Pearls Simplified

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Pearls Simplified

There is an old saying that goes: "If a woman wears diamonds, you look at the diamonds; if a woman wears pearls, you look at the woman." Pearls have been the embodiment of elegance, grace, and sophistication for centuries. Beautiful in all shapes, colors, and sizes; the market of pearls has nevertheless caused some confusion for consumers due to the different varieties available and their origins. Unlike diamonds, they do not have clear-cut characteristics that can form a guide in appraising the gem easily (the 4C’s makes it relatively easy for consumers to figure out the baseline value of a diamond). Nonetheless, pearls have been traded in the gem industry for centuries and certain markers have been used to value them. We will go through some of the markers widely used today by answering a few questions frequently asked by customers when buying pearls.

What determines the price of a pearl? (what makes your pearls special?)

We can summarize value determination for pearls into four main characteristics.

Color: White is the most common and favored color. However, appreciation has grown for more unusual natural colors.

Luster and surface reflections: Pearls with greater luster have brighter reflections and therefore are higher in value. Blemishes and marks effect surface reflections and durability of a pearl. Therefore, overall quality of a pearl can be judged by the number of blemishes and marks.

Shape and matching: Perfect round pearls are rare and hence more valuable. Round pearls can be well matched in a strand making it more symmetrical and of higher value.

Size: As the size of the pearl increases (just like most gems) the price significantly increases.



What is the difference between natural and cultured pearls?

Natural pearls form in bodies of certain mollusks around a microscopic irritant and always without any human intervention.

Cultured pearls are created by inserting an object into the oyster to help grow the pearl. This technique requires human intervention and care.

Most pearls found in the market today are likely to be cultured pearls (unless purchased with a stated certificate or passed down through family generations).


How many types of cultured pearls are available?

There are four main types: Akoya Cultured pearls, South Sea Cultured Pearls, Tahitian Cultured Pearls, and Freshwater Cultured Pearls. Names behind those pearls highlight their place of origin since different species of oysters and mussels in different conditions produce their own unique characteristics as shown in pictures below.



Are pearls a good investment?

Coco Chanel famously said ‘pearl is always right’, referring to the timelessness behind adorning pearls for women of all ages. On one hand, the increase in rarity of natural pearls makes them a good investment. Overfishing, pearl culturing, and oil drilling have all contributed to the drop in supply of natural pearls. On the other hand, the technological innovations in pearl farming and mass production has led to the continued drop in the price of most cultured pearls.

Also one should note that pearls, whether natural or cultivated, require lots of care when being used or stored. That is due to pearls being 2.5-3 on the scale of Mohs Hardness making them very sensitive and easy to scratch.


Are pearls old fashioned?

As we have seen, pearls come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. This variety gives them the ability to be incorporated in many jewellery designs. The pearl itself is simple, and can be easily combined with any classic, intricate, or trending design. Consequently, it is safe to say that pearls are timeless gems suitable to be adorned by all ages in all times and places.

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