal link up to chapter Lustre

Lustre is considered the most important quality factor in pearls. Lustre refers both to a pearl's brilliance — the way its surface reflects light — and its inner glow: the way it refracts light. A pearl's lustre is generally evaluated in terms of "high" to "low," with grades of "medium" in between.

High-lustre pearls are bright, and have a deep-seated glow. They reflect objects near them clearly. Though high-lustre pearls usually have a thick nacre coating, thick nacre doesn't always guarantee a pearl will have high lustre. This is true because genetic imperfections in some oysters don't allow them to secrete nacre in perfect patterns that result in high lustre. Low-lustre pearls, on the other hand, have low reflective and refractive qualities. They may appear too white, or dull or chalky, and they usually have only marginal nacre thickness.

Orient is the deep inner glow and shimmering iridescent characteristic of sea-grown pearls. The deeper the luster and iridescence, the more precious the pearl.

Internal link up to chapter Surface

Surface is the second most important quality factor in pearl evaluation. Surface quality refers to the amount and kinds of flaws that appear on the outside of a pearl. Surface is generally evaluated in terms of "clean" to "heavily blemished," with grades of blemishing in between. "Clean" pearls have virtually no spots, bumps, pits, cracks, circles or wrinkles on them. "Heavily blemished" pearls, on the other hand, are dominated by such flaws. It's important to note the difference between "damaging" and "non-damaging" blemishes. Damaging blemishes are those that tend to become larger over time. "Cracks" and "chips," often near a pearl's drill holes, are damaging blemishes. Non-damaging blemishes do not worsen over time. Spots, bumps, pits, circles, and wrinkles are considered non-damaging blemishes.

Generally, the cleaner the surface of a pearl, the more valuable it is. But it's very important to remember that, as products of nature, pearls are almost never flawless — and imperfections, because they're natural, don't necessarily detract from the beauty or value of a pearl.

Internal link up to chapter Shape

Pearls are placed into eight basic shape categories: "round," "drop," "button" "oval," "semi-round," "circle — or "ringed", "baroque," and "semi-baroque." Generally, the rounder the pearl, the more valuable it is. Perfectly round pearls are very rare. But though baroque pearls are often less costly, they can be just as lustrous and appealing as the round.

Internal link up to chapter Color

Saltwater cultured pearls display a fascinating array of colors, the entire spectrum, in fact: from white to black, and virtually ever color in between. It's important to note that no color is considered superior to another, and, as always, preferences are entirely up to a customer's taste. Yet, as a general note when making suggestions: rosť and silver/white pearls tend to look best on fair skins, while cream and gold-toned pearls are more flattering to darker complexions.

Internal link up to chapter Size

The size of a pearl is measured in millimeters, through its diameter. Pearls can be smaller than 1 millimeter in size to as large as 20 millimeters and more. The average and most popular size sold today is 7 to 7-and-a-half millimeters. Though a pearl's size is not an indicator of its quality, it will determine its price. With all other quality factors being equal, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it is. The reason is simple: it's just more difficult to grow a large high-quality pearl. Therefore, pearls that are 7 millimeters and larger will always command higher prices.


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