What qualities* make one pearl more valued than another?
Size: Size speaks
for itself; larger simply is more valuable, all other things being equal.
Shape: Round is
the rarest and is the most valuable. After that, off-round, oval, drop, buttons,
coins, freeform are an example of the progression of the shape. The further
from round the lower the value.
GIA classifies shapes into 3 categories: spherical, symmetrical & baroque.
pearls - Round or near round.
Symmetrical - Pearls
that look the same on each side if you divided them in half.
Baroque - Irregularly
shaped pearls such as crosses & sticks.
Color: White is
the universal color. In Asia & the USA pink-white is the ultimate. Other
favored natural colors are pink, golden pink, lavender, purple, black, etc.
Many pearls are enhanced with dyes, irradiation and other treatments. Dyed
pearls have a lesser value than those with natural colors.
GIA classifies pearl
color as having 3 characteristics:
color - The dominant overall color of a pearl.
Overtone - One
or more translucent colors that appear over a pearl's body color.
Orient - Iridescent,
rainbow colors shimmering on or just below a pearl's surface.
Luster - This is
the most important quality in evaluating the beauty of a pearl. The iridescence,
the life of the pearl, the shimmer, glow, and the luminosity of the pearl all
come together here. Luster is closely related to orient. GIA has 4 categories
reflections are bright and pinpoint sharp
reflections are bright but not as sharp, slightly matte finish
reflections are hazy and blurred
reflections are diffused and appear chalky and dull
Evenness of the surface, with no undulating undercurrents to distract the eye. GIA classifies this
into 4 categories:
Virtually blemish free
Blemished - Minor surface irregularities
Blemished - Noticeable surface irregularities
Blemished - Obvious surface irregularities
quality - Interrelated
with the other two. Thickness & quality of nacre are selling points for
freshwater pearls. The quality ranges from acceptable to chalky.
Matching - A brilliant
matching pair is more difficult find than a single gem. Look for overall uniformity
in color, shape, finish etc. in a strand or suite.
Uniqueness - This
can be any unusual combination of the forgoing factors.
Provenance - Previous
ownership, from fame to notoriety enhances the value of a pearl. It is the
legacy of the pearls detailing its journey from the past to the present. Provenance
is related to Branding.
* These qualities apply to all natural
and cultivated pearls.
Shigeru, Zansheng, Li Tajima, Moses, Thomas M., & Scarratt, Kenneth, "The
Current Status of Chinese Freshwater Cultured Pearls", pp.96-113,
Gems & Gemology, Summer 2001, Volume XXXVII. GIA, Carlsbad, CA 92008
Course on Pearls, Carlsbad, CA 92008, 1999
Kristin & Addison, Shellei, Pearls, Ornament & Obsession, Simon & Schuster,
New York, NY 10020, 1999
Neil H., Mikkelsen, Paula M., Bieler, Rudiger & Bronson, Bennet, Pearls:
A Natural History, Harry N Abrams, Inc. in association with The American
Museum of Natural History & The Field Museum, New York, NY, 2001
Contact Betty Sue King, Pearl Goddess at King's Ransom
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