Understanding Cultured Pearls

A Glossary of Professional Terms

Cultured pearls are a joy to own and wear. Beautiful and versatile, they go as well with a simple black dress as they do with jeans and a blazer. Whether you are planning to purchase a strand of pearls as a gift or as an important piece of jewelry for yourself, it is a good idea to understand how cultured (and natural) pearls are evaluated. The following is a glossary of terms the professionals use to determine pearl’s value.

• Orient
Orient is the deep inner glow of a natural or cultured pearl. A deep luster and iridescence increase the value of pearl.

• Size
Size is an important determinant of pearl’s value. Larger pearls are rarer, as it is difficult for mussels to grow larger pearls and it takes a longer time. Size is one factor only, however. Two pearls of identical size will differ in value depending on other quality characteristics.

• Shape
In the case of pearls, the more symmetrical, the more valuable. Desirable shapes are round, pear shape and tear shape. Irregular and asymmetrical pearls are called baroque.

• Surface Perfection
A satiny smooth surface is most desirable and valuable. Disfiguring blemishes that are visible to the unaided eye detract from pearl’s value.

• Rarity
Cultured pearls (those farmed and harvested by man) are relatively rare despite man’s intervention. There are a limited number of areas that pearls grow well on earth and even in ideal conditions, pearls take years to grow.

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