Viewed as magic charms, symbols of purity and love, or sources of wisdom and power, pearls are one of the oldest known gems and have been revered by countless civilizations. In addition to its fascinating beauty, the pearl occupies a unique spot in the world of precious gemstones. Instead of being found in a core of rock, a pearl is made over time by a living creature, an oyster (mollusk). Consider the following quality factors to evaluate a cultured pearl:
Pearls are available in a variety of colors. White, cream, golden, pink, silver, gray, blue, green, and purple are the most available of the saltwater variety. Freshwater also are available in pastels.
Lustre of a good quality pearl should be bright, not dull, enabling you to see your own reflection clearly on the surface of a pearl.
The surface varies with any treasure from nature. The fewer blemishes, like spots, bumps and cracks, the more valuable the pearl will be.
The shape of cultured pearls also varies, the rounder the pearl the more valuable it is. However, fashion dictates trends.
Pearl producers and wholesalers often deal in lots of hundreds or even thousands of pearls. For these larger lots, pearls are sold by weight and the measure used is typically the momme, a traditional Japanese unit of weight measurement that is equal to 3.75 grams. Akoya (China & Japan), Tahitian (French Polynesia) and South Sea Pearls (Austrailia, Indonesia and the Philippines) have a nacre produced in layers by the oyster (mollusk). The thickness of the nacre created by the oyster on top of a mother of pearl nucleus bead, contributes to the weight and lustre of the pearl. South Sea Pearls range in size from 9mm to 20mm. Natural Pearls do not have a mother of pearl bead. They are extremely rare and expensive.
The size of cultured pearls is measured by their diameter in millimeters. With all other qualities being equal, the larger the pearl, the more valuable it will be since it is difficult for an oyster to grow.
A good quality strand should be evenly matched in terms of lustre, surface, shape, color and size. It can take 10,000 pearls to create an evenly matched 16-inch strand.
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