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How Are Pearls Valued?

Jul 20, 2008
Looking to purchase a pearl necklance? The value of cultured pearls is based on five factors.

Cleanliness refers to the skin of the pearl and any imperfections. There may be tiny blisters, irregularities or bumps. Since the pearl was created naturally by a biological animal some imperfections are to be expected. Large irregularities devalue the pearl significantly. If there is only a modest blemish it may be hidden by the setting of the pearl. Or if the pearl is in a necklace or bracelet the drill hole may hide the imperfection.

Shapes in pearls comes in three varieties, round, baroque and symmetrical. The rounder, or more spherical, the pearl the more valuable. Symmetrical pearls can be flattened but evenly shaped, think of a button. Baroque means any pearl that didn't make the grade for symmetrical. Baroque are the most common shape of pearls and the least expensive. Pearls can't be cut to shape like gemstones, what you see is what you have to work with.

Size matters. Yes it's the bigger the better for pearls. Size is partially determine by the size of the mollusk (oyster), how big the nucleus or seed is, and how long that nucleus has been in the mollusk being covered with nacre, the pearly substance. Tahitian pearls, or South Seas pearls are the biggest because the mollusk grows up to 12 inches in diameter.

Color - the most valuable pearls, with the exception of South Sea black pearls, have a body tone of pure white with an overtone of rose. The more cream colored the pearl, meaning it has tints of yellow, the less valuable. South Sea pearls are valued different because they have a dark body tone overlaid with rainbow colors. These pearls also come in white and gold.

Luster is the reflective glowing attribute of pearls. They're not sparkly like diamonds or colored gemstones, nor do they glisten like opals. When you look at a pearl there is an iridescent factor like a rainbow being reflected back at you. This is called orient. High luster and orient means you have a valuable pearl.

Pearls can be cut. For example: a baroque pearl can be cut in two halves and the halves set as matching earrings, or in a pin or bracelet. But pearls can't be reshaped. If a pearl is almost completely round but has a major bump that bump can't be sanded down without losing the value of the pearl. .

The color of a pearl can be affected by dying. Usually you can see the dye mark where the pearl has been drilled. There will be a ring of color. Pearls can't be bleached or lightened. Pearls don't improve with mechanical polishing and there isn't anything that can artificially improve the luster of a pearl.

Keep pearls away from commercial jewelry cleansers. Just dip them quickly in soapy warm water, rinse in distilled water, and dry with a soft cloth. Keep pearls away from other jewelry as they can scratch easily.

How can you tell a pearl is real? Gently rub the pearl across the surface of your teeth, it should feel gritty and artificial pearls won't

When purchasing fine pearl jewelry make sure the quality of the pearl justifies the price.
About the Author
Dee Power is the author of several nonfiction books and loves jewelry She also loves to garden, and uses many of the herbs she grows in grilling.
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