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In order to determine the quality of diamonds, we look no further than the 4 C’s: cut, color, carat, and clarity. Like diamonds, pearls have their own set of standards for determining quality. These factors definitely aren’t as memorable as the 4 C’s but are just as important. Understanding these quality factors can help you better recognize the price disparities between various pearls. Determining the quality of pearls means understanding their lustre, surface, shape, color, and size.
Lustre: The lustre of a pearl refers to the quality and quantity of light reflected from the surface of the pearl. It is the shine that gives pearls their beauty and is considered one of the most important pearl quality factors. Quality pearls with a high lustre demonstrate bright, distinct reflections. Contrarily, pearls with low lustre appear dim and diffused. The lustre of a pearl is affected by its nacre (more commonly known as mother of pearl). The nacre is a crystalline substance produced by pearls and forms it’s coating. High luster, high quality pearls have a thick nacre layer.
Surface: A pearl’s outside appearance heavily affects its quality. Surface scratches and blemishes will devalue a pearl and those that have a clean surface will be more heavily valued.
Shape: Since round pearls are very hard to culture, they tend to be valued more than ring, baroque, drop, button, or off-round pearls. This isn’t to say that baroque pearls aren’t valued by anyone. In fact, some people even search for these less-than-perfect pearls. Overall however, those with a round shape represent the best quality pearls.
Color: White, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and black: Pearls come in all various colors and shades. To determine which color pearls are the best quality at any given time, you just need to look at what color is currently in style. The supply and demand for certain colored pearls affects its value at any given time.
Size: Ranging from 1mm to over 16mm, pearls can be found in various sizes. Since large pearls are rarer than smaller pearls, they are more valuable and will thus cost more.
Now you know about all of the factors that go into determining the quality of a pearl. You can know put your knowledge to the test and visit your favorite local fine jeweler.