How to Select the Best Pearls

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How to Select the Best Pearls


The pearl is the queen of gems and the gem of queens. - Anonymous

For thousands of years women have adorned themselves with this beautiful gem which is also associated with peace, opulence, and class (Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's, anyone?). So what makes a perfect pearl and how do you choose one?

Grading pearl quality

There are two systems of grading the quality of pearls: The AAA system and the A-D system. Under the former system, the highest grade pearls are given an AAA rating (95% defect-free) and the lowest grade (A) indicates that more than 25% of a pearl’s surface has irregularities. The A-D system similarly gives the highest quality pearls an A rating (less than 10% of surface having defects); pearls with imperfections up to 60% of their surface get a D rating.
Natural vs. cultured pearls

Natural pearls are rather rare and are considered accidents or miracles of nature. They are formed when oysters react to parasites by producing nacre (calcium carbonate). Nacre is meant to defend the oysters, and the continual deposit of nacre eventually makes a pearl. Cultured pearls are also ‘real’ pearls, except that the production of nacre is induced artificially by inserting a foreign agent (nucleus) into oysters.

What makes a pearl perfect?
Pearls can never be absolutely flawless but the quality and price of a pearl are usually determined by the following criteria:

Shape: Pearls come in eight different shapes (round, drop, oval, button etc.) that are sorted into three types: spherical (rarest and most expensive), symmetrical, and baroque.

Size: This is more of an individual preference and also depends on the type of jewellery. However, larger pearls are rarer and hence more expensive. The largest pearl in the world – Pearl of Lao Tzu – weighs more than 6 kilos and is valued at US$42 million!

Shine and lustre: This is the most crucial assessment factor for pearls. A good quality pearl will have a glow which indicates how well light is reflected from the core of the pearl. The best pearls have an overtone and enveloping ‘mist’. It also has an orient or the ability to show rainbow colours when rotated under light.
 
Surface quality: A good quality pearl will have very few blemishes, cracks, dimples or bumps. The surface should look clean and feel smooth to the touch. However, pearls often have bubbles or minute, barely there abrasions on their surface that give each pearl a distinct look without adversely affecting its quality or value.

 

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