Pearls are an elegant choice of jewellery that look stunning dressed up at weddings or dressed down with jeans and a blouse. When looking at investing in a string of pearls for yourself or your loved one, it is helpful to understand a few terms.
Here’s a helpful glossary of terms which will help explain some of the terms you may encounter while shopping for your own string of these beautiful gems.
Pearl Quality: Each pearl harvested is as individual as a fingerprint, making it essential to establish quality grading standards. Quality is judged by luster, surface perfection, shape, color, size.
Luster: Luster is the amount of light a pearl reflects- both from its surface glow and its inner light, a deep mirror-like reflection. The better the nacre quality of the pearl, the more superior its luster.
Nacre: Also referred to as mother-of-pearl. It’s an organic-inorganic composite material produced by some molluscs as an inner shell layer; it is also what makes up the outer coating of pearls. It is strong, resilient, and iridescent.
Surface Perfection: Subtle blemishes and tiny marks are part of a pearl’s natural texture and proof of its genuine origin. These blemishes result from sea particles that drift into the oyster and brush against the pearl as it forms. Fewer surface imperfections denote a higher quality, more valuable pearl.
Shape of a Pearl: Of the many shapes available, perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable. With Mikimoto South Sea pearls, unique shapes like button, tear drop, oval and baroque are also favored. Of the many shapes available, perfectly round pearls are the rarest and most valuable. With Mikimoto South Sea pearls, unique shapes like button, tear drop, oval and baroque are also favored.
Color of a Pearl: Pearls vary widely in color, based on the type of oyster that produces them. The rarer the shade, the more valuable the pearl. Colors range from cream, pink and grey to black, green and blue. White and pink rosé are among the most popular Akoya colors; peacock green and gold are among the rarest South Sea shades. While color choice is a matter of personal preference, always look for rich color that is evenly distributed throughout the pearl.
Size: While size does not affect the quality of cultured pearls, it does affect the price. Large pearls are more difficult to cultivate because oysters often reject the large implanted nucleus; their rarity creates higher value. Pearls are measured in diameter increments of millimeters (mm). The classic Akoya pearl generally ranges from 3mm to 10mm. South Sea pearls begin at 8mm and can grow as large as 18mm
Akoya Cultured Pearls: Prized for their brilliant luster and rich color, Akoya pearls are a traditional symbol of elegance and beauty. Produced by Japan’s Akoya oysters, they are the most popular of all pearl types. Depending on the size of the mother oyster, they grow from 3-10mm. Colors range from white, cream and pink to light green, blue and silver
Black South Sea Cultured Pearls: The breathtaking color of these naturally black pearls is produced by black-lipped oysters in the waters off Tahiti and Okinawa. Sizes begin at 8mm, in round, oval, teardrop or unique baroque shapes. While characterized as black, the rich, dark colors actually range from slate grey, silver and pistachio to peacock green and midnight black with overtones of green, rosé or blue.
South Sea White Cultured Pearls: The magnificent, satiny luster of these fantastic white pearls is produced by the silver-lipped South Sea oyster. Their subdued opalescent appearance subtly changes under different light conditions, making them a constant marvel to behold. Harvested in sizes from 9mm up, their shapes range from round, oval or teardrop to free-form baroque.
South Sea Golden Cultured Pearls: These opulent pearls are produced by the golden-lipped oyster. Their warm, natural golden color is said to be rarer than gold itself. The color palette ranges from light champagne to a very rare, deep gold. This oyster species can also produce richly luminescent white pearls, but the deeper golden colors are the most coveted of all pearls. Harvested in sizes of 9mm and up, in round, oval, teardrop or beautiful baroque shapes.
Freshwater Cultured Pearl: Produced mostly in the lakes and rivers of China, Freshwater pearls are cultured in a mussel rather than an oyster. Often small in size, as many as ten to fourteen Freshwater pearls can be cultured in one mussel. Perfectly round Freshwater pearls are extremely rare.
Conch Pearls: These natural pearls are harvested from the Queen conch, a large marine snail with a heavy, lustrous shell which lives in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. The highest-quality examples of Conch pearls are characterized by a distinctive “flame structure” that gives the appearance of a fire burning on the surface.