Factors affecting quality of pearls

Factors affecting quality of pearls

by Bina shaji kurup

An important factor in deciding the quality of the Pearl is its Luster. A high luster is visible in the reflections on the surface of the pearl – a clearer reflection signifies a better luster and such pearls seem to have a warm glow. The luster of the pearl is dependant on the thickness of the nacre coating on the pearl – it is normally understood that the longer a pearl is left inside the mollusk, the thicker is the nacre layer.

How does one decide if a pair of pearl earrings or a necklace is worth its price? As with all gemstones, pearls too have certain factors, which decide their quality and price. Since pearls are natural creations and do not require cutting or polishing, it is rare to find uniform pearls unlike gemstones which can be cut and polished into uniform sizes. This is the beauty of the pearl, each pearl is unique and sometimes particular shades, sizes, and shapes can become scarce. Natural factors like water pollution, diseases, temperatures etc, all affect the availability of this delicate gem. Of late, with the advent of the pearl farms, the conditions are kept controlled giving better results and improved quality pearls. Some of the factors affecting the price and determining the quality of pearls are given.

PearlAn important factor in deciding the quality of the Pearl is its Luster. A high luster is visible in the reflections on the surface of the pearl – a clearer reflection signifies a better luster and such pearls seem to have a warm glow. The luster of the pearl is dependant on the thickness of the nacre coating on the pearl – it is normally understood that the longer a pearl is left inside the mollusk, the thicker is the nacre layer. A good quality pearl will glow warmly and reflect images clearly. Pearls with thin nacre are not of good quality and will not have the glow of thick nacre pearls.

Associated with the luster is the Surface of the pearl. Most pearls have some small blemishes or marks on the surface or they may slightly dented – this is more visible in larger pearls, although jewelers normally make sure the pearl is polished and sometimes treated to ensure its surface looks smooth and flawless. The pearl is a creation of nature and some flaws are normal in most pearls. But deep cracks or holes or overgrowths on the pearl or too many dents and blemishes should be avoided as they ruin the elegance of the pearl. A naturally flawless surface is extremely rare and such pearls are not made into jewellery, they are kept as they come from the oyster – without drilling holes or converting them into pieces of jewellery.

Origin of the pearls is important while deciding on the quality and price. Natural pearls, which are rare, command a higher price and the saltwater cultured pearls are the next on the price range. Freshwater cultured pearls are the cheapest and are available to suit all budgets – from economical to expensive.

The shape of the pearl is another factor in deciding the quality of the pearls. A round shape is highly valuable. This is because finding a perfectly rounded pearl is fairly rare – the Black Tahiti pearls are some of the rare examples of round pearls. White round pearls are normally rare. It is easier to find pearls in other shapes, the oval shape being less expensive and more readily available. Rice Pearl strands are eye-catching and are available in several designs. Thus the shape of the pearl although important in deciding the cost, is not important while purchasing a strand or pair of earrings since all shapes of pearls are equally enticing.

Large pearls above 14mm size are rare and most freshwater cultured pearls (pearls grown on cultured pearl farms) range from 1mm to 12mm. The larger pearls are normally saltwater pearls like Tahitian and South Sea pearls in sizes from 12mm to 20mm (which are rare and most prized). Most Freshwater pearls are small ranging 1mm to 9mm. The diameter of the Pearl is measured in millimeters to get the exact size. Although large pearls are expensive, if they do not have a good luster or are flawed, it is safer to avoid buying them. Instead buying smaller sized pearls with a good luster is advisable.

Silvery white, a gentle tinge of gold or pink, hues of black and blue – pearls are found in myriad colors. The color factor while deciding on a strand or a pair of earrings is a purely personal choice – some prefer the light shades of white, pink or gold whereas some love the look of the gray or black Tahitians. The colors most sought after are the whites with a tinge of rose in them and the colors most avoided are shades of green and brown. Ensure that you ask your jeweler if the pearls have undergone color enhancement, which has become a custom. Pearls that have not undergone color enhancement are rare.

While buying strands or pearl necklaces, the size, shape and color of the pearls is very important.
A necklace that does not have matching pearls can look shabby and cheap. In fact, expensive necklaces are those which have matching pearls – the size of the pearls is irrespective. A necklace could have the pearls of the same size, shape, color or they could be of varying sizes with the same shape and color. It is important that the strand looks uniform and has a certain balance in the pearls used. Uniformity and balance is the key to acquiring an elegant pearl necklace.

Buying pearls with these qualities will make your purchase worth the price you pay for your elegant pair of earrings or the special bracelet or necklace.

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