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7 Quick Ways to Determine the Value of a Pearl

Updated: Aug 25, 2023


A handcrafted Silver 925 ring made with real white water pearls.
Serpent Ring | 925 Silver with Cultured Freshwater Pearl


A few years ago, when I knew nothing about pearls, I thought that pearls were fake if they costed less than 50 euros . Honestly, it confused me a lot when someone sold them for thousands of euros, while others offered them for only a fraction. I didn't realize that factors like shape, size, nacre, color, surface, and luster contributed to this huge difference. It took me some time to figure this out, and having real pearls on hand to compare them with each other helped a lot. In this post, I'd like to share with you the seven most common methods of determining a pearl's value so you know what to look for when buying your next piece of jewelry.



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And before we start: A little disclaimer. I am not a gemologist nor do I study gemology or anything like that. Everything in this post is just my personal opinion and observation. I share this to give you some simple points to get you started, but I highly recommend reading other sources for a deeper understanding. For simplicity, I have left out many complex terms. The points mentioned here are meant as guidelines and not strict rules. Each brand may charge a different price depending on its name and design. With that in mind, I hope this article is helpful to you.

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1. SIZE

Generally speaking, the larger a pearl is, the more expensive it is. But this does not mean that you can compare every pearl size with each other. There are different conditions for each type of pearl, so you have to compare them within their types: otherwise you would be comparing apples and oranges. For example, a South Sea pearl can reach a diameter of up to 20 mm, while an Akoya pearl usually grows to a maximum of 8 mm. The reason for this is that the shell of the South Sea pearl is much larger and therefore the pearl can grow bigger.



A infographic that describes and compares all the pearl sizes from Akoya Pearls to Tahitian Pearls.
Pearl Size



















2. SHAPE

If you search for pearl jewelry on the internet, you will find that there are pearls in all kinds of shapes. Overall, we can say that the perfectly round pearls are the most expensive ones you can find out there. Imagine a pearl growing bigger and bigger in its shell: Some take up to two years to be harvested, while the entire cultivation process takes place under natural conditions, which in turn requires a lot of effort. 2 years of undisturbed cultivation is a long time, during which many possible damages can occur. All kinds of particles can enter the shell and thus easily affect the shape of the pearls. So to harvest a pearl with a perfectly round shape is rather rare and therefore more expensive. But this does not mean that other forms of pearls can not be expensive: Baroque pearls, for example, which are increasingly popular and admired for their symmetry, can also cost several hundred euros, depending on the design and the other mentioned factores here.



This infographic describes and displays the most common pearl shapes available on the market right now.
Pearl Shapes























3. COLOR

The color of a pearl is mainly influenced by the type of shell and its internal chemical conditions. In addition, some pearls have an overtone and orient, which makes them more interesting and expensive than those without. Overtone and Orient are colors that appear on the surface next to the body color. The more intense the body color and beautiful the overtone, the more expensive they are. This all is inluenced by the thickness of the nacre. If the nacre gets thicker, simultaneously the quality of the pearl rises, and therefore the pearl is more durable. However, because of their rarity, there are some colors that are highly sought after, such as the gold of the South Sea Pearl.



This infographic describes and displays all the basic pearl colors from white south sea pearls, akoya pearls, freshwater pearls and tahitian pearls.
Basic Pearl Colours



















4. SURFACE

When analyzing a pearls surface, look out for bumps, scratches or similiar imperfections: Is the surface uneven? Are they partially present or widely spread over the surface? If something gets into the shell, it can stick to the pearl and affect its surface. The golden rule is: The smoother the surface, the pricier the pearl.




This infographic describes and displays the different surfaces that a pearl can have.
Pearl Surface
















5. NACRE

Imagine a mussel lying on the bottom of the sea. Every now and then it opens its shell to filter out algae and plants for its food. Sometimes a worm, a foreign body or a so-called "irratetor" accidentally gets lost in the mussel and is trapped. From the mollusk's point of view, this foreign body isn't supposed to be there, and so it tries to protect itself by surrounding the irratetor with layers of nacre (ending in becoming a pearl). The more time passes, the more nacre can be wrapped around the irritator. Not only does the pearl gets bigger, but also the quality of the Luster increases.



This infographic describes and displays the anatomie of a pearl and explains what nacre is.
Pearl Nacre





















6. LUSTER

Luster is measured by the reflection of the surface. How lustrous, reflective and sharp is the surface of a pearl? Grading is done in categories from weak to excellent luster, often using the A-AAA grading system. If you compare many pearls, you will find that some reflections are sharper and others are

are more milky or blurry. The second and last point is defined as poor luster. This is probably the most important factor in the value of a pearl.



This picture describes and displays the pearl luster and how it is graded.
Pearl Luster Grade






















7. MATCHING

Like a human being, each pearl is unique and there are no two identical ones. But when you create a pearl necklace, you must make sure that all pearls are almost identical in size, shape, nacre, color, surface and luster. If this is not the case, you would immediately recognize the dissimilarity. This task is very time consuming and can take up to a few years. But is rewarded with a higher value of the chain.



These were 7 quick and easy ways to analyze a pearl: However, there are more factors influencing a pearls value, like its geological origin or historical background. Those will be explained by me in a future blog-post, so stay tuned! In the meantime, why not look around a bit in my jewelry shop and using your new analysing skills? I'd be happy to craft some beautiful jewelry for you, too!



All yours,

An from Kaito




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