For most of us, choosing and buying anything rare is a daunting task. Few of us are experts. We can feel out of our depth when obliged to take too much on trust. You are choosing something created by a living creature. Like us, every pearl is unique. Whether for yourself or for someone else, it is a personal choice; an intuitive selection based on what is beautiful to the eye of the beholder.
Pearls are found in so many sizes, shapes and colors it is a overwhelming task to consider all facets that affect them. Each pearl is unique inasmuch as it comes from a living creature. There is no set rule in selecting pearls. What appeals to you is the first consideration. Perhaps the following will help you in your search for the perfect pearls for you.
Just as a diamond is noticed by its brilliance and fire, a pearl draws attention by its luster. Luster refers to the surface brilliance and the sharpness of reflected light from a pearl. Luster is the paramount defining virtue of beauty and therefore value. It encompasses not only the manner in which light reflects from the pearl's surface, but also the manner in which light seems to glow from within. Luster ranges from the bright and sprightly to the warm and alluring. It catches and compliments the beauty, the moods and personality of the wearer. Like all virtues, the luster of pearls is natural. It should never be chemically modified or enhanced.
The appearance of a pearl's luster depends on nacre depth. Nacre is the substance secreted by an oyster around a foreign object that finds its way inside the oyster's shell. The surface of every pearl is the result of one or more layers of nacre. Thin nacre will often show low luster. However, heavy nacre does not necessarily guarantee high luster. Temperatures of the waters affect the production of nacre. The warm waters in the South Seas allow for the rapid rate of production of nacre but do not ensure high luster.
Typical "Akoya" saltwater cultured pearls run between 2mm and 9mm; very fine 10mm strands are very hard to find, and 11mm to 11.5mm are about the maximum. In fine quality the value will increase, in fairly even steps, up to 7mm; above this size value will increase dramatically.
The large pearls are scarce, and the Australian South Sea Pearls are the largest in the world. Measured across the smallest diameter, sizes run from 8mm to an extremely rare 18mm. Only the South Sea's Mother-of-Pearl shell can create quality pearls of such size.
Like diamonds, cultured pearls are mainly identified with one shape: The round. As pearls become increasingly distorted in shape, they are less expensive even though the luster, color and surface may be desirable.
Perfectly round pearls are the most scarce, and are valued accordingly. But there's more to pearls than just the round ones, and more to nature than the sphere. Baroque pearls with their voluptuous line and shape, the contemporary impact of the circlé pearl and the rare sensuality of the semi-baroque bring a world of exciting possibilities. Pearl shapes are categorized as either 'classical' or 'baroque'.
Just as the Gemological Institute of America grades diamonds, so also are pearls; the more imperfections, the less valuable.
- Flawless: most pearls appear blemish-free to the unaided eye.
- Lightly spotted: many pearls have no blemishes, others have minor ones.
- Spotted: most pearls show blemishes, a few of them quite obvious.
- Heavily spotted: blemishes obvious on all, or almost all, pearls.
The more flawless the pearl the higher the value. But pearls are created in the ocean by a wild oyster and nature almost always leaves its mark. Even though most markings can be seen by the naked eye they are part of the unique and individualizing elements of every pearl. One oyster in a million may produce a perfect, flawless pearl.
Again, the Gemological Institute of America grades a pearl's color with ratings from D to Z. The most desirable is pink-white, followed by white, cream-rosé, creamy-white and cream and gold. The more cream-colored a pearl the less its value. Subtle overtones of pink, silver, blue or green can also affect pearl value. These faint casts will enhance some colors and detract from others. These overtones are not iridescence, which displays a rainbow-like of color.
Pearls come in an array of natural colors. Like so much about pearls the choice of color is a matter of personal preference. There is traditionally a strong demand for the classic silver-white, for the glow of a golden pearl and white rosé.
Care for pearls is of the utmost importance. Avoid contact with cosmetics, hair sprays, deodorants and household chemicals. Pearls should be wiped with a soft cloth after each wearing. It is advisable to have them re-strung periodically in order to increase their life and protect them. They are not indestructible. Organic nature of pearls limit life expectancy so proper care must be used in order to preserve them.