Pearls Are My Favorite

I am a pearl girl. The way pearls manipulate light is magical and ethereal. This is why so many of my recent pieces are pearl-heavy! (Coming soon!)

Every pearl is created by an animal and its formation is affected by various environmental conditions, quality of human care in the farm, culturing time, and overall health of the mollusk. This means that every pearl needs to be considered individually.

So how do we evaluate pearls?

In honor of June's Birthstone, Pearl, I want to take a peek at the Pearl Value Factors (updated from a post from June 2017!). While there is no universal system for evaluating pearls as there is with diamonds, there are nuances that determine a great pearl from a good pearl from a nasty pearl.

#1: Size

Pearl size refers to the diameter dimension of the pearl and it is expressed in millimeters (mm).

It doesn't matter what they told you: Size Matters. All other value factors being equal, a larger pearl will be more valuable.

Pearl size is dependent on several factors:

  1. The mollusk species—some mollusks can grow larger pearl than others

  2. The size & health of the mollusk (Bigger/Better = Bigger)

  3. The size of the bead nucleus (Bigger = Bigger)

  4. Length of time the mollusk stays underwater (Longer = Bigger)

  5. Climate and nutrient conditions of the growing environment (Consistently Good = Bigger)

Pearl Size Chart

#2: Shape

The pearl shape is the silhouette of the pearl, which ranges from round to baroque. There are three distinct shape categories: Spherical, Symmetrical, and Baroque.

For any shape other than the three major categories, the shape is described as it appears (coin, stick, button, etc).

Pearl shape is dependent on several factors:

  1. The shape of the bead nucleus

  2. Length of time the mollusk stays in water (Longer = Less predictable and less round)

  3. Climate and nutrient conditions of the growing environment

The longer the pearl remains within the mollusk, the greater the chance of developing an irregular shape. A perfectly round pearl is very rare. Even if the bead nucleus is round, the pearl may not grow evenly in all directions. A large, perfectly round pearl is even rarer!

Pearl Shape Chart

#3: Color

Pearls come in a wide range of colors resultant of the breed of the host mollusk and that of the donor tissue. The pearl will likely be similar in color to the mother-of-pearl lip of the mollusk in which it forms. There are a host of external influences, including diet, water temperature and pollutants., that can effect the color of the pearl, making it impossible to accurately predict the color of the pearl.

Pearl color is a combination of three elements:

Body colors: Body color is the dominant hue of a pearl. What color do you see when you just glance at the pearl? Overtones: Translucent color that overlies bodycolor. If you tilt the pearl from side to side and squint, is there a slight tinge of a secondary color? Orient: Iridescent rainbow colors on the surface. This is the magical, rainbow wash you see when you look at a pearl.

All pearls have a body color, but not every pearl displays overtone and/or orient.

#4: Luster

Luster is what pearls do best. Luster is the way the light plays off of the surface of the pearl. Due to the pearls' nacre structure, light does not just reflect off of the surface of the pearl. Rather, light penetrates the surface and seems to reflect from WITHIN the pearl. The way that a pearl seems to emit light is its luster.

The quality of the nacre dictates the quality of the luster, which is very important to its beauty and its value. Pearl farmers can control the quality of nacre only to an extent. For example, allowing the pearl to form for more time will tend to make the nacre thicker and harvesting pearls during cold weather can often improve final luster quality! Many environmental factors can interrupt or alter the nacre formation, so there is no fool-proof method for creating a beautiful luster.