Everybody knows, what are the 4 Cs that define the value of a diamond: they are cut, color, carat and clarity. A similar classification is applied when grading pearls, but the criteria that affect the price are a bit more diverse.
The main criteria determining the value of a pearl are: size, shape, surface quality, luster and color.
Another criterion comes to light when evaluating jewelry items with more than one pearl involved (strands, earrings, pearl bracelets). This criterion is called “matching”.
All pearls are created by Mother Nature and they are all unique. You will not find two pearls exactly the same, but you can do your best to select pearls for one jewelry piece to be as similar as possible.
The better the pearls are matched in one jewelry item, the higher will be the value of that jewelry piece.
Grading pearls is quite a subjective matter. There are no internationally approved standards; therefore every company might grade their product a bit differently.
The good news is that all Tahitian pearls have to meet the strict grading standard set by the government of French Polynesia and many pearl sellers adopt the Tahitian grading system as it is considered to be one of the most reliable.
Pearls can be round, semi-round (or almost round), oval or button shape, baroque, semi-baroque and circled or ringed pearls.
Round pearls, all other value factors being equal, tend to be more expensive than pearls found in other shapes. However, high-quality drop shapes or baroque shapes often can cost considerably more than rounds, due to higher luster, color, or surface quality.
No human is perfect – neither are the pearls.
The surface may exhibit tiny notches, spots, bubbles or other deformations.
Depending on the quantity and the disposition of these imperfections, pearls can be divided in 4 categories form AAA+ (the most expensive) to A- (the least expensive).
Cultured Tahitian pearls have to exhibit at least 1 mm of mother-of-pearl layer to match the requirements of the Pearlculture Ministry of Tahiti. The ones that are smaller are not allowed to sell and get destroyed.
The smallest pearl in this case will be about 8 mm in diameter and the biggest pearl reaches the size of 18 mm in diameter.
Tahitian pearls are famous for their extraordinary unique color hues. Find out more about the color classification in our previous post.
We know you are still wondering what does the most valuable pearl look like.
Here is the easy answer: the most expensive pearls are those that are large, that display rare colors, are round, are free of surface imperfections and that display a high degree of luster.
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Emirati archaeologists have made a historic discovery this month at Marawah Island, off the capital of the United Arab Emirates: what’s believed to be the oldest pearl in human recorded history. Excavated in October (2019), this exquisite natural pearl is carbon-dated to between 5,800 and 5,600 BC, that’s almost 8000 years old! Found at one of the oldest sites in the country, the gem was excavated from the location of numerous collapsed Neolithic structures. These have also provided researchers with ancient ceramics, beads made from shell, as well as stone and flint arrowheads.
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