Grading Pearls- Grades of Pearls Guide

Get the Inside Scoop on Pearl Grading
Some people don't know the truth about pearl grading. We do and we want to share the little-known secrets of pearl grading with you today. Learning about it will help you to make a smart decision when you are ready to buy pearls of your own.

First, you should be aware that standards for grading pearls are a bit haphazard. The standards vary based on seller. They can vary from auction to auction and from farmer to farmer. If you attend an industry trade show and discuss pearls with farmers, you'll soon discover that up to thirty new scales for grading are added each and every day. This is done so that the current store of pearls may be graded.

As I'm a pearl expert myself, I bring along a grading hank which comes with benchmarks for grading and features a host of pearls. This grading hank assists me with comparing pearls and making sense of things at these shows.

Of course, you won't have a grading hank and years of pearl grading experience.
With this in mind, I'd like to let you know the particular standards for every grade, from A to AAA. When you understand each element of the grading scale, you'll be able to find the level of quality that you seek when you are buying pearls.

What are the Value Factors for Pearls?
There are seven value factors for these shimmering treasures of the sea. One is luster and it's the most important of the seven. Luster is defined as the amount of reflection which is visible on the surface of a pearl, as well as the quantity of light which reflects on the pearl.

Reflection should be detailed and crisp. The best pearls definitely have exceptional luster and this is a big part of what makes them prized and determines their price. Pearls which don't have the right degree of luster may appear to have chalky surfaces. So, I'm always on the lookout for pearls which really stand out. Bright and sharp luster makes a pearl truly valuable!

Another aspect of the grading scale is shape. Most people want pearls which are perfectly round, so the spherical designs are definitely the most valuable. However, there are collectors who want something more unique. For these types of discerning clients, there are off-round, asymmetrical and drop pearls, which are known as Baroque pearls. These pearls will be graded based on their degree of symmetry.

The next element on the grading scale is color. Most collectors like white pearls best. However, pearls are available in lots of hues and some people will look for color, rather than white. For example, pearls which are Tahitian may be naturally-black, while South Sea pearls may be golden.

Pearls are graded in terms of the saturation and depth of their color. The more intense the hue, the more valuable and rare a pearl will be. Overtones which are revealed due to the iridescence of pearls may impact their value. Exotic overtones or pearl body colors may mean high prices when pearls are auctioned.

Another factor to be aware of is surface blemishing. Pearls which have surfaces that are very clean and don't have inclusions, such as pin-pricks, spots which appear chalky, marks from scoring and wrinkles are generally worth more than pearls which do have one or more of these imperfections. Pearls are natural and almost all will tend to have surface blemishes, whether they are very noticeable or unnoticeable and  anything in between.

Basically, the flawless pearl doesn't exist.
Now, let's look at size. It's another of the seven elements of the grading scale. Big pearls are rarer. Most pearls which are harvested measure ten millimeters or less. Wild pearls which are relatively huge are the rarest around.

The next factor to consider is whether pearls are cultured or natural. Ninety-five percent of pearls available these days are of the cultured variety. In other words, humans help the pearls along by farming them with care. Wild pearls are very rare and fetch much higher prices.

Another element which is considered during grading is matching. This is the degree to which pearls match in a pair or in a complete layout. For example, pearls of the Akoya type which are considered to match must be almost flawless in terms of having no variations from one to the next, on a strand. For earrings, matching pairs must have less than .15 millimeters variation between them. Basically, they need to be pretty much exactly the same size. The closer, the better.

Tahitian and South Sea pearls have different standards for matching. With earrings, these two types of pearls will need to have a difference of .50 millimeters of less. Necklaces made from either of these forms of pearls sometimes feature graduated design, so pearls on graduated strands may vary in size a bit more. For example, they may vary by three millimeters of less. Also, multi-color style layouts are popular these days.

More Information About Grading Pearls
Standards aren't the same across the board, so there are no hard and fast rules. The process of grading pearls is a subjective one which depends on the seller being dealt with.

Since there are grading scales which vary between A and AAA and others which feature grading scales with AAA+ and grading scales with AAAAA scales, people are often confused. If you spot a grade which is unusual, such as AAAA+, it should be a red flag that grading is possibly a bit "creative". It's a sign to watch out and do more research before buying.

With the AAAA rating, triple A doesn't represent the highest grade for a pearl. Instead, the quadruple A rating is utilized in order to represent triple A pearls. The triple A is actually a double A plus grade, and downgrading of pearl quality down the line is indicated.

Basically, when you make the decision to invest in AAA pearls for a lower than average price, you are getting pearls which actually have double A quality. When and if you decide to spend a lot on quadruple-A graded pearls, you're actually buying AAA pearls. So be aware of this artificial inflation of the scale for grading pearls. A lot of customers aren't sure how it all works and they buy pearls which seem to have great grades, only to find out that they aren't as superb as they believed they would be.

If you want to learn more about particular criteria for every grade of pearls, in order to determine exactly what's up, you should ask a seller to explain the criteria in depth. It's easier to compare pearls when you understand the grading system that the seller uses.

Pearl Grading System Details
Pearl Rack utilizes a pearl grading scale from A to triple A. This is a system which is simple to understand and it's a good system in my humble opinion. Grades are determined based on shape, degree of luster and how many surface blemishes are present.

The scale A to AAA is utilized for Freshwater and Akoya pearls. It's a system which may be converted from grading scales A to D for South Sea and Tahitian pearls. This scale from A to D is commonly used by those who farm pearls. Pure will convert every A to D pearl of the South Sea and Tahitian type, in order to grade from A to triple A. This is done in order to enhance ease of understanding, as well as consistency.

How Are Akoya and Freshwater Pearls Graded
Pearls of the Freshwater and Akoya type will be graded based on their luster, shape and surface quality. In terms of shape, the person grading will be concerned with symmetry and roundness. Pearls of the Akoya type will be graded based on the thickness of their nacre which is done by eye, rather than via x-rays. It's the grader's personal assessment.

How are South Sea and Tahitian Pearls Graded?
These pearls are graded based on their luster, surface quality and shape. Pearls may vary based on the color of their bodies, their overtones and the levels of color saturation. There are actually up to eighty official variations because of this, value elements for the color of pearls must be determined one pearl at a time.

With pearls of the Tahitian type which are cultured, depth of nacre must be at least .8 millimeters on each side in order to ensure that they are certified for exportation.

Harvests will be inspected and then randomly certified via the governing body, which is the Perliculture Department of the Pearl Ministry. This ministry knows how to figure out accurate nacre depth. The typical density of nacre for pearls of the Tahitian type is one millimeter in depth or greater.

We believe in offering premium quality and this is why we sell triple A-graded pearls of the South Sea and Tahitian types. We sell them in an array of style from rings to earrings, bracelets to pendants and strands of pearls as well. You'll find that our pearls do have mirror-like luster and lovely overtones!

Hard Facts About Double A Plus and Triple A Grades
A full strand of pearls may have a layout which contains AAA pearls and AA pearls, or double A plus pearls and double A pearls. This type of layout is designed to keep the tone of the piece very consistent throughout the strand. It's all about matching for overtone, luster and size. Also, it ensures that prices stay within reasonable ranges. For example, a strand of pearls may feature triple A luster, as well as double A quality for blemishing on the surface.

What About Gem Grade Pearls?
Some pearls are really above all of the typical letter grade ratings! These pearls are definitely the cream of the crop and they are called gem grade pearls. These pearls won't be sold in lots because they don't belong with pearls of typical letter grades. They are more special and they are worth more as a result. They are better than quadruple A pearls. These strands of pearls are quite rare and they don't come along often. They will feature the most impressive degree of luster, as well as transparency which is crystalline. They will therefore be priced based on current market conditions.

Every buyer loves to find beautiful and rare pearls and I look for them when I go on my buying trips yearly. I let collectors know when I find gem grade pearls which usually won't be offered as standard items on this website. These gems are usually sold privately, so please get in touch if you're interested in these high-caliber pearls. They are one of a kind and emailing me will be the best way to let me know that you are a prospective buyers of gem grade pearls.

What Are Pearl Blemishes Anyway?
Inclusions in Emeralds are called "Les Jardins" and this is French for "the gardens". Pearls are the same in that they are considered to be gemstones which are organic. Since they are the product of biological processes, as emeralds and other organic gemstones are, they are the treasures of Mother Nature. These treasures all posess blemishes.

Examples of pearl blemishes include divots/dents. These medium-sized to big indentations will be found in the nacre of pearls if they are present and they will vary in terms of shallowness or depth. They may be a match for the body colors of pearls or be greyish/brown in tone.

Another type of pearl blemish is the score mark. There may be one or more score marks and they may be slim lines within the nacre which are very light and thin as pencils. Most of the time, marks of this type don't have any color and they typically are not noticeable.

Mottling and bulleting are other types of imperfections which affect pearl grades. A bullet or mottle is a pattern of the "light plating" type which forms on pearl surfaces when pearls are created inside of oysters. Mottling isn't perceived as an inclusion. It's actually positive in terms of being a signal that nacre layers are quite dense. Therefore, mottling isn't going to lower a grade for a pearl.

In addition, tips and knobs are not perceived as inclusions. They are considered to be extrusions which appear on one end of pearls with Baroque shapes. Tips and knobs come in a variety of shapes, including long, short, pointed and bubble-shaped. These extrusions don't generally negatively impact pearl durability, provided that the pearls aren't chipped. In fact, tips and knobs tend to add character which can make Baroque pearls more unique and interesting.

Another element is pinpricks. They are really tiny indentations within nacre. The indentations may be very small, single marks, or be in a group which comprise a bigger section of surface blemishing. These inclusions won't make a pearl less durable and they won't have any color or have the same color as the pearl.

Circles are yet another natural characteristic of the growth of pearls of the Baroque type. They have rings which are concentric which follow the pearl's circumferences. They may be subtle in terms of appearance or they may be in a group which gives a Baroque pearl a unique look that is rather artistic!

Other examples of inclusions to pearls are chalky spots, blinking, wrinkles, ridges and pitting. 


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