Pearl Guide

Malak Jewelers' Pearl Guide 

Pearls have been prized since the start of human culture, and, in the ancient world, pearls were widely considered to be the most valuable of all material things. Asian folklore holds that pearls were drops of divine moisture from dragons in the sky. Pearls are frequently linked to the moon and water. Due to this correspondence, pearls frequently symbolize love and purity. Alongside alexandrite and moonstone, pearls are one of the birthstones for June. Due to pearl’s unique formation process, appearance, and use in jewelry there are a completely different set of criteria for evaluation of pearl’s value.

“Variety of Pearls in an Oyster Clam” by Hannes Grobe / CC BY-SA 3.0

Variety of Pearls in an Oyster Clam” by Hannes Grobe /  CC BY-SA 3.0  

Natural vs. Cultured: Around two dozen varieties of mollusks naturally produce pearls. However, almost all pearls available on the market today result from human efforts. Pearls produced because of human assistance are considered cultured.

Pearl Types

Akoya: Akoya pearls come from the coasts of Japan and China and typically range from 4 to 8 millimeters. round s and near rounds are common. Akoya pearls are typically white or cream colored but can also be pink, yellow, blue, and gray. Akoya pearls can have a near mirror quality luster and frequently have pink or green overtones. These are the most popular pearls on the market.

South Sea: South Sea pearls are the rarest and most expensive pearls and originate in Australia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. South Sea pearls can grow to 8 to 18 millimeters and can be white, cream, silver gray, golden yellow, rosé pink, or peacock blue, with either rosé, green, or blue overtones. Luster is satiny instead of glossy. These pearls are frequently “circled” in shape with parallel ridges.

Tahitian: These striking pearls come from French Polynesia. New Zealand is another source. These pearls can be as large as South Sea pearls, frequently have “circled” shapes, and feature metallic luster. Tahitian pearls can be silver gray, golden yellow, bronze, copper, cherry red, pistachio, or aubergine colored with striking overtones.  

Freshwater: Freshwater pearls are the most affordable pearls and come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. Streams, rivers, lakes in China, Japan, and the United States are the source for these pearls.

Value Factors and Other Information

Size: Pearl’s size is measured in millimeters and depends on type. Fine pearls near the top of their size range are prized.

Shape: Shape is frequently broken down into three categories: spherical, symmetrical, and baroque. Spherical pearls are round or near round. Symmetrical pearls are ovular, button-shaped, drop shaped, etc. Baroque pearls are irregularly shaped. Spherical pearls command the highest price.

Color: Though commonly thought of as white or cream colored, pearls can assume a wide range of colors. In addition to basic body color, the blush-like overtones and the iridescent orient effect are considered components of color.

Luster: Luster refers to the sharpness of light reflections from pearl’s surface. Different varieties of pearl have different potential lusters, but luster is considered a critical component of pearl’s aesthetic value and pricing.

Surface: Freedom from blemishes including bumps, spots, and scratches is valued. Though these characteristics are unavoidable, the lesser their extent the greater value of the pearl.

Nacre: Nacre is the thickness of the pearl’s coating. Pearl’s long-lasting beauty and value are dependent upon this factor.

Matching: Similarity in color, size, luster, etc are important for pearls that are incorporated into necklaces.  

Gemology: Along with amber, coral, and shell, pearls are considered an organic gem.

Care: Pearls require gentle wear and care. For more information, check out Protecting Your Priceless Pearls: One Dozen Tips and Tricks.

Hardness: Low scratch resistance. Pearls rate 2.5 to 4 on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

Birthstone: June